Monday, January 30, 2006

Cracks in Roe?

Earlier today I posted excerpts from a Reuters article by Carey Gillam entitled "Abortion rights groups say battle being lost." I also mentioned having picked up a sense of a possible shift in things from the papers while in Washintgon, DC, for the annual March for Life on Jan. 23, 2006. I found a sampling of the sort of thing I mean, which includes pro-choice Supreme Court justices and other liberals on record with startling criticisms of Roe (There's also a very interesting criticism of Roe by Sandra Day O'Connor, though I can't find it):
  • "Roe, with its ... argument about privacy raises more questions than it answers. For instance, if the right to an abortion is a matter of privacy, then why, asked Princeton professor Robert P. George in the New York Times, is recreational drug use not? ... I'm pro-choice, I repeat -- but [repealing Roe] would relieve us all from having to defend a Supreme Court decision whose reasoning has not held up. ... a bad decision is a bad decision." - Columnist Richard Cohen, Washington Post (October 20, 2005)
  • "As a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible. I say this as someone utterly committed to the right to choose ..." -- Author (and former Blackmun law clerk) Edward Lazarus, (October 2, 2002)
  • "Roe, I believe, would have been more acceptable as a judicial decision if it had not gone beyond a ruling on the extreme statue before the court. ... Heavy-handed judicial intervention was difficult to justify and appears to have provoked, not resolved, conflict." -- Justice Ruth Bader Ginsbug, North Carolina Law Review (1985)
  • "One of the most curious things about Roe is that, behind its own verbal smokescreen, the substantive judgment on which it rests is nowhere to be found." -- Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law Review (1973)
  • "In short, 30 years later, it seems increasingly clear that this pro-choice magazine was correct in 1973 when it criticized Roe on constitutional grounds. Its overturning would be the best thing that could happen to the federal judiciary, the pro-choice movement, and the moderate majority of the American people. ... Thirty years after Roe, the finest constitutional minds in the country still have not been able to produce a constitutional justification for striking down restrictions on early-term abortions that is substantially more convincing than Justice Harry Blackmun's famously artles opinion itself. As a result, the pro-choice majority asks nominees to swear allegiance to the decision without being able to identify an intelligible principle to support it." -- Columnist and Prof. Jeffrey Rosen, legal affairs editor, The New Republic (February 24, 2003)
  • "What is frightening about Roe is that this super-protected right is not inferable from the language of the Constitution, the framers' thinking respecting the specific problem in issue, any general value derivable from the provisions they included, or the nation's governmental structure." - Prof. John Hart Ely, Yale Law Journal (1973)
  • "... if Roe ever does die, I won't attend its funeral. Nor would I lift a finger to prevent a conservative president from nominating justices who might bury it once and for all." --Washington Post editorial writer Benjamin Wittes, Atlantic Monthly (January/February 2005)
[Credits: Dave Andrusko, "Pro-Abortionists Harshly Criticize Roe," NRL News (Jan. 2006), pp. 21, 25]

Consolidated critique of O'Leary Christology

The three-part serialized critique of Fr. O'Leary's brilliantly learned and heretically-existentialist Christology that I published over the course of several months between August and November of 2005 on this blog has been consolidated into one post and placed on my Scripture and Catholic Tradition blog for the convenience of those of you who want to consult it HERE. Fr. O'Leary's original essay is available in its most convenient form HERE.

"Abortion rights groups say battle being lost"

The link to this the following Reuters article by Carey Gillam at Yahoo News came to me from my son, Jonathan, in Knoxville, who writes: "I like the comment about women being able to see the 4-d x-rays of the baby, showing them that the 'collection of cells' is complete with a face, heartbeat, etc., making it HUMAN." According to Gillam's article, the champion of kill-your-own-baby rights seem to be in something of a panic:
KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) -- In Wichita, Kansas, abortion rights supporters held a "chili for choice" fund-raising dinner. In Pierre, South Dakota, they plotted strategy in the "Back Alley" meeting hall. And in Minneapolis, volunteers led women past protesters into an abortion clinic.

It was just a typical week in Middle America where the decades-old debate over abortion rights has become a full-blown battle. But even as they continue to raise money and march around state capitols, the view from the pro-choice side is this is a fight they are losing.

... The pro-choice groups find themselves facing a virtual avalanche of state legislation that ranges from laws banning abortions in almost all circumstances to laws limiting the disbursement of birth control and restricting sex education.

... "I think Roe in the short term will be dismantled," said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "We have an anti-choice president, an anti-choice Congress and now ... with the confirmation of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court, we are seeing the potential for a very right-leaning, anti-choice Supreme Court."

Anti-abortion groups say much has changed in the 33 years since the famed U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe V. Wade cleared the way for legalized abortion. They acknowledge the increased power of religious conservatives in public policy, but say other factors are central to the rise of anti-abortion legislation and what they say is waning public support for abortion.

Among the key factors is enhanced technology, such as 4-D ultra-sound, that allows pregnant women to clearly view the features of the fetus they might abort.

"The technology has allowed someone who before had no face and no voice to become an actual child," said Mary Spaulding Balch, director of state legislation for the National Right to Life Committee. "In the 70s and 80s whenever you debated abortion you talked about the mother. Now the baby is being brought into the debate."

(Read the whole article HERE.)
I did sense something different in the air at this year's March for Life in Washington, DC, this January 23rd. After three decades of killing 4000 babies/day in these United States alone, there was a sense -- just a personal sense ... something I picked up from things I read in the papers -- that something else might actually be possible. What ... sanity? ... In this country??? I'm not holding my breath, but I'm far from saying anything is hopeless.

[Hat tip to Jon Blosser, Toyota Chiso Corp., Maryville, TN.]

Saturday, January 28, 2006

DEUS CARITAS EST: Pope Benedict's Encyclical on Christian Love

The following post on Pope Benedict XVI's Encyclical, DEUS CARITAS EST, is offered for the convenience of my reader's who would like to discuss the encyclical letter "on topic." I haven't posted anything since the encyclical was published on January 25, 2006, and my last article -- posted that day -- was "An Abridged But Highly Accurate World History" -- about such profound facts such as how the wheel was invented to get cavemen to beer, and how the conservative movement evolved from cavemen tracking and killing animals to BBQ at night (who came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful animal on earth, the elephant), while the liberal movement evolved from girleymen who lived off the hunters and spent their time domesticating cats, inventing group therapy, group hugs, how to divide the meat and beer provided by the conservatives (and came to be symbolized by the jackass).

Meanwhile, as the days passed, I watched the number of comments on the comment box under that post continue to mount, until -- when I found the time -- I checked what was going on. Lo, and behold -- and wouldn't you know it! -- there was Fr. O'Leary, the "Spirit of Vatican II" his bad ol' self -- offering learned commentary, not on beer or barbecue or 'girleymen' (well, except in a round-about way, through his usual diatribes against "homophobic," "reactionary," "gay-bashing" Papal-Bull-for-Breakfast Papists), but on the Holy Father's new encyclical! It's evident that Fr. O'Leary wishes to share his thoughts on the encyclical with you and with me -- which we welcome. Some of you have righly protested "off-topic" commentary in the previous combox. So here's an appropriate forum for those who wish, along with the ever-profuse-and-profusely-liberal Fr. O'Leary to pursue the thread on DEUS CARITAS EST.

