Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kimec on Marriage

Doug Kimec, a "Catholic" theologian famous for his dissent, has recently said that the state should stop issuing marriage licenses altogether, rather replacing them with something he would call "civil licenses". Article
Speaking to, Pepperdine University law professor Doug Kmiec said that although his solution to disputes over the definition of marriage might be “awkward,” it would “untie the state from this problem” by creating a new terminology that would apply to everyone, homosexual or not. “Call it a ‘civil license’,” he said.
A rose by any other name...

Kmiec argued “civil licenses” would address the question. He proposed the state withdraw from “the marriage business” and do licensing “under a different name” to satisfy government interests for purposes of taxation and property.

Under his proposal, “the question of who can and cannot be married would be entirely determined in your voluntarily chosen faith community,” he added, saying that the proposal would reaffirm the significance of marriage “as a religious concept,” which has a much fuller understanding than is found in civil marriage.

A civil marriage is a contractual agreement, essentially, and a Christian marriage is a Sacrament, this is true, but renaming the institution does not change, at essence, what it is. Many years ago, I decided that this was the ideal solution to the civil union/marriage disagreement. This opinion was inspired by my then secularism and libertarianism. I couldn't fathom what the problem would be with this solution, it was win-win. Churches could keep their marriages, homosexuals could get their civil unions, and we wouldn't have a separate but equal situation.

The question is, though, why does the government even recognize marriages in the first place; we must consider this and understand it before we can see the problems here. Married people get a tax break over two separate people, even if they live together. The tax break is given because the government wants to encourage marriage over just casual cohabitation. The institution of the family is, therefore, encouraged. This change, therefore, would shift the focus from the family to simply monogamous relationships, for which there is no necessary gender complementarity.

So, why is Kmiec wrong here? The Catechism says that "Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered... Under no circumstances can they be approved." (CCC 2357) I seem to recall reading that the state had an obligation to protect marriage, though I can't find a reference. Either way, it is clear that a Catholic politician or theologian ought not support state policies which could be construed to support homosexual acts, at the very least.

This was not the best story to wake up to.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Catholic Court

So it would seem that President Obama wants to appoint another Catholic to the Supreme Court, which would give us a 6-3 majority, leaving only one protestant on the high court. It makes me wonder how it is possible with so many Catholics on the court that we still have federal legal protections of abortion.

It has made me want, like any good blogger, to comment on something I am neither qualified nor informed to.

Is it possible for a Catholic jurist in good standing to find a legal protection for abortion? It would seem to obviously violate natural moral law in all but the most difficult of cases. So then, let us consider some specific cases. Must a Catholic jurist in this country find in favor of abortion rights if they, for instance, serve on a lower court and are thus subject to the case law developed in Roe? What if they are on the Supreme Court itself; is it proper to vote against finding the right to abortion when Roe is established case law, or on the contrary, would it be improper to vote in favor of a Roe-like case?

I don't think a Catholic jurist could, in these situations given, vote in favor of Abortion rights. I'm not sure that recusal is in order, but careful consideration of the cases at hand must be undertaken to find justly in keeping with this country's legal system and the natural law. As a higher court justice, your primary consideration is usually seeing to the protection of the rights guaranteed by the constitution, which is normally called "interpretation". That natural law is foundational for our country was always assumed, and should be restored.

Again, I find the fact that we will have 6 Catholics (who must oppose abortion) 2 Jews (who, as I understand, really should oppose abortion) and one Protestant (without a Pope, who knows what they believe) on the High Court, and still have the decisions that stand.

Should Catholics on the Supreme Court be denied communion if they find for Abortion in their tenure? This, I think, is a much dicier issue than the question of legislators who make laws in favor of abortion. I do not think this possible action should be sought by the Bishops unless there is something very clearly written into one of their opinions which is obviously opposed to natural law, and a scandal. In that case, and perhaps only then, should this be considered for the justices on the court. I'm not even sure if it makes sense in that case either.

I believe this issue, regarding communion to justices and to politicians, will be important moving forward.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

This is the day where we, in the United States, recall the memory of those who have served our country in the armed services, especially those who have died in the service of the country. It really is more than that, though, at least back home. My grandfather's grave, for instance, is covered in flowers this day, despite his never having served in the Armed Forces.

