Author: Jason King

Catechism Commentary – The Passions

The Passions (Part Three, Chapter One, Section One, Article Five) Jason King, Saint Vincent College An entry on the passions in the Catechism of the Catholic Church should strike the reader as a bit odd. Why would the Church need to make claims about people’s feelings or how human bodies respond to different situations? It would seem to be a topic for biology or psychology rather than theology. Moreover, the articles before and after the one on the passions seem to carry much more theological weight: imago Dei, beatitude, freedom, human acts, conscience, virtues, and sin. Even the entry itself begins with a kind of defense of the topic, insisting that the “term ‘passions’ belongs to the Christian patrimony” (§1763). Yet the thirteen brief paragraphs of the article on the passions are important as they emphasize the Christian belief that the whole person is called to delight in God. According to the Catechism, the passions themselves have a particular function in the human person, a function that in itself is “neither good nor evil” (§1767) but rather a natural part of the human psyche (§1764). Feelings (the Catechism uses feelings, passions, and emotions interchangeably) perform a dual “bridge” function in people. They first carry sense experiences to the human intellect (§1764) and then, from the intellect, dispose and contribute to human actions (§1762). Finally, like the whole of the...

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A Small 9/11 Reflection

On Sunday, I read and watched the memorials about 9/11, and my wife and I talked about them throughout the day.  We talked about it because we were both in Washington, DC that day.  She was teaching high school.  I was sitting in my apartment when the plane that hit the Pentagon shook my building as it passed.  My wife and I also talked about 9/11 because we got engaged three days later. I had planned a trip for the two of us to Chicago, her beloved city where most of her friends lived.  My plan was to propose Friday morning and then fly to Chicago Friday afternoon where we would be with her friends and her parents for the weekend. When I realized what was going on on 9/11, my excitement and joy about the engagement were replaced by shock and fear, just as the blue skies filled with the dark smoke from the Pentagon. That day seemed to confirm my life long pessimism.  Being of Generation X, I grew up knowing that the world would end any minute in a nuclear holocaust.  Any goal I strove for would burn up like the space shuttle Challenger.  I had a habit of cynicism, assuming that no one could be trusted, born from hours of watching advertisers lie to me on television.  I knew that no amount of work would...

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Underestimating Social Media

One has only to look at the varying roles that Facebook and Twitter played in the protests that spread across Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya to recognize the power of social media sites. The rioters in Britain also used these networking sites as well as the police and political leaders to try and control it.  Given its ability to threaten established states, it would seem hard to underestimate the medium, but I think we do. We fail to realize the depth of involvement in our lives. Think of the degree that social media sites are involved in our personal relationships, relaying of our personal information, and sharing of our personal pictures and movies.  Now, imagine if this were a government or a bank or your boss.  Would any of us let them have access to our personal pictures?  Would any of us let them keep a record of our personal communications?  Would we report into them our weekday and weekend activities? We fail to realize the way it forms our relationships with others. When I once asked my undergraduate students how they knew they were in a serious relationship, I got “you post it on Facebook.” Facebook has become a significant way in which we come to understand our relationships.  If you doubt this, think for a moment of someone being married, on Facebook, and not indicating that they were...

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New Wine, New Wineskins Symposium

I just finished my ninth New Wine, New Wineskins Symposium this past weekend.  I missed the very first one because I was on my honeymoon and have not missed one since. Over the past several years, we have invited a senior scholar to address the group. These individuals have come from all over the theological map:  Jean Porter, Fr. Paulinus Odozor, Lisa Sowle Cahill, Fr. Robert Barron, Stanley Hauerwas, and Daniel Finn.  This year was Jim Keenan.  Of everything Fr. Keenan said, two things that captured the value of NWNW for me.  He said Catholic moral theologians are by nature critics and do not talk to each other. Moral Theologians are by nature critics. I was a bit taken back by this statement.  I had always thought of our task as constructive, figuring out how to live as disciples.  So, I asked him about this constructive task, but, of course, in doing so, I proved his point.  My first move was a critical one, pointing out something I felt was lacking. Yet, being critical was not the whole picture.  As Fr. Keenan expanded on his statement he clarified that we are critical not out of cynicism but out of a hopefulness to make the world better, out of desire for the coming kingdom of God. I found this to be true of the papers at the conference. Each paper...

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Summer (Sci-Fi) Reading

Once, in my graduate school days, I took Heidegger’s Being and Time on vacation. I was trying to squeeze in a bit of work during my free time.  Needless to say, it was difficult to pay attention.  Heidegger does not have a lot to say about Being-at-the-beach. Since then, when I go to the beach, I take what my wife calls “brain candy”, books that quickly and effectively pull you out of your world and entertain you. These books have become a double-pleasure for me.  They are fun but also do some serious reflection on human relationships and society. Below are five of my favorite summer reads that do both.  They are all sci-fi because I find this genre (when it does not get caught up in the technology) is particularly well suited for understanding our world. Like apocalyptic literature, they explore the long-term consequences of the way we are currently living in order to illuminate the dangers and threats to what is good and true and beautiful. Scott Westerfeld’s Extras.  Extras is the fourth book in the Uglies series, which includes Uglies, Pretties, and Specials.  The set up for these books is that kids are “uglies” until they turn sixteen when they get extensive reconstructive surgery to become “pretties”.  (As someone who is about to turn forty, I want to say that the grown-ups in this world are...

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