Author: David Cloutier

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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Gay Marriage: What’s the Real Issue?

The decision of the New York state legislature to approve gay marriage will be seen by some as a symptom of an underlying disease called “moral relativism.”  But this is a mistake that, I think, blocks our understanding of what is really going on. One need only look at the joy and satisfaction with which the decision was greeted by some to recognize that, far from indicating the disappearance of morality, the legislation is indicative of a strong moral order, and it is this order which is really at issue when we debate gay marriage. Charles Taylor, in his A Secular Age, outlines the contours of what he names the Modern Moral Order (MMO). The MMO replaces pre-modern versions of social hierarchy with an “order of mutual benefit,” organized around the securing of rights for individuals and their ability to exercise these rights in exchanges that conduce to mutual benefit, particularly in securing for all “the needs of ordinary life.” The order does not aim at anything “higher” than this; it does not seek to replicate some transcendent form (Plato), nor conform to any religious command. Its progress consists in the extension of this order of mutual benefit to encompass as many persons as possible – and in theory, everyone. In its more robust forms, the political order is called upon not simply to protect rights, but bring more...

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Too big to Discriminate? Further Thoughts

Dana Dillon has offered some initial comment on the Wal-Mart discrimination case, which seems quite important to anyone who cares about issues of justice. In the New York Times article on the case, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said the women suing Wal-Mart could not show that they would receive “a common answer to the crucial question, why was I disfavored?” He noted that the company, the nation’s largest private employer, operated some 3,400 stores, had an expressed policy forbidding discrimination and granted local managers substantial discretion.“On its face, of course, that is just the opposite of a uniform employment practice that would provide the commonality needed for a class action,” Justice Scalia wrote. “It is a policy against having uniform employment practices.” Such a finding raises really interesting questions about the justice of employer-employee relationships in large corporations. In one sense, Wal-Mart’s approach – a general set of principles, with wide latitude for individual store managers – is exactly the approach to management one would desire on the grounds of subsidiarity. A more rigid, hierarchical system for pay and promotion, run from central offices, could certainly seem detrimental, even from an employee perspective. Further, in theory, the more flexible system leaves open the possibility (as does the court’s ruling) that particular cases of discrimination in the actions of particular managers making particular comments could still be...

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