The phenomenon is a good one, I think. I don't mean to lessen the honor due those who have laid down their life in defense of the country. Those who did not serve in the armed forces did, in their own way, serve the country. My grandfather both volunteered and was drafted, and was turned away both times. His service, therefore, was as a mechanic, a father and a husband.

I don't know that the extending of this honor is universal, or if it is simply a local phenomenon, but it is essentially a secular "All Souls Day" with a special focus on those who gave their lives in the service of the country.

I find myself away from those who I would normally remember today, but the beauty of prayer is that it transcends space and time.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Christopher West Redox

Christopher West recently gave an interview on ABC's nightline in which he presented some of John Paul II's teaching of the Theology of the Body. The interview got a lot of bad press in the Catholic media, probably rightly so.

Christopher West claimed the interview was cut up and sensationalized by ABC and presented statements out of context. I don't doubt that, but I still think that some of those comments he made would be hard to contextualize and legitimize.

I want to preface my further comments by saying that I don't think I have read anything by Christopher West, though I have listened to a complete audio series of his.

I attempted, at one point, to read the Theology of the Body, but it was a bit too dense to absorb at the time, so I can see how people would want some guides and summaries to it. The problem lies in the fact that the teaching is so monumental that attempts to summarize will invariably water down, or otherwise not do justice to the teaching. I have been a bit leery about some of the things Christopher West has written, and am also a bit upset at the recent interview.

A theologian has recently came out with a statement calling into question Christopher West's theology. This statement seems to articulate many of the concerns I have had with this presentation of the Theology of the Body. He gives many examples of some of the more questionable of Christopher West's statements, but I'll get to the meat of the argument.

In sum, West's work provides a paradigm of what is most often criticized today in connection with John Paul II’s theology of the body–and rightly criticized, insofar as that theology is identified with West’s interpretation: namely, that it is too much about sex and too romantic.

West presents a problem for the Church, not because he lacks orthodox intentions, but because his unquestionably orthodox intentions render his theology, a priori, all the more credible. His work often deflects people from the beauty and depth of what is the authentic meaning of John Paul II's anthropology of love, and thus of what was wrought in and through the Second Vatican Council. It is scarcely the first time in the history of the Church that abundant good will did not suffice to make one's theology and vision of reality altogether true.

West has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Church. However, if his work is to bear the Catholic fruit he so ardently desires, he needs to subject basic aspects of his theology to renewed reflection.

The problem is twofold. First, sex sells. Second, the Church has many who don't agree or practice with the Church regarding her teaching on sexuality.

People want to hear about sex. If you put forward anything, laud it as the Church's endorsement of sex, no matter how accurate that claim, it will sell, and it will attract attention.

Also, there are many people who are not interested in following the Church's teachings on, for instance, contraception or premarital sexual relations. In this case, press surrounding this "Hugh Hefner is my hero," etc. can only serve to muddy the waters.

An authentic understanding of human sexuality does not need a list of do's and don'ts. In fact such a list is probably detrimental to authentic sexuality. I can imagine that most things on the list of acceptable behavior are surely not always acceptable, and it could just cause confusion. The focus of the Theology of the Body coverage needs to change from "the Church (now) says you can _____ with your spouse" to "authentic sexuality can be understood as..."

Or perhaps I'm just a prude.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New Restrictions

I noticed on one of the news headlines that there are some new regulations regarding credit cards. I think much of this is foolish, but I don't want to make this a political weblog. What struck me was this point included in the law:
Restrictions designed to restrict credit card companies from pushing their wares on college students without the knowledge of mom and dad.
Credit cards.

So, parents can know if their kids are getting sold on credit cards, in college nonetheless, but not if they want to get abortions even as minors.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cardinal Arinze on Catholic Colleges

Cardinal Arinze recently delivered a Commencement address at Thomas Moore College, as reported by Zenit. He discussed what it meant to be a truly Catholic college, and brought up some good points.
Cardinal Arinze contended that a Catholic institution of higher learning should teach its students "to appreciate that moral rules of right and wrong apply also to science, technology, politics, trade and commerce, and indeed to all human endeavors."
The former Vatican official acknowledged that defending morality can bring difficult consequences. "A person who holds that certain actions, like direct abortion, are always objectively wrong, is regarded as 'judgmental,' or as imposing his views on others," he said.