I will prime the pump by transferring some of the thread from the previous combox to this one.

Cheers. --PP

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"An Abridged But Highly Accurate World History"

History began some 12,000 years ago. Humans existed as members of small bands of nomadic hunter/gatherers.

They lived on deer in the mountains during the summer and would go to the coast to live on fish and lobster in winter.

The two most important events in all of history were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity into two distinct subgroups: Liberals and Conservatives.

Once beer was discovered it required grain and that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum can were invented yet, so while our early human ancestors were sitting around waiting for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery. That's how villages were formed.

Some men spent their days tracking and killing animals to BBQ at night while they were drinking beer. This was the beginning of what is known as "the Conservative movement."

Other men who were weaker and less skilled at hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly BBQ and doing the sewing, fetching and hair dressing. This was the beginning of the Liberal movement. Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into women. The rest became known as 'girleymen.'

Some noteworthy liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of group therapy and group hugs and the concept of Democratic voting to decide how to divide the meat and beer that conservatives provided.

Over the years conservatives came to be symbolized by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth, the elephant. Liberals are symbolized by the jackass.

Modern liberals like imported beer (with lime added), but most prefer white wine or imported bottled water. They eat raw fish but like their beef well done. Sushi, tofu and French food are standard liberal fare. Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social workers, personal injury attorneys, journalists, dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented the designated hitter rule because it wasn't "fair" to make the pitcher also bat.

Conservatives drink domestic beer. They eat red meat and still provide for their women. Conservatives are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, construction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, corporate executives, fighter pilots, athletes and generally anyone who works productively outside government.

Conservatives who own companies hire other conservatives who want to work for a living.

Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to "govern" the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America. They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying to get more for nothing.

Here ends today's lesson in world history. It should be noted that a Liberal will have an uncontrollable urge to respond to the above instead of simply laughing and deleting or forwarding it.
[Anonymous: Hat tip to J.L.Y.]

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The folly of being "moderately pro-choice"

In remembrance of National Right To Life Day, celebrated every January 22nd on the annual anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, Roe vs. Wade (1973), and in honor of the tens thousands of protestors who annually drive to Washington, D.C., to march from the Washington Monument to the Supreme Court, lobby senators, and get themselves ignored by the media in favor of the eight or nine abortion-rights activists who manage to come out and get themselves interviewed on national television, it seemed only decent and proper to come up with a "thought for the day" of some kind before stepping on the bus for D.C. tomorrow morning. Accordingly, I've retrieved from my files the following annual quotation from Princeton professor, Robert P. George:

I am personally opposed to killing abortionists. However, inasmuch as my personal opposition to this practice is rooted in sectarian (Catholic) religious belief in the sanctity of human life, I am unwilling to impose it on others who may, as a matter of conscience, take a different view. Of course, I am entirely in favor of policies aimed at removing the root causes of violence against abortionists. Indeed, I would go as far as supporting mandatory one-week waiting periods, and even non-judgmental counseling, for people who are contemplating the choice of killing an abortionist. I believe in policies that reduce the urgent need some people feel to kill abortionists while, at the same time, respecting the rights of conscience of my fellow citizens who believe that the killing of abortionists is sometimes a tragic necessity--not a good, but a lesser evil. In short, I am moderately 'pro-choice.'"

[Dr. Robert P. George is George McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, a graduate of Harvard Law School, and earned his doctorate in philosophy of law at Oxford University. He currently sits on the President's Council of Bioethics and is author of numerous books on constitutional law and jurisprudence. Just in case anyone is still wondering, the foregoing statement is not intended to be taken at face value, but as a parody and reductio ad absurdum refutation of the fallacious reasoning employed pervasively by proponents of a "pro-choice" position favoring "abortion rights." I offer this explanation not to insult your intelligence, but only because of having learned the hard way to cover my bases: several years ago, I sent George's quotation out by email to all faculty, staff, and students at Lenoir-Rhyne College, only to hear that a President's cabinet meeting was called to address the issue, and, the dean of students, frantic to ensure the institution's political correctness, sent out a follow-up message indicating that the views of my email did not reflect the views of the institution and that the college did not endorse the killing of abortionists! Well guess what? Neither do I or Bobby George!]

Iran's leader challenges Europe to take back Jews in Israel

This crazy scary man calls to mind other crazy, scary heads of fascist regimes of years gone by. (HAARETZ.COM, Jan. 21, 2006)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Praying for Christian Unity

January 18th began the octave of prayer for Christian Unity throughout the Catholic Church. During his pontificate, the late John Paul II attempted to foster mutual love and respect among Christians. This week of prayer lasts until January 25th when we celebrate the conversion of St. Paul the Apostle on the Damascus Road. St. Paul is a powerful symbol and advocate of Christian unity for both Protestant and Catholic Christians (Ephesians 4:1-6).

To foster Christian unity, the Lenoir-Rhyne College Newman Club is sponsoring an evening of dialogue between Evangelical/Lutheran and Catholic students. If you are a resident student or a commuter, you are more than invited to join us. See the announcement below for further details.

Let's join together in deep prayer this week that our God would heal the wounds of division and misunderstanding among believers in Christ. If you wish, feel free to join others in using this prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, on the last night of your life on earth, the night of your shameful agony, you prayed that all your disciples would be one, just as you and the Father are one. Give us all who profess your name the Spirit of humility, love and understanding that we might more fully live out your desire for the unity of all who are baptized in your holy name. We ask this You, Our Savior, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
Building the Culture of Life:
What Can Evangelicals and Catholics Do?

Catholic and Evangelical Christians both want to build a culture of life in America. Against the backdrop of many cultural movements to undermine the sanctity of life and its foundation in the family, both faith communities find themselves asking, "What can we do to foster a higher regard for human life and its necessary offshoots?"

On January 25th, 2006, Lenoir-Rhyne College's Newman Club will be hosting an evening of dialogue between Evangelical/Lutheran and Catholic students -- whoever comes. As there will be ample time for questions and discussion, we invite your thoughtful participation in what should prove to be an enlightening and progressive step in the task of building a culture of life. Refreshments, including pizza and softdrinks will be available.

Next year we hope to arrange to invite guest speakers.

Date: Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Time: 5:30-7:00pm
Place: K-House
Questions: contact Philip Blosser (email posted above right)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The "Radical Orthodoxy" Movement

Every generation or so, something "new" comes along. Once it was Protestant Liberalism. Then it was Barthian Neo-Orthodoxy. Then, responding to the skeptical logical empiricism of the earlier generation of "atheologians" came the gallant Alvin Plantinga in the seventies with his "Reformed Epistemology" and asseverations of doxastic warrant and "proper basicality" of theistic belief. A concurrent continental development was that of the French Jewish student of Husserl, Jacques Derrida, who, after his dissertation On the Origin of Geometry, developed the startling new postmodern rave of "deconstruction." When all is said and done, however, whatever contributions can be found in these developments that are actually really interesting, there is very little that is actually substantially new. When A.N. Whitehead said that all of philosophy has been nothing but a series of footnotes to Plato, he was, of course, exaggerating. But only a bit. I realize that there are individuals, such as John D. Caputo, Jean-Luc Marion, and to some extent, perhaps, Marold Westphal, who have made personal careers out of endeavoring to demonstrate that something worth discovering may finally reside beneath all the superficial hype surrounding the now deceased Derrida and his deconstructionist reading of philosophical texts. They may be right. For all I know, the ebullient new proponents of "Radical Orthodoxy" may also be right: perhaps, after all is said and done, there will be something after all -- beneath all the hype -- worth noting in the contribution of RO thinkers. But from the vantage point of the long view -- the view of philosophia perennis -- I really don't see much likelihood of the Solomonic dictum being overturned that there is, in the final analysis, nothing (or at least, very little) new under the sun.

