All posts filed under: Articles

Further Reflections on Capital Punishment (and on Edward Feser)

According to Edward Feser, I seem “to think that the moral demands of the Gospel apply in exactly the same way to both the private sphere and the public sphere.” And this, he goes on to say, “is not only not the Catholic position, it is not even the Eastern Orthodox position. It is merely David Bentley Hart’s personal theological position, and he simply asserts it without argument.” Ah. Except that I don’t, and never have (though neither would I necessarily reject the proposition, since it seems a claim more dangerous to deny than to affirm; I would need to know precisely what “in exactly the same way” means in Feser’s mind.) I can see the cause of the confusion, however. The issue is capital punishment, and Feser’s angry expostulation comes near the end of his rancorous reply to two extremely bad reviews—one by me, one by Paul Griffiths—of the “Catholic Defense of Capital Punishment” that he and Joseph Bessette recently published under the title By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed. Now, in fact, nowhere in …

The Sex Life of Joseph and Mary

I wonder if any of you have ever seen the film, “Bambi Meets Godzilla?” If so, you know that it opens, as most movies do, with a long series of credits, naming everyone who purportedly had anything to do with the film, including Bambi’s hairstylist, as we see Bambi dreamily walking through a spring meadow. When the credits are over, a huge, fashionably monstrous leg with a clawed foot steps massively and carelessly into the set while the music simultaneously thunders one single chord. It happens so fast, we do not even see Bambi disappear; end of movie. Perhaps, in like manner, the title of this paper might lead one to believe that after a few preliminary observations and teasers, the monstrous foot of tradition will ensure that the glimmers of seemingly humane and enlightened sympathy for Mary and especially for poor Joseph, her “most chaste spouse,” will be stamped out as decisively as Bambi was stamped out by Godzilla. Joseph and Mary did not have sex. In fact, this paper does begin from the …

Welcoming Stranger Things Without Baptizing Them Too

SPOILER ALERT: This post gives away some plot twists in Stranger Things Seasons 1 and 2. In the past year, many writers in the Catholic blogosphere have commented on the theological richness of Stranger Things. One writer recently went so far as to claim that it is “the most Catholic show on television,” which may be a bit of a stretch. Yes, Eleven is a Christ figure, but I doubt The Duffer Brothers gave her the nickname “El” as a nod to the Hebrew word for God, though, admittedly, stranger things have happened. Sorry. Got that pun out of my system. Moving on. Yes, Eleven refuses to use her powers when asked to kill a cat (an act which this same writer compares to Christ’s refusal to turn stones to bread during his temptation in the desert), but moments later, she kills two guards who threaten her, an utterly un-Christlike action. While I can appreciate and in fact hope to demonstrate here that Stranger Things is a series with deeply Catholic sensibilities, the examples above …

The Last Judgment is the Real Reason for Advent

At the beginning of this past week, I asked my students in all three sections of my Theology 100 course, “What is the reason for Advent?” Those who responded said that Advent prepares us for a joyful remembrance of Christmas. Not one of my 104 students connected Advent with the Second Coming of Christ. When told of the relationship between the Last Judgment and Advent, one student asked why then do we put the season of Advent before Christmas? As if she was asking, “Why do we put a penitential season before a joyful season?” That question was a perfect segue into our class discussion on Father Alfred Delp, a German Jesuit who was executed for high treason on February 2, 1945, for being a member of an anti-Nazi resistance group. While awaiting execution, Delp wrote a few meditations on Advent, on its profound message of hope for Christians during difficult times. He approached the season as a time not only to remember Christ’s birth but also to awaken in us the responsibility to participate …

97 Aphorisms Adduced from the Thought of Benedict XVI

1.     Faith is a Contact Sport. 2.     Christianity cannot be a gift to the world if it comes with empty hands. 3.     God sometimes finds it necessary to rough the passer. 4.     Societies and their gods are naturally violent and our only hope is God—the biblical God, beyond all societies and gods, who is Peace itself. 5.     To be free is not only to have avoided the coercion of others, but also the compulsion of the idols of one’s world and society and above all the compulsion and idol that is yourself. 6.     The peace that passeth understanding is neither brought about by nor guaranteed by us. We are cooperative agents in a process and a goal that transcends us. 7.     Conscience is the inconvenience of listening to the clear voice of God rather than the noise of the rabble or the static of the self. 8.     Christianity does not exercise the option for justice because it is made up of good people. It exercises the option because God insists on nothing less. 9.     Love …

Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Apocalypse

The Church’s liturgical year celebrates on August 15th the Woman of the Apocalypse, “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”[1] The feast is better known in Catholic talk as the Assumption, and the first liturgical reading in the celebration of the Mass contains the above-quoted description of the Woman of the Apocalypse. The feast of the Assumption is hardly the only feast in the panoply of Marian celebrations on the Church’s liturgical calendar. It is rarely, however, associated[2] with the optional Marian memorial celebrated December 12th, Our Lady of Guadalupe, though it should be, because both feasts are emblematic of the same thing: apocalypse. The message and story of Guadalupe is apocalyptic, since it reveals God’s will for God’s Church at a particular place in history, Tepeyac, through the Virgin Mary at Guadalupe, clothed and enfleshed in the beauty of the native peoples, and through God’s own servant St. Juan Diego, a Christian who nonetheless responds to the “sweet music”[3] he …

The Church Life Journal “Sounds of Advent” Spotify Playlist

One of the greatest challenges of celebrating Advent is the fact that Christmas music seems to be everywhere beginning the day after Thanksgiving. It’s on the radio, in the department stores, in television commercials, you name it. As a musician, I’m often asked for Advent music recommendations, so this year, I’ve taken advantage of modern technology and curated an Advent playlist through Spotify which is by no means exhaustive, since it’s impossible to include everything. Instead, this is a sampling which I hope will inspire your own exploration of the music of this beautiful season of waiting in joyful hope. Below the playlist are “liner notes” for anyone curious about why a particular piece was included, which may be especially interesting with regard to pieces chosen for their relevance to a particular feast day. May this music create a space within your heart where Jesus may find a home on Christmas day. Veni Emmanuel (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) The Westminster Choir Christmas with the Westminster Choir “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is, without doubt, the …

Mary’s Role in the Spiritual Life

Luke Donahue, a 2017 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, is now a postulant with the Congregation of Holy Cross. While at Notre Dame, Luke studied Theology and German with a minor in Medieval Studies. In the following interview, he speaks on his relationship with the Blessed Mother, generously sharing graced insights gathered from years of devotion. This post is part of the Notre Dame – My Mother series. Can you describe your relationship with Mary, and how it has changed over time? My relationship with Mary has definitely grown throughout my life. When I was a child, I prayed the Hail Mary most days, but it was kind of just another prayer. I appreciated Mary’s role as Mother of God, but I didn’t realize the extent to which she, as mother of all Christians, can have a personal relationship with us. I think the first time my family prayed the rosary together was after St. John Paul II passed away. He had really promoted the rosary, so my mother gathered us around the table …

The Return to Ancient Traditions After the Death of God

The “traditionalists” among conservative Christians are surprised when we show them how relatively modern and extremely limited is the form of Christianity that they wish to conserve, and what enormous intellectual and spiritual wealth resides in much older traditions of the church; suffice it to recall the desert fathers, the Greek patristics, the negative theology of Dionysus the Areopagite, the medieval mystics, etc. Maybe what some called secularization and the decline of religion and others “the death of God” marked the beginning of theology’s inability to respond creatively to the changing picture of the world and mankind on the threshold of modernity, having exhausted itself with interdenominational conflict. Theology in those early days of modernity adopted unthinkingly, inadvertently—and hence uncritically—modernity’s division of reality into subject and object and to a great extent adapted the medieval dichotomy of the order of nature and the order of grace, the natural world and the supernatural world, to that new division. Emphasis on the “objectivity” (now the antithesis of subjectivity) of God and the order of grace also meant …

The Advent Apocalypse

Our parishes are too safe. They gather together like-minded citizens whose children go to the same schools, whose parents root for the same football team and work in similar fields. We form insular communities that sing music praising not the triune God who comes to interrupt history through the power of the cross, but music reminding the Creator of the universe how lucky God is to have a people like us as his own. The Church’s liturgy in these instances functions not as a counter-polis but as a replication of social structures that reduce the reign of God to a country club. We naively sing (accompanied by an upbeat tambourine), “Send down the fire of your justice,” unaware that this fire may be for us. And we do so in the name of an evangelization that is supposed to be palatable for a generation that longs not for prophetic discourse but therapeutic memoirs. Advent is the season in which our parishes should once again become dangerous spaces. The coming of Christ that we prepare for …