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Showing posts from June, 2012

Auf Wiedersehen!

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In a few hours, I will head off to Innsbruck, Austria, to begin my study of German. Several years ago, I spent time learning how to read German. Valuable at the time, it has struck me repeatedly that I should rather have a developed ear for the language, so the Society of Jesus has been most gracious in allowing me this opportunity for a thorough immersion in the German language.

Near as I can tell, the closest thing I have to an association with Austria is the move The Sound of Music. If you have a twinge of nostalgia when you think of this movie, feel free to watch the video below of "Edelweiss."

How to Be an Atheist, II

Today on The Jesuit Post, the second article in the series entitled "How to Be an Atheist" appears. Decidedly shorter than my last post, this tries to elucidate what is meant when we say that God creates ex nihilo or from nothing. To my mind, this is an endless source of confusion and I've made an effort to make it a bit clearer (that said, I was reading the post this morning in bed using my iPad when it hit me how I could have said one important thing better. Alas.)
How to Be an Atheist: Creation Ex Nihilo

It's Pat versus the Bishops

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Back in the early 1990's, there was a skit on Saturday Night Live featuring an androgynous character - Pat O'Neil Riley. Each skit involved an attempt to ascertain whether Pat was a man or a woman. I recall one episode where Pat needed to use the restroom and, just as the character took a step toward one of the clearly marked bathroom doors, there was some sort of "interruption" to the broadcast. When the interruption had been cleared, two characters who had seen Pat choose a restroom were remarking after Pat's sex, without giving any indication to the audience what it was.

Yesterday, the Freedom From Religion Foundation carried a story about how Julia Sweeney - the creator of and actor behind the character Pat - had released a 30-second ad directed against the Catholic Bishops. "It's Pat" had an allure because it retained a sense of mystery surrounding Pat's sex; Sweeney's spot leaves no ambiguity about her position:



If you don't want t…

No Longer Politics as Usual?

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I read this afternoon the transcript of Carl A. Anderson's address to the Catholic Press Association. Entitled "What Every Catholic Can Do to Transcend Partisanship," Mr. Anderson proposes four steps by which Catholic voters can contribute to the transformation of the American political landscape.

Establish a firm commitment to civility in America's national discourse.Build up the fabric of American society through a fraternal solidarity based on personal works of charity.Build a consistent commitment to Catholic Social Teaching among Catholic voters in America.Based upon a commitment to Catholic Social Teaching, we will be able to transcend partisanship.  To my mind, Anderson rightly notes that one of the fundamental breakdowns with the so-called Catholic vote has been our failure to live up to Catholic Social Teaching's consistent ethic of life and thoroughgoing recognition of the dignity of each human being. 
Catholic Social Teaching is the Church's gift t…

Want to be an Atheist?

In terms of the argument, I have no claim to originality: Professor Denys Turner, Father Brian Davies, Father Herbert McCabe, and Saint Thomas Aquinas are by far my more able-minded predecessors. Nevertheless, my first of five posts has appeared over at the Jesuit Post in an effort to show just what it is a person must do should he or she decide to be an atheist. If you're inclined in such a direction, please follow along as the series is posted.

How to Be an Atheist: Why is There Anything?

Religious Liberty

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The 1970's tends to get a bad rap within church circles. In my less-than-charitable moments, I have been heard to remark that the liturgical innovations that took place in the 1970's were but the venom from a many-headed hydra, a beast whose heads could not too soon be severed and the stumps cauterized. Surely, not everything that took place in the 1970's was awful. Indeed, as I prayed this morning, I recalled some words written by my theological hero, Karl Rahner. 

Rahner, writing in 1972, encouraged those in Church leadership toward becoming a "church of morality without moralizing." How can one encourage fidelity to one's vows, to fair and honest practice within broken corporate structures, to integrity in one's life, to ethical integrity, when women and men have not yet come to know God's love? Rahner writes:
We must show men and women today at least the beginning of the path that leads credibly and concretely into the freedom of God. Where men an…

Damn You, Jiminy Cricket!