For the little time, money, and energy I have left at the end of the day, give me much rather some of those dusty tomes of forgotton "bygones" like Etienne Gilson, Joseph Owens, Josef Pieper, Henri de Lubac, Garrigou-Lagrange, Ronald Knox, and perhaps above all the Venerable Cardinal Newman. I spent my graduate studies immersed in the epistemology and critical ethics of Kant and the post-Kantian critiques of Kantianism emanating from the Husserlian phenomenological movement -- including Scheler. I spent the next ten years immersed in acquainting myself with the postmodern developments stemming from the phenomenological movement, beginning with the later Heidegger and coming up through Foucault to the French Jewish thinker, Derrida -- especially Derrida. When all was said and done, I found these thinkers -- as valuable as the have been for understanding where we are today -- utterly disappointing. In the beginning, they entice. They seduce. They draw one in with the promise of profundity. But their larders are empty, their cisterns dry, and they leave their victims empty, famished, parched with thirst. By contrast, I have found that turning back to some of the forgotten, neglected, rejected, derided "scholastic" sorts of thinkers that I have mentioned above has turned up an unexpected oasis within the deserts of modernity and postmodernity -- a place with fertile growth and deep wells where one can drink deeply and find satisfaction. Does "Radical Orthodoxy" provide that? Something one can feed on? Something to quench one's thirst? Perhaps. But if so, is it by means of anything new under the sun?


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Navarre Bible complete!

The Navarre Bible: Minor Prophets has just been released, completing the decades-long project of the Navarre Bible. See our earlier discussion of the background of the Navarre Bible project in our post entitled, "Navarre Pentateuch back in stock" (January 5, 2006).

"Americans Dismayed as Pope Remains Catholic"

The latest issue of the very loosely-affiliated Lutheran "Mad" magazine, Wittenburg Door (Issue #203, January/February 2006), carries an article by Mathew Pickett entitled, "Americans Dismayed as Pope Remains Catholic." Flippin' hilarious -- sort of like The Onion with a Lutheran twist.

I'm pleased the Door is back in circulation again. Decades ago, I remember taking a subscription during the original run of the magazine. Several issues I fondly remember. One featured a front cover with a picture of Jerry Falwell on it and a banner reading "We [HEART] Fundies!" Another had a picture of a group of evangelicals sitting in a circle in a hot tub with Bibles to the side, hands folded, heads bowed in prayer, and something about the new evangelical "hot tub religion" (yeah, there's an evangelical version of that)! Another had a serious interview with Garrison Keillor, host of the show "Prairie Home Companion." Yet another had an article on the cold war and a scenario of thermo-nuclear exchange with Russia and a map of the United States inside with "ground zero" at Wheaton College, Illinois, the home of America's flag ship Evangelical college and Billy Graham Center. What can I say? Tolle, lege!

[Hat tip to Sean Fagan]

Monday, January 16, 2006

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The North Carolina Eugenics Board 1929-1975 ...

Johanna Schoen has written one scary book: Choice and Coercion: Birth Control, Sterilization, and Abortion in Public Health and Welfare . "In August 2003, North Carolina became the first U.S. state to offer restitution to victims of state-ordered sterilizations carried out by its eugenics program between 1929 and 1975. The decision was prompted by newspaper stories based on the research of Johanna Schoen, who was granted unique access to summaries of 7,500 case histories and the papers of the North Carolina Eugenics Board.

"In this book, Schoen situates the state's reproductive politics in a national and global context. Widening her focus to include birth control, sterilization, and abortion policies across the nation, she demonstrates how each method for limiting unwanted pregnancies had the potential both to expand and to limit women's reproductive choices. Such programs overwhelmingly targeted poor and nonwhite populations, yet they also extended a measure of reproductive control to poor women that was previously out of reach.

"On an international level, the United States has influenced reproductive health policies by, for example, tying foreign aid to the recipients' compliance with U.S. notions about family planning. The availability of U.S.-funded family planning aid has proved to be a double-edged sword, offering unprecedented opportunities to poor women while subjecting foreign patients to medical experimentation that would be considered unacceptable at home." (Quotations from publisher's remarks)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

USCCB's review of 'Brokeback' thoroughly fisked

For those of you who might have missed it, like myself, Michael Forrest offers a thorough fisking of the USCCB's theologically etiolated review of 'Brokeback Mountain' in "The USCCB, Brokeback Mountain and The Passion of the Christ" in the Seattle Catholic (December 19, 2005).

Friday, January 13, 2006

Two books by Joseph Varacalli

Joseph Varacalli just wrote me a note about a new book of his. I want to take this occasion, however, to post notes about a couple of his books that I find especially significant. But before that, a word about Varacalli himself.

Joseph A. Varacalli is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Nassau Community College-SUNY. He was co-founder of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, first Editor-in-Chief of the Catholic Social Science Review, twice a Board of Directors Member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars -- whose meetings are truly enjoyable affairs -- and the 12th recipient of the Pope Pius XI Award for the furthering of a true Catholic social science as called for in Quadragesimo Anno.

In Bright Promise, Failed Community: Catholics and the American Public Order (Lexington Books, 2000), Varacalli describes how and why Catholic America has essentially failed to shape the American Republic in any significant way. American society has never experienced a "Catholic moment" -- the closest it came was during the immediate post-World War II era -- nor is it now close to approximating one. Varacalli identifies as the cause of the current situation the "failed community" of Catholic America: an ineffective and dissent-ridden set of organizational arrangements that has not succeeded in adequately communicating the social doctrine of the Church to Catholic Americans or to the key idea-generating sectors of American life.

The "bright promise" of Catholic America lies in the long and still developing tradition of social Catholicism. With a revitalized, orthodox, sophisticated community to serve as the carrier of Catholic social doctrine, Varacalli sees trends of thought that would propose viable alternatives to philosophies and ideologies that currently dominate the American public sphere-ones that would thus have a formidable impact on American society.

