Author: Emily Reimer-Barry

Pope Benedict in Mexico

Pope Benedict XVI, upon his arrival in Mexico [English links from Vatican transcript] on Friday,said that his goal in this apostolic visit was to encourage Mexican Catholics to “revitalize their faith” so that they may “act as a leaven in society, contributing to a respectful and peaceful coexistence based on the incomparable dignity of every human being, created by God, which no one has the right to forget or disregard.” After reading these powerful words, I expected that Pope Benedict’s public addresses over his three-day visit would focus on the Catholic Church’s social ethics and how this tradition of the Church could helpfully contribute to political discernment on what ails Mexico and what can be done. Perhaps his private conversation with President Calderon did invoke this tradition of the Church, but the rest of the pope’s public addresses focused on personal faith to the neglect of social responsibility, human rights discourse, or any mention of the role of the institutional Church in combatting violence. The theme of “hope” was apparent in all public addresses. In his welcome remarks, the pope explained: As a pilgrim of hope, I speak to them in the words of Saint Paul: “But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Th. 4:13). Confidence in God offers the certainty...

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Theology in the Blogosphere: Why I’m Glad My Friends Didn’t Listen To Me!

When my friends from New Wineskins first started talking about a Catholic Moral Theology blog a few summers ago, I tried to talk them out of it.  I remember a Sunday morning conversation at the end of a stimulating weekend. We were in the cafeteria of Moreau Seminary at the University of Notre Dame, with just hours left in the weekend until we all went our separate ways for another year of busy academic lives. Many expressed optimism about how a collaborative blog could serve the academy, Church, our students, and the public. I was not convinced. My first concern was that, as I had started to read more of my news online, I became increasingly troubled and frustrated by the tone in comment sections after online stories. The few thoughtful and charitable comments were often drowned out by the many divisive, cruel, and uninformed comments. It seemed to me that medium of the internet was fatally flawed in that it enabled people to say things to one another that they would never say to another human being in person (or so I hoped). Catholic journals were not exempt from this (and I remain frustrated by this, as I am an avid reader of NCR, America, Commonweal, and U.S. Catholic online). “No thanks,” I thought. To spend time posting something that might invite scathing critical comments or even personal...

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Not in My Name: Catholic Reflections on the Killing of Troy Davis

I join other people of faith in mourning the death of Troy Davis, who was killed by lethal injection in Jackson, Georgia tonight. Davis had been convicted of the 1989 killing of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail. One of the reasons this story has received a lot of media attention is that many believe Troy Davis did not kill Mark MacPhail. Ed Pilkington of The Guardian explained that there are reasons to doubt Davis’s guilt: witnesses have recanted and said they had been pressured by police to give false testimony during the original investigation, no DNA evidence links Davis to the killing, no gun was ever found, and nine people have come forward with testimony implicating another man in the murder of MacPhail. But even if Troy Davis killed Mark MacPhail, he should not have been put to death by the State of Georgia. This is not justice. In their 2005 document, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops call for an end to the use of the death penalty because: The sanction of death, when it is not necessary to protect society, violates respect for human life and dignity. State-sanctioned killing in our names diminishes all of us. Its application is deeply flawed and can be irreversibly wrong, is prone to errors, and is biased by factors such as...

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Reflections on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

After the conclusion of the New Evangelization conference that I wrote about in a previous post, I was able to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C. It was a fitting conclusion to a three-day personal discernment about the direction of my research in relation to the conference presentations on the New Evangelization. During the course of the conference, I listened to some speakers and participants express their concern over the fragmentation of theological discourse, and I thought about how my own research interests might be perceived by others who name this problem. I struggle in my attempt to keep up with the best research in ethnography, HIV-prevention, maternal health, feminist ethics, cross-cultural ethics, theological anthropology, Catholic social teachings on common good, feminist and anti-racist pedagogy, and Catholic sexual ethics. Whew! But I’m also energized by the interdisciplinary nature of many areas of Christian ethics, and it seems to me that the Church’s best ethical thinking must engage these (and other) areas of scholarly research. So I guess I see the fragmentation of theological discourse as fact, not problem to be overcome. Doesn’t the Church need specialists in lots of different areas to further the New Evangelization? As I walked around the MLK National Memorial, I was reminded by the need to dream big dreams. The courage and conviction of Dr. King inspires me. I...

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The Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization

Last week I traveled to Washington, D.C. for a conference sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic University of America. The conference focused on the Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization and included talks by Daniel Cardinal Di Nardo, Janet E. Smith, John Cavadini, Archbishop J. A. DiNoia, O.P., Msgr. Kevin W. Irwin, Rev. Frank Matera, and Ralph Del Colle. Approximately 50 pre-tenure theologians were invited (with expenses paid by the Knights of Columbus). Donald Cardinal Wuerl was the principal celebrant of the closing liturgy, which you can read about here. Michael Sean Winters blogged about the symposium here. There were other members of the press in attendance, so I’ll add links as I discover them. In his opening remarks, Fr. Thomas Weinandy of the Committee on Doctrine explained that the bishops want to build up a relationship with new young theologians. One of the aims of the conference was to encourage conversation among theologians and bishops. While I did get to have a brief conversation with Archbishop DiNoia, I found that I spent most of my time talking with other pre-tenure theologians. It was wonderful to meet other “young” theologians and to hear about their teaching and research projects. As often happens at conferences, some of us stayed up into the wee hours of the morning in passionate conversations about our love for the...

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