But, citing the teachings of Benedict XVI, the cardinal added: "The exercise of freedom in pursuit of the truth is very much a part of integral education. If a Catholic college or university does not help in this way, should we not say that it has failed in one of its important roles?"

"If a Catholic college or university answers to its vocation in the ways outlined above, then it will be educating, forming and releasing into society model citizens who will be a credit to their families, their college, the Church and the state," the cardinal stated. "It will prepare for us members of Congress or the Senate who will not say 'I am a Catholic, but ...' but rather those who will say 'I am a Catholic, and therefore ...'"
How often have we all heard "I am a Catholic, but...," and not just from congressmen. What a novel idea, Catholic schools producing people who can think with the Church.

Commencement Photos

Below are some pictures that were taken over the course of Sunday's alternate commencement. You should be able to click on the album to get a larger view. Sorry that it runs a little wide, but I'd rather give you a nice view than squash it in the space that blogger thinks I should use.

Rally: Longer Reflections

I don’t have any of the transcripts or videos from the rally on Sunday yet, but I am ready to reflect on the events with the immediate excitement now wore off a bit.

The first speaker was the Rev. Wilson Miscamble, CSC, a holder of multiple graduate degrees from and a current professor of history at the University. This talk was absolutely amazing; I turned to a friend after it was over and we just looked at each other and said “wow…”. He really fired up the crowd; it was a great way to start the whole event (except for Mass, of course).

Fr. Miscamble gave a brief history of the University and the trials Fr. Sorin had to go through to build up Notre Dame. He also gave a brief synopsis of what we would be missing by not listening to Obama’s speech. He would tell us that, for instance, he was taken care of by Catholics as a youth, he would speak of our debt to Father Hesburgh, and he would even describe that he was influenced by Catholic social teaching. I have not yet listened to the speech, but a friend told me it was spot on.

The speech was really quite moving and it really fired the crowd up. Then the announcement was made that a special guest was arriving, and lo and behold, from the edge of the quad walks Bishop D’Arcy. The crowd cheered him all the way across the quad, and up to the stage. He did not say very much, but it was powerful. He said that he was inspired by the prayerfulness of the students he had encountered the night before at adoration and the rosary. “This is the place for the Bishop,” he said. Reflecting further on this, it must be a slap on the face of Fr. Jenkins. For the Bishop to avoid the commencement ceremony of his local Catholic University, and instead attend the alternative “counter-commencement” must (or should) be disheartening to Fr. Jenkins.

There were other speakers as well. Chris Godfrey, Super Bowl winner, who received his Law degree from Notre Dame, spoke on the importance of standing up for life. Lacy Dodd told her moving story about getting pregnant out of wedlock in her senior year at Notre Dame, with her 9 year old daughter on stage. She is set to open the first of its kind dormitory for pregnant college girls at Belmont Abbey College. Elizabeth Naquin Borger, an ND graduate, spoke about the Women’s Care Center.

Fr. John J. Raphael, SSJ, who graduated from ND in 1989, spoke quite directly on the importance of witnessing to life. His speech was also quite direct and poignant. He spoke as a minority, being African American himself, and drew the obvious connection between rights for all races and for the unborn. He had plenty of zingers, especially pointing out the audacity of claiming to desire the reduction of the number of abortions while increasing the access to them and the funding for them.

Dr. David Solomon, the Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture addressed the crowd as a faculty member. At the beginning of his talk, he called up all the faculty members in attendance. I wasn’t able to be sure, but I think there were about 20 professors standing in front of the stage in solidarity. It was a moving sight. The crowd offered a standing ovation, and in fact, remained standing through the whole address.

The whole event was prayerful, and the focus was correct. I was recently in a discussion with a friend with whom I often disagree. He complained that upon an invitation offered and accepted, people should not protest him. He is the President, after all, and it is an honor. He did not have the benefit of seeing these events of the last weeks unfold in person. He also likely got his news from the secular media. He didn’t realize that the real focus was against the administration of the University. The mentioning of Obama was first and foremost to discuss why he was disqualified to be honored by a Catholic institution. This demonstration was no different.

It was quite edifying to be able to see the 2000+ people who came out to show solidarity with those standing for the Truth, and especially Bishop D’Arcy. I will hopefully get some of those pictures up soon.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Response (Initial Reactions)

This is my first post regarding the commencement time demonstration that was sponsored by ND Response today. I took a lot of pictures, and I hope to be able to share them with you soon.

