Author: Emily Reimer-Barry

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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Hagiography and the Need for Postcolonial Discourse

I bought my daughter the New Picture Book of Saints (1962, reprinted in 1974, 1979, and 1988) at the Borders that is going out of business. I didn’t really look at it carefully until we got home. Unfortunately, all sales are final. Why do I regret this purchase? After all, Fr. Lovasik writes in the book’s introduction: I have prepared these life stories of the saints and these wonderful pictures in color to help you to know the saints better. They are your brothers and sisters in heaven. They want to help you get to heaven. Try to be like the saints in doing all you can to know, love, and serve God as they did, and in this way save your soul. Ask the saints to help you to practice virtue and to overcome sin. Sounds okay so far, right? Veneration of the saints is an important part of Catholic tradition. One of the ways we are formed as moral persons is that we learn about the stories of holy men and women who’ve gone before us in the faith. They model the Christian life, and can be role models for us. The problem is that retrieval of the stories of saints involves us in the task of interpretation. We have to ask ourselves, what does Fr. Lovasik have in mind when he proposes that we “serve God...

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Contemporary Biblical Studies “Bankrupt”?

In his 2011 plenary address to the Academy of Catholic Theology, published in the 7/21/11 volume of Origins, Fr. Thomas Weinandy said, among other provocative claims: “Given the bankruptcy of so much modern and contemporary scriptural scholarship, the time is opportune for systematic theologians and moralists to seize back the Bible and make it what it rightly is–the primary source book of their own disciplines” (161). I want to reflect on this a bit. In doing so, I would like to resist the urge to simply react to the sweeping attack on modern and scriptural scholarship. It is impossible to know which scholars or which schools of thought Rev. Weinandy has in mind. But it seems to me that engaging those scholars would be an important first step if Catholic theologians wish to “seize back” the Bible and re-orient their contemporary scholarship. A second underlying claim here is the assumption that contemporary Catholic theologians are not already fully engaged with the Bible as a primary source book. Again, it is difficult to know whom Weinandy has in mind here. I can’t think of anyone doing Catholic moral theology who fails to engage the Bible. The Second Vatican Council challenged moralists to return to the Scriptures. Optatam Totius explains: Special care is to be taken for the improvement of moral theology. Its scientific presentation, drawing more fully on the teaching...

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