The Catholic Experience in America (Greenwood Press, 2005) is the latest book of Varacalli's -- the one about which he wrote me. It was published in the American Religious Experience series and chronicles the history and present situation of the Catholic Church and the American Catholic subculture in the United States. Catholics have had a long history in America, and they have often had conflicting demands --should they remain loyal to the authority of the pope in Rome, or should they become more accommodating to American culture and society? The Catholic Experience in America combines historical, sociological, philosophical, and theological and religious scholarship to provide the reader with an overview of the general trends of American Catholic history, without over-simplifying the complex nature of that history. Donald J. D'Elia says about this book:
If someone were to tell me that he had time to read only one one book, and wanted the best, about the history of Catholicism in America, without fear of exaggeration I would tell him to read Joseph A.Varacalli's masterly The Catholic Experience in America . This is no lightweight, politically correct treatment insulting to the critical reader, but a historical discussion both objective and probing. Prof. Varacalli and Greenwood Press have rendered a singular service to the truth, the truth about today's crisis in the Church, and the history of how it came about. The Catholic Experience in America is a work of fine scholarship and brilliant, penetrating insight.
Other books by Joseph A. Varacalli:

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"I think the pope knows more about gay people than most gay people do"

The Australian same-sex attracted Catholic, John Heard (Dreadnought), voiced his opinion publicly on "Speaking in Tongues" on Monday (Jan. 9, 2006) where he was interviewed along with fellow Catholic blogger, Fr. Bob Maguire, reports Credo on his blog, Credibility, in a post, "Speaking in tongues ... but understood by all" (1/9/06). When asked by host of the show, John Safran, how he, as a same-sex attracted Catholic, can come to receive communion while the Rainbow Sash Movement cannot, John Heard gave a refreshingly blunt response:
Am I allowed to swear?

Safran: Yeah.

Okay, the difference is wearing a Rainbow Sash means that you approach the altar where Catholics believe Christ is truly present on the altar, the Eucharist is Christ...

Safran: Yes.

...You approach your God, instead of in a position of radical humility and submission and putting everything about selfish humanity aside and approaching God in that way, putting on a sash says "F__k the Church, y'know - look at me." That's why anybody who approached the altar with some sort of protest banner across their chest and drew attention to themselves in the middle of a sacramental ritual would be turned away as well. It's not discrimination against gay people, it's just discrimination against protest in a Cathedral.
You can read the rest of Credo's report for yourself on the site linked above. But, as Credo says, one thing's for sure:
I think John's going to find himself fairly busy after tonight. I expect that there'll be a minor war in his comboxes after he said this money quote:
I think the pope knows more about gay people than most gay people do.
Watch that sizzle...

[Thanks to Credo and a hat tip to Christopher]

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ronda Chervin moves to Morganton, NC!

I just received the good news today that Ronda Chervin has just relocated in Morganton, North Carolina! Ronda Chervin, a Fordham University Ph.D. in Philosophy, with an MA in Religious Studies from Notre Dame Apostolic Institute, has been Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Loyola Marymount University, the Seminary of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a convert from a Jewish (though atheistic) background, an international speaker and author of some fifty books about Catholic thought, practice, and spirituality.

In an interview with Joseph D'Agostino about her conversion last year, she said, among other things:

My sister, my mother and my husband, who had all been atheists, all became Catholics also. My husband would have become a Catholic just before we got married but Vatican II intervened, and he hated Vatican II. He loved the Latin Mass. He came from an Orthodox Jewish background, and he thought the Catholic Church was the direct descendant of Orthodox Judaism. But he had become an atheist when he was a teen-ager, like most Lower East Side kids. They all became socialists. ... As soon as the Church began to look less sacred to him, he lost interest in it. It took him another 15 years to became Catholic. ... I live in a parish now that has the Fraternity of St. Peter's Tridentine Mass four days a week. And I love the Gregorian chant.
Ronda Chervin is a Consecrated Widow and a mystic. Undoubtedly she will miss her intentional Catholic community in Arkansas -- the Star of the Sea Village about which Jimmy Akin has written a post entitled "It Takes a Catholic Village" -- and St. Michael's Catholic Church in the Ozarks, with its joint English and indult Traditional Latin Rite liturgies. Nevertheless, I know well the parish community into which she has relocated at St. Charles Catholic Church where Fr. Kenneth Whittington is pastor. While the indult for the Traditional Latin Mass has not yet been granted for the Diocese of North Carolina, Fr. Wittington provides probably the best choir in the region, with good traditional fare.

A short bio of "Fr. Ken" is furnished along with the conversion stories of Fr. Conrad Kimbrough and others in "The Ex-Episcopalians," where one learns that the Kenneth Whittington's family was half Lutheran and Episcopalian, that he went to the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, where he became enamored with the majesty of Anglo-Catholic liturgy and converted to Anglicanism, that he converted to Catholicism when he became aware of the doctrinal incoherence of Anglicanism and saw the solidity underlying the turmoil of the post-Vatican II decades in the lives of devout Catholics. Because of his musical training, Fr. Wittington himself serves as choirmaster at St. Charles and has served up a steady stream of solid fare from Gregorian chant to Renaissance polyphony.

Another Jewish convert to Catholicism, Rosalind Moss, visited St. Charles Catholic Church in Morganton a few years ago and gave a series of talks. She told a parishioner there, Nancy McCall, that if she lived in North Carolina she would drive over 200 miles on Sundays, if she had to, to attend Fr. Ken's church. Hopefully, Ronda Chervin will appreciate St. Charles as much.

Some books by Ronda Chervin:

Monday, January 09, 2006

Wheaton College fires professor for converting to Catholicism

Wheaton College, perhaps the nation's premier four-year Evangelical liberal arts college, was delighted to have assistant professor Joshua Hochschild teach students about medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas, one of Roman Catholicism's foremost thinkers.

But when the popular teacher converted to Catholicism, the prestigious evangelical college reacted differently. It fired him.

Read Daniel Golden's January 7, 2006, article in the Wallstreet Journal, "A Test of Faith."

[Hat tip to Sean Fagan]

Ireneaus & Tertullian and the "Rule of Faith"

An Anglican acquaintance is exploring Catholicism and inquiring into what was meant by the "Rule of Faith" as taught by Ireneaus and Tertullian. He is attempting to determine specifically what relevance this might have in defining what is (or what should be considered) authoritative for Christians today. He is reading Jaroslav Pelikan's The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (100 - 600), but is interested in learning what the best Catholic books on Ireneaus and Tertullian and their views of the "Rule of Faith" in the early Church Suggestions?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Krehbiel's badly needed bucket of cold-water-realism

In the January 2006 issue of Crisis magazine, Greg Krehbiel, who writes the Crowhill Weblog, has a guest column entitled, somewhat doubtfully, "Why I'm Still Catholic" (p. 61). I have a great deal of respect for Krehbiel, who is a friend of mine, and a fellow Catholic convert. I first encountered Krehbiel when he was still a Presbyterian working through the theological claims of the Catholic Church. He was a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church which has the largest number of Ph.D.'s per capita of any denomination in the world and is affiliated with Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. It will come as no surprise, then, that his Christianity had a bit of an intellectual cast. Like other converts from the Presbyterian or Reformed tradition, he was meticulous in the way he went about researching Catholicism. Some of his work I actually found helpful in my own pilgrimage into Church. The quality of his analysis can be seen in his review of Protestant apologist, Keith Mathison's book, The Shape of Sola Scriptura (LINK). Still, Krehbiel took his good time coming into the Church. To some of us, he seemed to drag his feet. I presume he was only covering his bases, leaving no stone unturned, taking his meticulous time. The story of his journey to Catholicism - Krehbiel came to Catholicism by way of Lutheranism - can be found on the Catholic Answers website: "A 'Convert Me' Sign on My Head."

