Author: Tobias Winright

Sixteen Years of Catholic Education without Hearing about Distributive Justice?

Appearing with Stephen Schneck on the O\’Reilly Factor, Vincent Miller pointed out to Bill O’Reilly that the “Catholic church speaks about distributive justice.” O’Reilly then said, “The Catholic church teaches about distributive justice. I’ve never heard that. I went to sixteen years of Catholic school. I never heard that.” Oh, really, O’Reilly? If that’s the case, then someone fumbled the ball when he attended Chaminade High and Marist College. It would be interesting to find the textbooks that were used during the 1950s and 1960s when he was in school. Textbooks that were used in Catholic high schools and colleges earlier in the twentieth century–on morality, politics, economics, social reconstruction–by the likes of John A. Ryan and Virgil Michel, OSB typically devoted a chapter to justice, with subheadings referring to commutative justice, distributive justice, retributive justice, legal justice, and social justice. Quotes on the topic are also frequently found in these texts from papal encyclicals, including Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum: “Among the many and grave duties of rulers who would do their best for their people, the first and chief is to act with justice–with that justice which is called in the Schools distributive–towards each and every class” (no. 27, emphasis in original, quoted in John A. Ryan and Francis J. Bolland, CSC, Catholic Principles of Politics, rev. ed. [Macmillan Co., 1958], p....

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Ethics after Easter

May 1, 2011–Second Sunday of Easter Acts 2:42-47; Psalm 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31 “Peace be with you!” When I say this greeting, which Jesus shares with his hiding disciples, in class to my students, they initially are caught off guard and aren’t sure how to respond. Some automatically respond, “And also with you.” Others almost do so. Indeed, outside of Mass or worship, this greeting and response seem out of place to most of us. But why is this so? Shouldn’t there be a connection between what we say and do during worship and what we say and do during the rest of the week outside of Mass? In his book, Becoming Friends: Worship, Justice, and the Practice of Christian Friendship, the Catholic theological ethicist, Paul Wadell, recalls how, many years ago, he was struck by a question that Methodist theological ethicist, Stanley Hauerwas, once asked upon making an initial observation: “You Catholics go to Mass all the time. What do all those Masses do for you?” (15). In other words, does worship make a difference in our lives? Does it have anything to do with who we are (or ought to be) and what we do (or ought to do)? Following Jesus’ death and resurrection, the earliest Christians, according to the author of Acts, experienced a new way of life together. “They devoted themselves...

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Putting Some Flesh on these Bones

April 10, 2011 Fifth Sunday of Lent Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalm 130:1-8; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45 In the Introduction to our book, After the Smoke Clears: The Just War Tradition and Post War Justice, Mark Allman and I start with some words from the prophet Ezekiel. As one of the exiles deported by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 B.C.E., Ezekiel predicted the devastation of Jerusalem. Even if their military defenses were successful in the past, Ezekiel admonished the people about their dangerous illusion of security—promoted by false prophets “saying ‘Peace!’ when there was no peace”—that underpinned their idolatrous way of life marked by vice, unrighteousness, injustice, and oppression. When his dire warning came to pass a decade later, the focus of Ezekiel’s message shifted to the hope of Israel’s restoration, the New Jerusalem. The plain filled with dry bones will be transformed into a habitat full of vitality. The dispossessed would return to their land, rebuild their homes, and regain their livelihoods. God will mercifully redeem them (as the Psalm emphasizes) and will put God’s spirit in the people, so that they might have new life and truly know God in an intimate way that transforms who they are and how they live. This new era was to be characterized by lives devoted to virtue, righteousness, justice, and true peace, or shalom. Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones scattered across a plain is...

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The 411 on R2P

In her post on March 28th, Meghan Clark rightly brings up the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) in connection with UN Resolution 1973 concerning Libya. Since there appears to be a lack of familiarity with R2P in the U.S., I thought it appropriate to outline its contours. In 2007 I was invited to participate in a consultation on R2P at the Academy of Arnoldshain near Frankfurt, Germany, sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC) as part of its “Decade to Overcome Violence” program, which will culminate this May in an International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica. The March 2001 issue of the WCC’s journal, The Ecumenical Review, contains articles related to this topic (“Peace on Earth-Peace with Earth”), including one that I wrote on R2P. My brief comments here are culled from there. The phrase first appeared in a 2001 report by that title issued by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, an initiative of the Canadian government to reflect on how to move beyond the moral and jurisprudential obstacles surrounding what was referred to as “humanitarian intervention” during the 1990s in countries such as Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo. The United Nations subsequently studied this proposal, and at the 2005 World Summit, member states endorsed R2P. A report in January 2009 from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on “Implementing the Responsibility to Protect” led to further debate...

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Why Lectionary & Liturgy on a Site by Moral Theologians?

Why does a website about Catholic moral theology include a tab about lectionary and liturgy? I thought I’d offer a couple of reasons for anyone who is wondering about this question. First, the Second Vatican Council in the Decree on Priestly Formation suggested that the discipline of moral theology “should be more thoroughly nourished by scriptural teaching” (no. 16). Moral theology, prior to this, had come to focus mostly on natural law, with a focus on actions and rules. While these remain important, attention is now also given to character, virtue, and discipleship—indeed, on the person and work of Jesus, too. The Bible, therefore, is essential for moral theology. In his book, The Making of Disciples: Tasks of Moral Theology (Michael Glazier Publishing, 1982), Irish Catholic moral theologian Enda McDonagh writes that by “adopting discipleship as one dominant theme of their reflections and explorations, theologians…are compelled to address the Scriptures in text and context more directly and seriously than some doctrinal and moral traditions of the immediate past” (4).  As for liturgy, in his book, Becoming Friends: Worship, Justice, and the Practice of Christian Friendship (Brazos Press, 2002), Catholic moral theologian Paul Wadell shares a story about a question Methodist theological ethicist Stanley Hauerwas once raised: “You Catholics go to Mass all the time,” Hauerwas observed, and then he asked, “What do all those Masses do for you?” If,...

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