Author: Emily Reimer-Barry

Identity, Life, Love: Reflecting on Foundations of the Moral Life in Light of Rocketman & Educated

SPOILER ALERT. I will refer to plot points within the book and film in this post, so if you want to read/watch without spoilers first, be warned. Also, I do not intend in this post to claim that my interlocutors are Catholic Christians but rather to invite readers of this blog to engage from and learn from the experiences of Tara Westover and Elton John. What really matters in life? If you boil down your ethical commitments to key foundations, what words describe them? Tara Westover and Elton John have helped me think about these questions lately. Lessons from their life stories may prove helpful for us as well. Tara Westover is the author of Educated: A Memoir. Westover grew up in Idaho and writes about her family and their worldview, and how she slowly came to see the dangers of that worldview and to try to disconnect from it. In her home, physical violence and suspicion of the government/public education were normalized. She did not attend school until college. She writes about her relationships with her parents and siblings, the pattern of their lives on the land, and about how she eventually left Idaho and began to unlearn her past and find herself. It wasn’t easy. Elton John’s life and career is the focus of the feature film Rocketman, directed by Dexter Fletcher and starring Taron Egerton. This...

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Praise for my teacher

Last night, James F. Keenan, SJ, was awarded the John Courtney Murray Award by the Catholic Theological Society of America. Named for one of its early Board members who was a major theologian in the American Catholic Church, the award honors a CTSA member for a lifetime of distinguished theological achievement. Jim is very deserving of this award. Through his writing, teaching, speaking engagements, organizing of conferences and networks of scholars, mentoring, and editing work, he has shaped the field of Catholic moral theology in huge and significant ways. His academic CV is 54 pages long, and would be impossible to summarize quickly given that it demonstrates the breadth of his work in shaping scholarship in virtue ethics, natural law, casuistry, the history of moral theology, biblical hermeneutics and ethical method, and ethics in the university context. I’m exhausted just looking at his CV. I have no idea how he did as much as he did. And he’s not done. In his acceptance speech, Jim talked about how his brother helped him to find his own voice at the age of four years old, and how he has tried to help others find their voices through his work as a teacher and a mentor. I’m one of Jim’s students and want to express my gratitude. “Call me Jim.” I was twenty-two years old. In my application to Weston Jesuit...

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“Why have you abandoned me?” Reading the Passion through the Lens of the Border Crisis

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?They divide my garments among them,and for my vesture they cast lots.But you, O LORD, be not far from me;O my help, hasten to aid me. Catholics who attend the Palm Sunday Mass this weekend will have the opportunity to accompany Jesus during his passion. After we pray Psalm 22, we see the motifs anew in the gospel reading. One way of reading scripture invites one to place oneself in the narrative, as a character in the story, and imagine how the gospel scene plays out as you imagine yourself witnessing the events. I invite us all to imagine the gospel narrative this week through the eyes of a detained child in custody on the border of the United States, or a family stuck in Tijuana seeking asylum in the United States. “Why have you abandoned me?” Where is God in this space? Where is God in the midst of dehumanizing rhetoric from the US Commander in Chief? Where is God in the immigration system that is reaching a breaking point? Jesus was put to death by the state. Who is to blame? Luke’s storytelling does not give a tidy answer. Pilate, Herod, religious leaders, Roman soldiers, Judas, the crowd—there are plenty of people who are complicit and many more who remain silent, choosing apathy over advocacy for a man unjustly...

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“Would you sign this?”: CMT Contributors in Dialogue (First Post in Series)

I reached out last week to my colleagues at this blog, and in the email thread that followed, it was suggested that we make our conversation more public by developing a series of posts. I agreed to start us off. The views expressed in this post are my own and do not reflect the positions of anyone else. **** I had been asked in January to serve as a panelist at an event for Catholics in my local area, and accepted the invitation with enthusiasm. My contact at the organization, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit national organization with local chapters, told me that I would be asked to speak about a virtue and how that virtue applied to my life of Christian discipleship. Other panelists would speak from their experience about this same virtue, and there would also be time for networking and prayer. It sounded great. I was asked to send my bio and a picture for the marketing materials; I did. I made arrangements to have child care coverage for that evening and set aside time to prepare my remarks. Some time went by, and then I received an email asking me to sign the statement below, to make sure “that those who speak at our events are committed to Church teaching.” Unsure exactly what that meant, I opened the attachment. FAITHFULNESS TO CHURCH TEACHING In order...

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We Don’t Need a Requiem Mass for Moral Theology: A Response to Camosy’s Claim That Our Discipline is in Crisis

In November, CMT contributor Charles Camosy wrote a piece for Church Life Journal entitled “The Crisis of Catholic Moral Theology.”  His arguments have been given new life this week in an America piece in which Camosy is interviewed by Tom Elitz, S.J., “Has Moral Theology Left Catholic Tradition Behind?” In both places, Camosy argues that the field of moral theology is in crisis. But I think it is too early to plan the Requiem Mass for our field. It is true that huge demographic and institutional shifts are underway. But this is not a field in crisis. This is a field responding to urgent and complex questions all over the world, drawing on the wisdom of the past and the data of the present, including data from a variety of fields in the social sciences and hard sciences. In these pieces, Camosy argues that scholars of Catholic moral theology are not doing theology the way he thinks it should be done. And sometimes they even have the nerve to call themselves social ethicists instead of moral theologians. But I think we need to step back and think about some very basic questions that his critique of the field raises. What do I need to have to demonstrate to someone that I “belong” in the guild of Catholic moral theology? What exactly has been lost by expanding our field’s methodological...

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