One thing I've always appreciated about Krehbiel is that, like Louis Bouyer and Tom Howard, he continues to appreciate his Protestant roots even after having moved beyond them. He exhibits none of the ebullient triumphalism or reactionary knee-jerk negativity towards his erstwhile Protestant brethren. Krehbiel even goes a bit farther than Bouyer and Howard: after being invited aboard the Ark of Salvation, he has little hesitation in expressing his disgust at how bad things smell onboard. And thus he begins this article, "Why I'm Still Catholic," with a scathing laundry list of things he detests about now being a Catholic:
I'm not one of those cheerleading Catholic converts. On the contrary, I often feel like a man who has spent many years on a difficult quest to join the Arthurian round table only to find a bunch of sissies I velvet playing Chutes and Ladders.
Comments like that, he admits, encourage Protestant friends to invite him back. Indeed, he further concedes, the appeal has its merits. "I have a lot of respect for Protestantism," he says:
I miss the reverence and beauty of the Lutheran liturgy, the hymns, kneeling at the communion rail. I miss the sense of fellowship and community -- even simple things like hanging up your coat as if you intend to stay a while. I miss Sunday school after worship and the biblical literacy of most Protestants. Moreover, I'm just not terribly pleased with Catholicism. The mediocrity of the bishops is almost proverbial. The Bible "translation" read at Mass is atrocious. Typical Catholic music sounds like something from Barney and Friends. The Eucharist can seem like a fast-food assembly line, and the traditional style of a Catholic homily doesn't appeal to me, even when it's done well.
Well, then, one's curiosity does begin to rise: why is Krehbiel still Catholic? Despite all these grievances, he says, he can't see himself leaving the Catholic Church for a number of reasons, which he presents in his article in classic top-ten style. Some key excerpts:
10. My spiritual journey has had a certain logic to it ... like a climb up the church ladder. To go back wouldn't make any sense.

9. Becoming a Protestant would throw me back into that self-selective church thing. Which communion would I choose? ... When you're Catholic you're just Catholic. It's peaceful.

8. As a Protestant I was always having to explain things to friends and acquaintances. Some lunatic Presbyterian denomination would ordain a gay sea lion and somebody at the office would ask, "You're a Presbyterian, aren't you?" ... Not that Catholics don't do and say weird things, but there's an understanding that the Catholic Church is so big and so old and so full of both saints and sinners that individual Catholics aren't held accountable.

7. When I first became Catholic, I had this extraordinary feeling of continuity with the Church through the ages. I realized that I was in the church of St. Patrick and St. Thomas. Protestant groups broke away, and the tie has been severed to some extent.

6. There's an amazing amount of freedom in the Catholic Church. As a Protestant you self-identify with a narrow theological and cultural group. As a Catholic you might be an albino assassin or a "we are the church" fanatic, or just the guy who gets dragged to Mass by his mother-in-law....

5. Catholics have fewer bizarre hang-ups -- about Holloween or beer or evolution. Protestants talk about "Christian liberty," but Catholics live it.

4. With the cetainty of faith, I can say that we'll never have priestesses in the Roman Catholic Church.

3. The sacrament of penance is a wonderful thing.

2. While God is free to extend His grace beyond His promises, when I receive the Catholic Eucharist I know it's valid.

1. The Roman Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded. Period.
[For Krehbiel's complete unedited article, pick up the latest copy of Crisis magazine (January 2006) and find it on p. 61, or, hopefully, the editors will post it online in the near future at]

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Alec Guinness & Catholic conversion

On the recommendation of my friend, Donegan Smith, himself a retired Hollywood actor and Catholic convert, I've been reading Piers Paul Read's Alec Guinness: The Authorized Autobiography. The book lets one into the deeply private side of Alec Guinness's life. Guinness traveled in a circle of friends that included Catholic writers such as Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. At one time, he visited Asheville, North Carolina, and I'm sure spent time in the Basilica of St. Lawrence there, as well as the Biltmore House, before traveling on his way to New Orleans.

As Fr. O'Leary will tell you, he also inhabited a world of actors famed for its society of homosexuals, the OUDS, among them Peter Glenville, Robert Flemyng, Terence Rattigan and presided over John Gielgud who, in 1932, was elected president of the organization. Guinness, too, was tormented by homosexual inclinations. But the difference between himself and those who embrace a lifestyle of open defiance of Church teaching is plain. Guinness sought reconciliation with God, found a priest, became a Catholic and took on the discipline of confession and amendment of life:

There were to be found then, as there are now, confessors who take a lenient view of sexual sins. A close friend of Alec's in the later years of his life, Quentin Stevenson -- a homosexual and once a Catholic -- describes 'the sort of Farm Street talk: "oh, you shouldn't have gone to confession there, you should have gone to Farm Street because Fr. So-and-so is sweet about that sort of thing" ... The very people who go on about how wonderful it is being a Catholic because of the Church's authority will, ten minutes later, tell you about the private arrangements they have made with God.' In Catholic parlance, absolution - the forgiveness of a penitent's sins by a priest, acting on the authority of Christ who had told his disciples that those whose sins they forgave were forgiven -- depended not just on an Act of Contrition made before the priest in the confessional, but also on a 'firm purpose of amendment' -- a determination not to commit the sin again. (pp. 277-278)
I was interested in noting how often Piers Paul Read cited the work of the excellent Catholic biographer, Joseph Pearce. "No one," wrote Pearce in Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief, "has been able to describe a conversion in terms which are objectively appropriate. As in the language of mystics, analogies which give only a shadow of the substance have been used." Here, too, such analogies and shadows must suffice. Why did Alec become a Catholic?:

Alec became a Catholic because he accepted that the Roman Catholic Church was the Church founded by Jesus Christ, the Second Person of a Trinitarian God. But long before Alec's formal 'reconciliation' he had been living the life of a Catholic more conscious than most Roman Catholics that the Church was a community of the living and the dead. He prayed to Mary, the Mother of God, said the Rosary, and conversed with his favourite Catholic saints, calling for their intercession in the greatest and smallest of causes -- a votive candle lit so that Matthew might walk again, or a request to St. Anthony of Padua to loosen the nuts on a wheel.

But Alec also felt that he had had a direct experience of God Himself, and of God's grace; and in the final analysis this was the point of departure of his conversion. 'I think most ... human beings have that once in their lives,' he wrote to Merula [his wife] from Los Angeles: greatly varying degrees of course. And of course it's the most supreme, happy, and important moment of life. I believe it is ... God giving each man and woman, according to their capacity, a glimpse of his promise to them, an impression of what eternity could mean, a glimpse of their adoption as Sons of God, and by its withdrawal a realisation of what the Fall of Man means. We are all left with a feeling of exhiliration and yet at the same time, hand in hand with its happiness, a sadness that we are unlikely to encounter it again in this life. It's a golden carrot held up to donkeys -- who could be gods ... (pp. 281-282)
After Alec's own conversion, his gentleness with his wife is beyond touching. He insisted that any decision about Catholicism must be hers alone:

I can't help you my love. All I can suggest is three things (1) whether you feel as I'm sure you do that Christ was true in his claims and is God (2) whether you are satisfied that the claims of the Catholic Church are reasonably justified. And then (3) -- probably more difficult for you than for me, as it's a question of temperament to start with -- whether in a Catholic Church you feel a sense of worship. For me this last grows. I find it less and less a difficulty -- in fact none really -- except through my own fidgetiness and distraction and general crossness with people and things -- but I accept absolutely now and with no effort that I am in the actual presence of God on the altar. There have been very few days this year when I haven't paid a visit -- even if only for three minutes -- to a church, merely to kneel and be astonished at the humility of God. (p. 296, emphasis added)
One marvels here at these words. Remarkable indeed. Some time in December of 1956, Merula resolved her doubts and was received into the Roman Catholic Church. She told Alec, reports Read, only when she and Matthew joined him in Ceylon, "where the three celebrated their first Christmas together in the same church."

