Author: Julie Rubio

Our Students in 2012

In 1999, when I began teaching at St. Louis University, my students were a mix of Catholics and Protestants. When asked about their faith, a few would say that they were “raised x but questioning,” but most identified with a Christian denomination. In  the fall of 2012, my students were split down the middle between Christians and “Nones” (those who do not affiliate with any religion), and my whole way of teaching theology has had to change. The rise of the “Nones” has been well-documented by the Pew Forum, which reported this fall that 20% of all Americans and 32% of 18-29 year olds, now call themselves “unaffiliated.” Putnam and Campbell, in their wonderful book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, show how this category, which until very recently claimed only a few percent of Americans, started to gain in popularity in the 1990s following the rise of the religious right in the 1980s.  In their view, young adults turned away from religion because they found it hypocritical, judgmental, and insincere. While fewer than 5% identify as atheist or agnostic, the rest, who are open to the divine, are looking for more tolerance and spiritual depth than they find in mainstream religion. This shift has had a huge effect on my classroom. My “Faith and Politics” class used to be marked by spirited debate between Christian conservatives...

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Reflections on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

I have always loved how, in Luke’s gospel, the story of the Annuciation is followed by Mary’s canticle in which she praises God who “puts down the mighty from their thrones.” Some scripture scholars think the song may be Luke’s own addition. Perhaps. I am not a scripture scholar. But as a mother of three, I wonder if those who don’t see a connection between pregnancy and hope in God’s justice are missing something. Pregnancy is all about hope. I remember when my husband and I were waiting for a sign of our first child. When it came, we were overjoyed. In a few weeks, we had reason to suspect a miscarriage.  It was during a month that I was between jobs and without health insurance.  I went to a free clinic and the nurse there confirmed our fears. We were devastated. A few weeks later I returned to a regular doctor.  Suspicious of the clinic’s conclusion, she hooked up a sonogram, and there on the screen was a beating heart. We were having a baby after all.  Our hoped for future together was beginning.  In the weeks that followed, our joy continued as I felt and saw my baby swimming in my womb. But pregnancy is not all joy.  It involves sickness that is not limited to mornings, fatigue, and giving up wine, coffee, and your figure. Pregnancy...

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Lincoln and the Virtues of Politics

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my family went to see Spielberg’s Lincoln. It is a wonderful movie that reminds us of how good and important politics can be, but it also raises some hard questions for Catholics. According to David Brooks of the New York Times, the movie rightfully celebrates politics, which is important because, you can do more good in politics than in any other sphere. You can end slavery, open opportunity and fight poverty. But you can achieve these things only if you are willing to stain your own character in order to serve others — if you are willing to bamboozle, trim, compromise and be slippery and hypocritical. These are hard words for a Catholic moral theologian to swallow, for two reasons. First, for Catholics, politics is significant but not ultimate. The framework laid out by John Courtney Murray, SJ in We Hold These Truths is still influential. Politics is valuable for Murray because the American experiment with a government of the people is valuable. But it works precisely because it does not pretend it can be everything.  In politics people are “locked in argument” about how to achieve a little more justice or a little more peace, not engaged in building the kingdom of God on earth. Ending slavery is certainly the sort of good thing Murray would have acknowledged could come of politics. Yet, even...

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When Bishops Are Held Accountable

A few weeks ago, Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, MO became the first U.S. bishop to be held accountable for the child abuse by priests. Though I regret the lateness of this post, I did not think that this event should go by without comment from our blog. In the New York Times, John Eligon and Laurie Goodstein reported: “The case began when the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a charismatic parish priest who had previously attracted attention for inappropriate behavior with children, took his laptop computer in for repairs in December 2010. A technician immediately told church officials that the laptop contained what appeared to be pornographic photographs of young girls’ genitals, naked and clothed. Father Ratigan attempted suicide, survived and was sent for treatment. Bishop Finn reassigned him to live in a convent and ordered him stay away from children. But Father Ratigan continued to attend church events and take lewd pictures of girls for five more months, until church officials reported him in May 2011, without Bishop Finn’s approval. The bishop was found guilty on the charge relating only to that time period.” According to the same article, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests was happy to finally see a conviction of a bishop, but remains convinced that only jail time will bring about lasting change. Perhaps many Catholics see the group’s demands as extreme,...

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