Author: Matthew Shadle

Shared Grace: Encountering Vatican II at a Methodist College

I decided to join the Catholic Church in 1999, during my sophomore year at Hendrix College, a Methodist college in central Arkansas. The college required students to take two religion courses, and so in my freshman year I took a two part course on the History of Christianity taught by Dr. John Farthing, a now-retired church historian and Methodist minister. Although I entered college a Methodist, this course led me to explore the controversies and characters of the Christian tradition, a process that led me to the Catholic Church. Not only did my Methodist college lead me to the Catholic Church, it also provided me with my first encounter with the Second Vatican Council, whose fiftieth anniversary we are celebrating this year. As a religion major at a Protestant college, most of my theological education focused on figures like Luther, Wesley, Schleiermacher, and Niebuhr. In my senior year, however, I had the opportunity to take a course on Modern Roman Catholicism, also taught by Dr. Farthing. Of course I had learned some of the teachings of the council during the process of initiation into the church and through my own studies, but it was in this class that I first read and studied the major documents of the council. I dutifully carried my bright yellow and blue Flannery edition of the Vatican II documents back and forth from my...

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Catholic Moral Theology Today: What Divides Us?

For some time now, younger Catholic moral theologians have been discussing how the issues of concern to them are different from those of the immediate post-Vatican II generation that dominated the theological discourse for many years (this discussion has gone on long enough that many of those younger Catholic moral theologians are beginning to move out of that category…).  Debates about absolute moral norms, proportionate reason, and magisterial authority, while important, do not really define these younger theologians. Bill Portier, in his article “Here Come the Evangelical Catholics” (Communio 31 (2004): 35-66), provides some of the historical context for this shift. He argues that as Catholics emerged from the religious and ethnic subcultures that characterized American Catholicism up until the 1960s, they experienced for the first time the religious voluntarism characteristic of a pluralist society. In other words, for the first time one’s Catholic faith had to be consciously chosen rather than assumed. In response to this sociological change, many young adults Catholics are adopting what he describes as “evangelical Catholicism,” which is characterized by a conscious effort to adopt Catholicism as a communal identity. The Catholic moral theologian David McCarthy, responding to Portier in an article of his own (“Shifting Settings From Subculture to Pluralism: Catholic Moral Theology in an Evangelical Key,” Communio 31 (2004): 85-110), provides an interpretation of how this sociological shift has impacted moral theology....

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I Want to Be Dependent

At the Republican National Convention two weeks ago, Texas senatorial candidate Ted Cruz, after outlining some of the problems faced by our country, said, “Government is not the answer. You are not doing anyone a favor by creating dependency, destroying individual responsibility.” Having earlier described how his father fled Cuba to Texas “not speaking English, with $100 sewn into his underwear,” Cruz continued, “Fifty-five years ago, when my dad was a penniless teenage immigrant, thank God some well-meaning bureaucrat didn’t put his arm around him and say let me take care of you. Let me give you a government check and make you dependent on government.” The sharp contrast between self-reliance and dependence drawn by Cruz was echoed throughout the convention. As New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote in response, “Speaker after speaker celebrated the solitary and heroic individual,” illustrating the “rampant hyperindividualism” he sees ascendant in the Republican Party. The Republicans are not alone, however. According to the 2012 Atlantic/Aspen Institute American Values Survey, seventy percent of Americans agreed with the statement that “with hard work I can accomplish anything,” and forty-four percent agreed that “the ability to pull oneself up by the bootstraps” is an important factor contributing to America’s success relative to other countries. As Brooks points out, however, “The fact is our destinies are shaped by social forces much more than the current G.O.P....

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