Author: David Cloutier

Faithful Citizenship Friday: What’s a “Fortnight”?

Yes, I know what it is, but it is mildly amusing that the same body which has given us the New Roman Missal has now declared a “fortnight for freedom.” The bishops are certainly seeking to raise American society above a 6th grade reading level! The recent proposal comes from the new document, Our First and Most Cherished Liberty, that makes a real effort to come to grip with the entire scope of religious freedom. Commonweal has already put out a scathing critique of the document. But I do think two things are particularly positive in the document. First, it cites a series of examples, not just the HHS mandate, and that series seems intentionally chosen to blur liberal/conservative lines. The second issue mentioned is laws that endanger those who provide services to “illegal” undocumented immigrants. By citing such an example, the bishops take a step toward shaping the issue in a truly Catholic, rather than partisan, way. But an even better step is found later on. The bishops state: Religious liberty is not only about our ability to go to Mass on Sunday or pray the Rosary at home. It is about whether we can make our contribution to the common good of all Americans. Can we do the good works our faith calls us to do, without having to compromise that very same faith? This seems to...

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Face to Face During Holy Week: On Matthew Levering’s New Book

The following entry is cross-posted with the book club discussion on the text. Holy Week is an appropriate time to turn our minds and hearts to the contemplation of the end of all things – to eschatology – as Matthew Levering’s subtle new book, Jesus and the Demise of Death, helps us do. We prepare for participation in the greatest, most beautiful liturgies we have, during the Triduum, culminating in the explosion of light and praise that is Easter. Levering’s book demands much more than a blog post; hence, I simply offer two crucial points, which are essential in his text and in the understanding of Christians, one more academic, the other more pastoral. Levering’s book, as is typical of his work, is a detailed exposition of how Aquinas is right. In this case, the context is the challenge posed by N.T. Wright’s influential work (which Levering does not seek to dismiss but rather to qualify and reconcile with Aquinas), and its strong criticisms of the (malign) Greek/Platonic influence on traditional Christian views of heaven. It seems to me the heart of this confrontation is Levering’s concern that Wright’s “new creation” is too “active” – too focused on work. He quotes Wright: “There will be work to do and we shall relish doing it.” Then he complains that this “overemphasis [on] the horizontal dimension of glory” and its...

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Theology in the Blogosphere: How to be Humbled

I own a lot of books. This is the common student impression when they walk into my office. I’m pretty convinced that books matter for the theological tradition. And here I am, writing a blog post, wondering if I am furthering the demise of the world of the text. After all, I know for sure that my faith (and not just my job) could never be what it is if I had not encountered Thomas Merton in college, or Dorothy Day later in college, or Stanley Hauerwas on a bookstore shelf, or Robert Barron’s The Strangest Way in trying to teach undergraduates. I’m pretty sure nothing I write here can match these texts! And yet I do remind myself that St. Paul’s letters, St. Augustine’s homilies, Dorothy Day’s extraordinary journals (and Worker articles) – these too have endured. It’s not just von Balthasar’s 15-volume trilogy! And so that’s my apology for theology in the blogosphere. Michael Sean Winters, in his inspiring post (for which we are so grateful!), writes in today’s twenty-four hour news cycle, with an endless need for editorial content, the blogosphere is often superficial at best, misinformed at worst, and so blogs like CMT fill a vital need if the conversation in the ambient culture is to be grounded in anything resembling sound reasoning rather than soundbites. He rightly goes on: The intellectual life is complicated....

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Our First Anniversary: A Series on Theology in the Blogosphere

This is a guest post contributed by prominent Catholic blogger Michael Sean Winters, of NCR online, who has graciously agreed to kick off a week-long series of posts on theology/ethics and blogging to celebrate of our first anniversary.  Check back each day this week for more posts. A couple of months ago, a friend called me about a blog item I had posted that day which he liked very much. My friend is also a writer, but he writes speeches and, because his clients tend to be important personages, every word must be chosen with exceptional care, with attention to political ramifications as well as syntax, and a concern to avoid rhetorical sharp elbows that might have nasty political consequences. It is, as you can imagine, a laborious process. Consequently, my friend always marvels at the different circumstances faced by those of us who write for blogs and we often talk about those differences. On this day, he asked me, “How long did it take you to write that post?” I replied, “Well, I thought it out in my head while walking to the store this morning, but once I sat down at the computer, it took about an hour.” He was quiet for a moment and then said, “An hour and fifty years.” Here we discern the great value of a blog like Anyone can write a concise blog post, but...

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Faithful Citizenship Friday: Questions about “the Catholic Vote”

This series seeks to illuminate the issues of an election year by engaging the US bishops’ document Faithful Citizenship, in a wide range of ways. Rather than take on a specific issue in this first entry, I want to step back and ask a few broader questions about the intersection of citizenship and religious identification. The role of “Catholic voters” in elections has become visible because, as a bloc, Catholics appear to be a “swing” group. As Pew notes, Catholics have narrowly supported the popular vote winner in the last three presidential contests. On the other hand, Catholics are not flocking to Rick Santorum in the Republican primary, despite the extent to which Santorum would appear to be a very powerful candidate for resonating with conservative Catholic tendencies. Yet in the swing states that have voted so far, Romney wins Catholics, and by larger margins than his edge in the overall electorate. The difficulty here in speaking about “the Catholic vote” require us to attend to the demographic complexity of American Catholics. The first and most obvious fact is that more and more American Catholics are Latino/a. White Catholics, Pew reports, only swung 4 points to Obama from Kerry (and Obama still lost them as a group), whereas Obama gained 14 points over Kerry among Latinos, netting a 7 point overall Catholic gain. (Note: the same trend is seen...

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