Later, when Alec visited the United States, he was distressed by aspects of American Catholicism. After Mass at the Jesuit-run Boston College on one occasion, he wrote:
I felt obliged to complain to one of them, a good friend of mine, of how Mass was said at the St. Francis Xavier chapel. Seven minutes flat from the opening of Mass until the end of the Gospel and nine minutes from the beginning of the Credo to the end!... The sign of the cross was reduced to a hurried scratching of the stomach and the 'elevations' were soblasphemously hurried that I thought there might easily be an accident. O dear oh dear oh dear. And why why why? I found it very disturbing. I wrote an angry note to the priest in charge and then tore it up as useless as well as uncharitable. (p. 358)
Both Alec and Merula remained remarkably loyal to the Church although both were subject to tests of their faith and suffered from the radical changes that came about in the Roman Catholic Church as a result of the Second Vatican Council:
The most evident change following Vatican II was to the liturgy, and one of the greatest trials for those like Alec and Merula who had joined a church with a Latin Mass was suddenly to find it said in an English of great triteness and banality. The officiating priest, who had mysteriously re-enacted the sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross with his back to the congregation, now facedhis parishioners from the other side of a table like a jovial scout-master serving orangeade and cupcakes in a village hall. The age-old plain-chant, or the melodious hymns of the pre-Conciliar church, were replaced by commonplace ditties or African dirges.

Two of Alec's Catholic friends reacted to these changes in different ways. Graham Greene managed to bend to this wind of change: his novel, A Burnt-Out Case, suggests a loss of faith in the mystical and magical Catholicism that had inspired some of his earlier works. Greene became a partisan of revolutionary movements in South America ....

Evelyn Waugh, whose Augustinian Catholicism had so appealed to Alec, was at first optimistic that the Church would weather the storm.... Later, however, Waugh's optimism evaporated. 'A year in which the process of transforming the liturgy has followed a planned course,' he wrote in his diary on Easter Day, 1965:
Protests avail nothing ... More than the aesthetic changes which rob the Church of poetry, mystery and dignity, there are suggested changes in Faith and morals which alarm me. A kind of anti-clericalism is abroad which seeks to reduce the priest's unique sacramental position. The Mass is written of as a 'social meal' in which the 'people of God' perform the consecration. Pray God I will never apostatize but I can only now go to church as an act of duty and obedience ... (p. 562)
Alec, too, like Waugh, continued to go to Mass, but suffered from the liturgical changes: "Latin was far from my strong point at school," he wrote in My Name Escapes Me, "and yet I miss its sonority in the essential and unchanging parts of the mass." Again: "I do think the Gloria in English is a mess in its present translation," he complained to Dame Felicitas. "It seems to me everything is back to front in the new mass." More than twenty years later, in 1987, after going to Mass at St. Laurence's in Petersfield on the Feast of Corpus Christi, he wrote:
My spirits sink so low I can hardly bring myself to the Communion rail. All my fault I know -- but my whole being winces at the congregation intoning introits, etc. in dull English, slowly and badly -- and the reading of the Epistle in a plummy voice, ill phrased and muddled, is a mortification I don't think I can stand any longer. (p. 563)
(Note, however, that he still had the Communion rail!) One of my favorite remarks by Alec Guinness about post-Conciliar liturgical innovations is that found in Pearce's book, Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief:
Much water has flown under the Tiber's bridges, carrying away splendor and mystery from Rome since the Pontificate of Pius XII.... [T]he banalities and translations which have ousted the sonerous Latin and Greek are of a supermarket quality which is quite unacceptable. Hand shaking and embarrassed smiles or smirks have replaced the older courtesies: kneeling is out, queuing is in, and the general tone is like BBC radio broadcast for tiny tots....
Nevertheless, despite such sentiments, Alec and his wife remained devoted Catholics the rest of their lives. In the last chapter of his last book, A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal: 1996-1998, Alec wrote:
If I have one regret (leaving aside a thousand failings as a person, husband, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend -- and my lazy, slapdash, selfish attitude as an actor) it would be that I didn't take the decision to become a Catholic in my early twenties. That would have sorted out a lot of my life and sweetened it. (p. 560)
Alec Guinness, whose Academy Award winning acting career spanned almost 70 years between stage and screen and encompassed 67 works of film, died on August 5th, 2000, after an extended illness. Guinness, whose memorable roles ranged from Shakespeare to "Star Wars", was 86 years old. Requiescat in pace.

Related: David Thomas, "Sorry Alec, I couldn't let you off the hook" (The Telegraph, October 7, 2003).

Navarre Pentateuch back in stock

Coming to you live from the powerhouse Opus Dei-run University of Navarre in Pamplona, Spain, the Navarre Bible is among the most coveted Bible study tools in the world. Hey, I remember first running into Protestant Evangelical students enthusiastically promoting their copies of the Navarre New Testament books at L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland back in the 1970s! And now the Opus Dei-affiliated Scepter Publishers has this portion of the Navarre Bible, the Pentateuch, back in stock.

This volume of the Navarre Bible can help make the first five books of the Old Testament a vital part of your spiritual reading and practical growth in the Christian life. It contains the full English and Latin texts of these books, along with extensive and faithfully Catholic commentaries. Like other volumes in the world-renowned Navarre Bible series, these commentaries draw on Church documents, the exegesis of Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and the works of contemporary spiritual writers, particularly St. Josemaria Escriva, who initiated the Navarre Bible project.

You can order your copy direct from Scepter Publishers online for $39.95 plus S&H, ... or you can try to be the first person to beat the rush to Amazon.Com to get the single remaining spanking brand new Amazon Marketplace copy being sold for $32.33 plus S&H (as of 1/5/06 11:21am).

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The "Third Case"

Note: This is a continuation of "How do you change a subculture? Three cases" (January 3, 2006). I'm posting the Third Case separately, since posting all three together became too long. Again, I'm soliciting your considered reflections on the question of the roles of the Church and state in thse questions.

Third case: How do you reform an illiberal utilitarian bias that has infected higher education, often with state complicity (e.g., defense contracts, mounting accreditation requirements for professional programs, etc.) while respecting academic freedom? Can the Church play a role in affiliated universities?

