Author: Ramon Luzarraga

Pope Benedict XVI’s Resignation: Some Moral Lessons for the People of God

Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation from the office of pope took everyone in Rome by surprise.  Perhaps we should not be surprised.  Didn’t Pope Benedict state at the time of his installation that his papacy would be short?  Perhaps Benedict’s actions such as his August 2009 personal visit to the tomb of Pope Celestine V, who also voluntarily stepped down from the papal office, telegraphed his ultimate intentions for how his own papacy would end? My colleagues in theology and ethics here and elsewhere will speak most capably to the details of Canon Law and the precedents Benedict’s act may bring to the Church.  Here I’d like to focus on some ethical lessons I think we in the Church, as the people of God, ought to draw from Pope Benedict’s retirement from the papacy. First, as Brian Flanagan points out, there is always a distinction between the person and the ecclesial office held.  Pope Benedict reminds us all that while the Church is the Body of Christ, and each of us must have a valued place in that body, nobody is indispensable in relation to any particular office, clerical or otherwise, in service to the people of God.  On the one hand, the Church must become far more intentional in valuing and taking care of its people, especially those educated for ministry, teaching and research in the Church.  (That will be...

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The Kids on the Hill (or How Gerrymandering is the Single Largest Barrier to Citizens’ Right and Responsibility to Participation)

The debate about the fiscal cliff is the latest Federal political crisis which is a product of a deeper problem: a vicious circle of the American public’s failure to meaningfully participate in how we order our common life, which reinforces and is reinforced by the old political practice of gerrymandering. At base, Congress is debating whether there exists a direct corollary between the level of taxes, government regulation, and the dynamism of the economy to produce wealth. The World Economic Forum’s most recent global competitiveness report points to the complicated truth which, unsurprisingly, defies ideology. The list of the world’s most competitive developed economies most hospitable for business generally feature countries with higher taxes and strongly interventionist governments as much as, perhaps more so than those with lower taxes and less government intervention. This is not an ideologically biased statement. Conservative business publications, such as Forbes, report similar findings. This suggests that too many of our members of Congress are asking the wrong questions, using the wrong information or misusing correct information, confusing ideological talking points with political principle, confusing the common good of the nation with the interests of the minority of people who finance their campaigns and work to elect them to the House or Senate. Despite record low poll ratings of Congress as an institution for their inability to do their constitutional duty to help govern the nation (to...

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The Fragility of Excellence

Sports fascinate many people because of what athletes put at risk: their ability to participate and develop through intense focus and work the achievement of excellence in a particular sport. Watching athletes compete at the highest level of physical prowess and intellectual strategizing and concentration proper to their particular sport places into sharp relief how, to use Thomistic language, a human being attempts to become the most realized, most actualized, most perfect practitioner of something. Athletic competition serves as a lens into which one sees the human endeavor to fully realize one’s potential in concentrated form. Sports also serves as a lens for the fragile nature of the human quest for excellence, too. Consider the London Olympics, where the difference between victory and defeat was often measured in barely measurable fractions, and done before an audience of millions, perhaps billions for the high-profile sports. Along with the happiness one may have felt when an athlete won was the relief that when their body could have failed, it did not. That is part of the emotional nature of watching sports, all that practice, all that effort, where an athlete perfected a sport to such a high level of excellence practice after practice, all that work may be for naught because of one small mistake, the physical failure of the body, or the broken mental concentration, which can happen when the athlete must get...

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Memorial Day as a Day of Reconciliation

The origins of Memorial Day date to the years immediately following the American Civil War when Americans honored the war dead of the North and the South by placing flowers on their tombstones.  (The original name of the holiday was Decoration Day.)  Despite the fact that the northern and southern states commemorated their war dead on separate days until World War I, the fact remains that the former adversaries did engage in the same memorializing act.  Over time, as Americans honored those who served and died in the wars our country has fought since the Civil War, these memorials gelled into the common holiday we have today.  Memorial Day has served a quieter role aside from its primary function of honoring our veterans and war dead, it served as a means to bring reconciliation to our nation. Honoring those who fought and died in war has brought reconciliation to former adversaries beyond our shores, too.  Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, initially rose to fame for his leadership in World War I defending the Ottoman Empire against a valiant but ultimately disastrous attack at Gallipoli by British military units consisting mainly of members of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC).  Years later, as president of Turkey, Atatürk wrote a tribute to his former ANZAC adversaries buried in the British Commonwealth military cemeteries which exist in...

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