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I don't consider myself a tremendously original thinker but I should like to think that one thing I brought to my students these last three years is a way of thinking about God that they found (1) credible and (2) relevant. I used to say that I was offering to them a way of thinking about "God after the death of god." The coupling of "Death" and "god" seemed to titillate a bunch of adolescents and gave me just enough of an ingress to make a case to them. 
When I took over the moral theology course at the end of the semester, I found a new bugbear: conscience. Many students, it seems , have a notion that the conscience is this Jiminy Cricket-esque figure who dwells somewhere deep within us. While it may not sing and dance and lead us out of the belly of a whale, our conscience is the final arbiter of what it is that we do. The Jiminy Cricket conscience is the rule by which we measure all things, the gold standard establishing the level and nature of o…

Just go?

Not without some interest have I read the New York Times these last few days, particularly the Op/Ed piece penned by Bill Keller entitled "The Rottweiler's Rottweiler." The nature of the Op/Ed piece permits a certain type of tone, a certain style of rhetoric, that can appeal to a reader's emotion without necessarily having to persuade the reader's mind. Meaning, only, that certain stylistic liberties may be taken - sarcasm, for instance - which might not otherwise be appropriate in other forums.


In a particularly dour paragraph, Keller writes:
Much as I wish I could encourage the discontented, the Catholics of open minds and open hearts, to stay put and fight the good fight, this is a lost cause...Summon your fortitude, and just go. If you are not getting the spiritual sustenance you need, if you are uneasy being part of an institution out of step with your conscience — then go. The restive nuns who are planning a field trip to Rome for a bit of dialogue? Be assure…

Whether it is snake oil or not, I do not know...

Back in August, I learned that I had arthritis. This wasn't a tremendously surprising diagnosis as there has been arthritis in my family and I had experienced an increasing aching in my hands and joints. My doctor prescribed some anti-inflammatory medication but I didn't care for it at all: one of them left me feeling drunk, the other left me feeling angry. As this was all taking place during the beginning of the school year, I anticipated that it'd not be a good idea either to teach (1) woozy or (2) angry.

So I contented myself with a lot of Aleve. Playing a feis (on the accordion) became an increasing burden and I'd have to take Aleve two hours in to the day, a few hours after that, and then at the end. My hands would be in tremendous pain after each feis and I began to wonder if my music career was slowly coming to a close.

In January, a friend suggested that I try something called Astaxanthin. I began taking it, 10mg each day, starting in January. After about thre…

Avoiding the Digital Shadow

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In this post, I would like to take up a very serious topic: the implications of social media. Actually, I really want to address some points of etiquette and draw attention to some potential ramifications of improper use of this technology. The reasons are, to be honest, personal: last week, several students took to Twitter to voice their discontent with me and one of my classes, using my name and saying some rather hurtful things about me. Generally, I have very thick skin. This, however, seemed so inappropriate that I contacted the involved students' parents and notified them of the situation. When other students got wind of this, it caused great consternation amongst them: What right does the school have to look at our Tweets?

This is, it seems to me, an important question. Does a school have a right to hold students accountable for things they post to their Facebook or Twitter pages? 
Let me propose the following situation: What do you think would happen if I met with the par…

Moral Theology: Case #3

Below, please find the third case study I wrote and used on my final exam for our junior-year morality course.

Case Study #2

I'm shocked that it's been quite some time since I last posted. There are less than 24-hours remaining in my regency, as with the conclusion of the second final tomorrow my school year reaches its official conclusion. Without question, I am left feeling bittersweet: a part of me is excited to continue my Jesuit formation, a part of me is sad to leave a school I love.

Over the last two weeks, I have written two further cases for use in my Junior-level moral theology course. I wrote them out of a sense of frustration: too often, moral theology in Catholic schools seems to be obsessed with issues related to sex. I am of a mind that moral theology extends far beyond the area of the body covered by an apron, so I've tried to write cases that would push students to think about issues that are less...well, less sexy!

It's not a long case and I enjoyed spending a class period discussing it with my students. If it's helpful to you, please make use of it!