Most church-related liberal arts colleges and universities in the United States were founded in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, and the same is true of Catholic institutions. Most church-related colleges and universities were founded initially as institutions devoted to the professions of training clergy and teachers and, if they were co-ed or women's institutions, nurses. Again, Catholic institutions were not too different. They came to the new world with a long tradition of liberal arts education, which was embedded in the curricular assumptions of their institutions from the beginning. Add to that the emergent American ideal of a liberal arts education as something to which a greater part of the population aspired, and by the end of the Second World War, for better or worse, it was largely an expectation nearly all graduates from high school would go on to complete a liberal arts college degree.

What this meant, in practice, was generally a freshman and sophomore year devoted to a standardized core curriculum in the liberal arts (a bit of English, mathematics, natural science, history, social science, philosophy, economics, foreign language, etc.) and a junior and senior year devoted to a specialized major (in one of those disciplines). While the general expectation of a "college education" has not changed, the educational landscape has changed considerably over the last several decades, with the traditional core curriculum in the liberal arts being increasingly eroded under the pressure of professional programs (business, physical therapy, occupational therapy, exercise science, nursing, counseling, etc.). This encroachment of practical interests from the professional world has presented a challenge to the identity and traditional mission of liberal arts institutions.

I have elsewhere chronicled the crisis weathered by our own institution in recent years, and as yet I have my doubts that we are altogether out of the woods. See for example, "A Critical Look at the Proposed New Core Curriculum" (October 12, 2005) presented by the College of History, Philosophy, and Religion to a special called assembly of the faculty of Lenoir-Rhyne College last fall; "The LRC curriculum battle in the blogsphere" (August 26, 2005) ; "Kurt Schmidt: Why are liberal arts classes being cut?" (September 05, 2005); and "Bowling for Lenoir-Rhyne: A New Michael Moore Movie, or the New Liberal Arts Curriculum?" The critical question seems to come down to something like this: if we're going to call ourselves a liberal arts institution, then how can we allow ourselves to cut our liberal arts core down to an 8-hour puff core course? How could we justify charging the seventh highest tuition of any educational institution in North Carolina if a student could get the same education by going to a local community college?

But the issues go deeper still. Part of the meaning of the "liberal" in liberal arts has to do with the freedom of these theoretical pursuits from externally imposed practical, utilitarian ends. The value of the liberal arts does not lie academically in their utility. In fact, academically, they have no utilitarian value whatever. Their worth lies elsewhere, as ends worthy of being pursued for their own sake rather than for the sake of ulterior purposes that lay beyond. Academic freedom, therefore, lies precisely in the freedom of intellectual prusuits for their own sake, independent of, say, political or ideological purposes that might be served by the academy, which would otherwise subordinate those intellectual pursuits to a form of utilitarian servitude. But this is precisely what happens when academic institutions allow themselves and their policies to be shaped by federal subsidies, grants, and programs, and defense contracts for educational research.

Here, for example, is a Department of Defense announcment of a program in its University Research Initiative called "The Department of Defense (DoD) Fiscal Year 2005 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP)":

The Department of Defense (DoD) announces the Fiscal Year 2005 Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP), a part of the University Research Initiative (URI). DURIP is designed to improve the capabilities of U.S. institutions of higher education (hereafter referred to as "universities") to conduct researchand to educate scientists and engineers in areas important to national defense, by providing funds for the acquisition of research equipment.

Clearly, a university whose curriculum has been subordinated to the practical utilitarian designs of a government's defense department has forfeited its academic freedom at least in this respect. To that extent it has cut itself off from the tradition of the liberal arts, whose arts were always understood to be "liberal" in the sense of being free of practical, utilitarian ends. The academy must be a place where ideas can be pursued and mulled over for their own sake.

Here it might be asked whether the Church cannot also serve to impose extrinsic utilitarian purposes upon the academy as well as the state; and I suppose this is possible. Yet I think one's haste to jump to this conclusion may lead him to overlook something singularly different about the case of the educational instution established by the Church. For here the mission of the Church is not extrinsically related to the purposes of education. The faithful Christian understands this. For him, the purposes of academic freedom are inherently -- not extrinsically -- subordinated to the purposes of love of God and service to the Church. That is the significance, most certainly, of the title of John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae -- that is, the educational instituion and its mission is envisioned as proceeding "from out of the heart of the Church." There is, in principle, no conflict here.

All of which raises a question I've pondered for some time: What role might the Church play in resisting the encroachments of these corrosive illiberal utilitarian pressures upon the liberal arts traditions of her colleges and universities? It seems to me the Church could with good reason exercise some clout in the defense of the liberal arts tradition. For one thing, like the liberal arts, the agenda of the Church itself is not something that has a value that is calculable in practical utilitarian terms. The worship and love of God, whatever sublimated do ut des (I give to you in order that you give to me) utilitarian contractual motives it may be susceptible of, is ultimately a matter of useless self-transcendence, something worthy of undertaking as a good in and of itself. In this respect, the Church is on the same page as the liberal arts tradition in its view of what is ultimately worth doing: it is worth doing for its own sake, and not because it is extraneously useful. Furthermore, the Church in many cases has a proper avenue through her ties of affiliation with her academic instutions for exercising a rightful authority over their policies in view of their institutional mission.

Again, what think ye?

The "Second Case"

Note: This is a continuation of "How do you change a subculture? Three cases" (January 3, 2006). I'm posting the Second Case separately below, since posting all three together became too long. Again, I'm soliciting your considered reflections on the question of the roles of Church and state on these questions, if you're interested in offering comments.

Second case: How do you reform a seditious educational subculture of religious dissent within Catholic colleges and universities while respecting the rights of students and scholars to free inquiry?

There is little question that American Catholic colleges have significantly lost their Catholic identity over the past decades. One nominally Catholic institution would be about as examplary as another. I remember visiting Georgetown University a few years ago and being hardpressed to find a Catholic chapel anywhere. Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College, also a Jesuit institution, naturally likes to pick on Jesuit institutions, and says there are two kinds of Catholic schools -- those that are Jesuit, and those that are Christian. The undisputed flagship Catholic university of the United States, Notre Dame, has theologians on staff that regularly and loudly dissent from Church teaching in the media, and has also been in the news -- controversially -- for having hosted the Vagina Monologues and a gay/lesbian day on campus.

This drift toward dissent picked up momentum precipitously, I believe, in the late 1960s in response to Pope Paul VI's encyclical, Humanae Vitae (1968), defending the traditional Catholic teaching against contraception. The response of liberal Catholics, who had been led by liberal theologians and clerics to expect that Vatican accommodation to modern changes in contraceptive technologies was imminent, was open outrage. Charles Curran, a popular liberal professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, formed a coalition of dissenters who took out a full-page ad in the New York Times expressing defiant rejection of Rome's instruction. Curran's case soon became a cause celebre and was championed by leftists, as it was derided by rightists. Curran himself was eventually dismissed from the Catholic University of America in 1986 after the Vatican declared him unfit to teach Catholic theology because of his heterodox positions on such social issues as contraception, homosexuality, and abortion (see William W. May's 1987 book, Vatican Authority and American Catholic Dissent: The Curran Case and Its Consequences, as well as Larry Witham's 1991 study, which has been greeted by nearly all sides as "fair,"Curran vs. Catholic University: A Study of Authority and Freedom in Conflict).

