Author: David Cloutier

Prudential Judgment 101: A Theological Roundtable

***NOTE: This roundtable will include posts by multiple Catholicmoraltheology bloggers. Please check back for additions to the body of the text. Recent discussions of issues like capital punishment have raised what has become a vexed point in Catholic moral theology debates in recent years: the question of what is meant by “prudential judgment,” or more specifically the contention that some statements of Church leaders concern “prudential judgments,” thus not requiring obedience. A key text for such a contention is found in the Vatican’s Ecclesial Instruction on the Vocation of the Theologian: 24. Finally, in order to serve the People of God as well as possible, in particular, by warning them of dangerous opinions which could lead to error, the Magisterium can intervene in questions under discussion which involve, in addition to solid principles, certain contingent and conjectural elements. It often only becomes possible with the passage of time to distinguish between what is necessary and what is contingent. The willingness to submit loyally to the teaching of the Magisterium on matters per se not irreformable must be the rule. It can happen, however, that a theologian may, according to the case, raise questions regarding the timeliness, the form, or even the contents of magisterial interventions. … When it comes to the question of interventions in the prudential order, it could happen that some Magisterial documents might not be free...

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The “Americas” of 9/11

            I had not planned on doing anything special on 9/11, but the substitute organist at the 5pm mass I cantored last night mentioned that she was playing at an interfaith service in Baker Park, Frederick’s splendid “island oasis,” and since it is only a couple blocks from my house, I decided I would go over there. She promised that there was “nothing militaristic or anything” – that it would be about peace.             And remarkably, it was. It was evidently the official city commemoration of the event. Indeed, everyone was there – the (moderate Republican) mayor of our city, the police chief, religious leaders from all the congregations, including the Islamic Center of Frederick. A few hundred people gathered at the bandshell, singing hymns of peace, and listening to a sequence of the Jewish rabbi read from Deuteronomy about true justice for all, a Protestant minister read Jesus’ beatitudes, and the child of the Islamic leader chant a section of the Qu’ran in Arabic, followed by a heartfelt reflection from the father about how the Muslim community had been dealt with fairly and justly, without prejudice, and how he hoped it would continue. The magnificent Baker Park bell tower played a solemn tribute. The mayor offered a prayer. A retired Marine talked about going back to Afghanistan to help women. The whole thing concluded with a rousing singing...

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Charity Amidst the Ruins of Norway?

The following post is also part of a Book Roundtable at patheos.com on Matthew Levering’s new book, The Betrayal of Charity. For this and other posts, please go to the Roundtable. St. John tells us that “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4:18). One of the striking aspects of the recent tragedy in Norway has been the consistent refusal of its citizens to succumb to fear and compromise the extraordinary openness of their society… even though the attacker was one of their own. In a memorial service, the Lutheran bishop proclaimed that “we will not let fear paralyze us,” and I saw a TV report of a parent bringing a young daughter to a memorial service, remarking that she did not want to hide away in fear of such attacks. Contrast this with the extraordinary “culture of fear” that has been perpetuated in the United States, not simply since the 2001 terrorist attacks, but for many decades, in which citizens routinely and severely overestimate violent crime and various threats to public safety. This is the context in which I’m considering Matthew Levering’s fine book, The Betrayal of Charity, interpreting St. Thomas Aquinas on love and on sins against Christian love. Levering is an outstanding expositor of Aquinas, and that Aquinas’ rich discussions of aspects of all the virtues deserve more attention than...

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