I attended starting at an outdoor Mass held on South Quad. This mass was concelebrated by the likes of Fr. Kevin Russeau, C.S.C. (Rector of Old College) Fr. Frank Pavone (Priests for Life) Fr. John Corapi, and others. They had an altar stone! There were maybe 2000 people there, though estimates vary.

The rally started after Mass, and interestingly, just after Air Force One flew over. I don't remember who all the speakers were, but they were all really good. Bishop D'Arcy showed up to everyone's surprise! He said he was not planning on coming to campus at all today, but after being there last night for the rosary and adoration, he decided "This is where a Bishop should be". He also said "John D'Arcy is not important, but the office of Bishop is important" and that office must always stand up for life. Fr. Pavone led the rosary in the grotto, with some reflections for this specific event.

Afterward, there was a dinner downtown, at which Fr. Corapi spoke, for the first time publicly in two years. The likes of Alan Keyes and Randall Terry were there, and after Fr. Corapi finished and Alan Keyes took the stage, we cleared out.

It was very good, and I hope to add more reflections later, and also share some pictures.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More than meets the eye

I recently came across an article from Lifesite with a provocative headline: "Notre Dame President Sits on Board of Directors of Pro-Abortion, Pro-Contraception Organization". My thoughts are: first of all, why has this not been in the news yet, and likewise therefore, is it really true? Secondly, I am not surprised to hear that there might be more going on here than meets the eye.

To the first point. It is clearly true that Fr. Jenkins sits on the board of Millennium Promise; that is plain from their website. The mission of Millennium Promise is to promote the 8 millennium development goals of the UN, in Africa. Among these goals are to "Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women", and "Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases". You could give them the benefit of the doubt, or just accept that this is newspeak for "Condoms and Abortion". I'm not saying that any of the other things they do are not good, but I am trying to show the specific things that this organization supports that could be contrary to the teachings of the Church.

Reading the front pages of their website, indeed, does not yield a lauding of how many condoms and abortions they have supported as an organization, but utilizing the search feature of the website allows for some more in-depth digging. Consider the Millennium Villages Handbook, where they make as a goal the promotion of safe sex (separate from monogamy). They even have a section suggesting village-level abortion services under "maternal and child health". That makes sense, because abortion is good for the health of persons.

So, I am fairly convinced, from my own searching of their website that they are a group which supports the distribution of condoms and the increase of availability of abortion services in Africa. [May I note here that I didn't actually read the whole Lifesite article until right now, and they addressed my concerns.]
Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic education watchdog organization, responded to the news of Fr. Jenkins' involvement in Millennium Promise, saying in an interview with LSN, "One has to wonder what Fr. Jenkins' opinion is of the Church's teaching on contraception."
Indeed. I am sure the reason he is on the board of this organization is to "engage" those who disagree with us. That's what he does, you know. Now, I don't think that, under pressure, Fr. Jenkins would even come out with a statement to the effect of "I think condom distribution in Africa is wrong", though I can hope I am wrong. The facts seem to be clear: Fr. Jenkins sits on the board of an organization which supports certain initiatives which are contrary to the teachings of the Church. I think that as a priest (never mind his prominence), he should make it quite clear that he does NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, support those aspects of Millennium Promise which are contrary to the Church's teachings, and, further, that he is doing all that he can as a board member to direct the actions of this group away from morally illicit activities. This would really be an absolute minimum and I think that it would be better for a Catholic priest to not serve on the board of such an organization, despite the many very good things they seem to also do.

I've had a sense that more was going on than meets the eye with the whole Notre Dame scandal. Now, it comes out that Fr. Jenkins has involvement with an organization which supports abortion and contraception. Unfortunately, it is probably not, then, that the University has put, as Bishop D'Arcy so aptly stated, "Prestige before Truth," but rather, they have put the false claims of modern culture before Truth. Now I must make clear, these are the musings of me alone, and could be completely false.

I don't think this will be very widely reported, and I'm sure everyone will forget all about is come Monday.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


The lilacs are in bloom across campus, and they make the campus smell quite nice. The bushes by the Basilica and Sorin are especially full. I have a few blooms in my office, livening up the place a bit. I think it helps a little with everyone so stressed out about their final exams.