The Vatican response to the deterioration of Catholic identity at Catholic institutions of higher learning was the document, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (Apostolic Constitution of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II on Catholic Universities), issued August 15, 1990. On the one hand, many if not most mainline universities continued to carry on with business as usual, settling for cosmetic changes at most and ignoring the more substantial demands of the document, mandating that professors of Catholic theology must profess theology that is in fact Catholic as understood by the Catholic Church and requiring Catholics who teach the theological disciplines in a Catholic university to have a mandatum granted by competent ecclesiastical authority (i.e., bishop).

On the other hand, others have responded more supportively. The Cardinal Newman Society, a national intercollegiate organization of more than 16,000 college leaders, educators, students, alumni and others dedicated to the renewal of Catholic identity at Catholic colleges and universities in the United States in keeping with the principles of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, has been surveying developments in Catholic higher education for some time. For example, it has noted cases of historically Catholic institutions that are no longer recognized by the Church as Catholic: "We know of four colleges that have are no longer recognized as Catholic by the bishops since Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education, was issued in 1990: Marist College (NY), Marymount Manhattan College (NY), Nazareth College (NY) and Saint John Fisher College (NY). THESE ARE NOT CATHOLIC!" (Cardinal Newman Society, "Catholic Colleges"). More importantly, however, it has produced critiques of the curricula and course content and events conducted at colleges and universities that are still recognized as Catholic across the country, and the results are not encouraging. The following is a sampling:

Times and cultures, of course, change; which raises sticking points in identifying the institutional identity and mission of academic institutions. A case in point is one of England's most prestigious religious colleges, St. Philip's Sixth Form College in Birmingham, England, founded by Cardinal Newman and proudly counting J.R.R. Tolkien among its alumni. In October of 1992 The Times (Oct. 5, 1992) carried an article announcing a plan by the administration to turn the institution into a nonsectarian school on the ground that more than two-thirds of the students were now non-Catholic. In fact, as a result of an increased multicultural and non-Christian student population, the Lord's Prayer and Sign of the Cross have been "deemed inappropriate" at the college.

The problem raised by the trustees and dissenting parents, however, was that the terms of the college trust deed state that buildings are to be provided for "the performance of public worship according to the rites and ceremonies of the Roman Catholic religion" and that the college is to be operated "in accordance with the principles of the Roman Catholic faith" -- which seemed to leave no legal means of implementing the proposed changes. But the administration argued that the mitigating circumstances of a changed cultural climate now permitted it to redirect the original terms of the trust deed by way of the legal doctrine of "cy pres" (or "nearest equivalent"), alleging that the secular multiculturalism of the late 20th-century made a strictly Catholic education, as envisaged by the original grantors, unrealistic. Since "cy pres" applies only where it is impossible to carry out the purposes of the trust, and since benefactors who explicitly give their property for a defined purpose have an inviolable right to have their property used for that purpose if there is any reasonable way in which this can still be done, the relevant question is this: Does having a multicultural student body prevent St. Philip's, a traditionally Catholic college, from teaching its voluntarily enrolled students the Catholic Faith? To pose the question is to reveal its absurdity.

Some Catholic schools, of course, are pontifical institutions whose Vatican affiliation ties them ineluctably to the Catholic Church. Others have varying forms of governance, some being affiliated with religious orders, others with governance shared between administration and faculty under a board of trustees, offering considrably more fluidity. Catholic college presidents used invariably to be clerics. This is no longer so. Even trustees now may be Catholic or non-Catholic, often with little if any idea of what they, in principle, hold in trust.

It is hard, therefore, to generalize about the precise rights of faculty in terms of academic freedom in Catholic academic institutions across the board. Situations may vary legally from one school to another. What remains clear is that just as individual faculty members are entitled by the nature of their profession to free academic inquiry within the parameters specified by law and by the religious mandates of their academic institutions, so Catholic colleges and universities are entitled by the nature of their institutional purpose to mandate what instructional content is consistent with their religious mission. The leftist National Catholic Reporter (February 25, 2005), as part of a cover story about Vatican "repression" under the pontificate of John Paul II, compiled a list of 24 individuals censured worldwide by the Vatican during the past 26 years as "evidence" (The List) . Karl Keating, of the Catholic Answers apologetics organization, in his e-letter of March 9, 2005, comments on this list but draws the opposite conclusion: that the Vatican has been almost laughably lenient! Obviously, it is a question of perspective.

Again, what think ye?

Rev. Joseph Owens, C.S.S.R., Requiescat in pace

In the latest issues of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly (Winter 2005), p. 54, was posted an obituary for Father Joseph Owens, C.S.S.R., the famous student of Etienne Gilson at the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies in Toronto, and a magisterial scholar in his own right. Given the respect I have for Owens's work, and the tradition of Gilson which he represents, I can't let the occasion pass without notice.

On the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies website, is posted the following fascinating remembrance by Edward Synan (I offer here only an excerpt):
Among the memories of graduate students from my time at the Pontifical institute of Mediaeval Studies and the University of Toronto, none is more vivid than is that of the defense made by Joseph Owens, CSsR, of his dissertation for the Institute doctorate. His erudition had long been the object of awe-struck rumor on the campus; with that ceremony it ceased to be rumor and became attested fact. Owens faced a board of examiners calculated to strike awe in any student. To name only those who spoke that day for philosophy, Etienne Gilson and Anton C. Pegis were members of his jury. Awe, however, ran in the opposite direction. This formidable board voted Owens his doctorate summa cum laude and the world of learning has been confirming that judgement ever since. The dissertation Owens defended has merited publication in three revisions and [many] printings. ... [Edward Synan, "Preface," Graceful Reason: Essays in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy Presented to Joseph Owens, CSsR on the Occasion of His Seventy-Fifth Birthday and the Fiftieth Anniversary of His Ordination, ed. Lloyd P. Gerson, Papers in Mediaeval Studies 4 (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1983)]
Fr. Owens died at the Providence Health Centre, Toronto, on Sunday, October 30, 2005, in his 98th year and the 77th year of his Religious Life. Father Owens was ordained in 1933. Born in Saint John, New Brunswick on April 17, 1908, son of Louis Owens and Josephine Quinn, Fr. Joseph is survived by two nieces, Anne (David) Cole and Katherine (Ralph) Furness, as well as by his nephews, Bryson (Jacqueline) Eldridge, William (Trina) Eldridge, Robert Eldridge and Gerard (Susan) Eldridge. He served in parishes in Saskatchewan and British Columbia and completed graduate studies in Toronto at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies. He then taught philosophy to the younger members of his Community, until he received his Licentiate in Medieval Studies in 1946. Thereafter, he continued his studies at the Institute while also lecturing in philosophy in Redemptorist houses of study. In 1951 he received his Doctorate in Medieval Studies summa cum laude from the Institute and became a professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Institute in 1954. He taught and wrote extensively in medieval philosophy, particularly on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, focusing especially on metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and the philosophy of the human person. Fr. Owens wrote nine philosophy books and nearly a hundred and fifty articles and forty book reviews during his lifetime as a scholar. In 1973, having passed the usual retirement age, he continued to publish and teach part-time for another twenty-five years.