All posts filed under: Culture

Disability and Inclusion in the Archdiocese of Chicago: Assessing Full Participation within Places of Worship

Introduction “For my house shall be a house of prayer for all people.” (Is 56:7) In July of 2015 communities around the United States commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law, signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, was enacted to “prohibit discrimination and guarantee that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in the mainstream of American life.”[1] Since its passage doors have been opened to improve opportunities for employment, access, and overall quality of life for individuals living with disabilities. Actions taken by governments and private businesses have made the world more accessible, allowing greater participation for all in everyday life. Religious entities and areas of worship are exempted from the ADA, but the spirit and message of inclusion still morally applies. Twelve years prior to this historic legislation, in 1978, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the Pastoral Statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on Persons with Disabilities in order “to promote accessibility of mind and heart, so that …

Don’t Ban Art: ‘This is a Bad Idea’

The theme for the school’s annual fund-raising banquet was “The Art of the Possible.” Whoever chose it, I thought to myself, either didn’t know or didn’t care that the phrase was used by Otto von Bismarck to capture the concept of realpolitik: “Die Politik ist die Lehre vom Möglichen”—politics is the art of confining oneself to what is within reach, of compromising in the pursuit of the attainable rather than pursuing the ideal. I only knew that myself because my college roommate Susan Gosdick had played the original cast album of Evita pretty much non-stop throughout our sophomore year, and I’d been curious about the origin of the phrase featured in one of Tim Rice’s caustically witty lyrics: Perón & military leaders One has no rules Is not precise. One rarely acts The same way twice One spurns no device Practicing the art of the possible One always picks The easy fight One praises fools One smothers light One shifts left to right It’s part of the art of the possible. The phrase was thus …

A Gesture in Common: The Joy of the Gospel in Undergraduate Education

These are challenging days for those doing the work of undergraduate education, and perhaps especially so for those who mean to pursue that work in light of the Gospel. In the midst of economic challenges, we must ask again what the real purpose of a college education is. How should we think about the classical project of the liberal arts? What about ongoing challenges in making education available to students who are economically and culturally disadvantaged? For those in a religious context, another set of equally important questions must be asked. What are the crucial markers of mission and identity? What should be the composition of the “core” of courses required for graduation? On Catholic campuses, it’s asked whether a certain percentage of the faculty must be Catholic or how sacramental life can be fostered on campus. These are not questions that can be simply ignored. The publication of Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis’ first Apostolic Exhortation, does, however, present new possibilities. What if we were to reframe the questions in light of the concerns the …

A Tale of Two Synods: What’s Become of Catholic Marriage and What Can We Do About It?

Hermeneutics has always been a challenge, even with something seemingly simple. Allow me an example. I was teaching catechism for three- to five-year-olds at our parish on Sunday, and I asked the kids to draw a picture of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt. Well, after five minutes my son brings up his uncontestably creative rendition. I could see Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, but there was a fourth figure I couldn’t make out. Aware that I look thoroughly nonplussed, my son enlightens me: “Papa, you see, that’s Pontius Pilate. He was flying their plane!” Thankfully, you didn’t come here tonight to hear me tell jokes. You’re here to hear a tale of two Synods: what’s happened to marriage and what we can do about it. It was the best of Synods, it was the worst of Synods, it was the synod of wisdom, it was the synod of foolishness, it was the episcopate of belief, it was the episcopate of incredulity, it was the papacy of Light, it was the papacy of Darkness . . …

Fidelity and Discernment: Reading “Amoris Laetitia”

With deference to Pope Francis’ magisterial authority as well as to his pastoral guidance as the chief shepherd of the Church, we offer a reading of Amoris Laetitia with the aim of aiding pastors and lay men and women in their understanding and application of the document. This deference urges a reading that both respects the direction in which Francis is leading the Church and reads his teaching in light of the tradition. Thus, we make no attempt to separate a hypothetical “spirit” from the “letter” of his words, as if he intended something different than what he wrote, but take Francis—a man marked by authenticity and transparency—at his word. In the following, we pay sustained attention to chapter eight of Amoris Laetitia since it is the part of the document which has garnered the most attention and, as Francis himself notes, is the one by which “everyone should feel challenged” (§7). Pope Francis tellingly entitles chapter eight “Accompanying, Discerning, and Integrating Weakness,” and in its first paragraph, recalls the synodal image of the Church …

The “New” Evangelization in the Americas: On the Catholic Origins of Human Rights

The introduction of human rights language into the social mission of the Catholic Church evident in Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in terris (1963) is often seen as a delayed response to the modern world. From this perspective, Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom rode on the back of America’s centuries-old first freedom. Even the magna carta of the modern social encyclicals, Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum novarum (1891), has been characterized by some as a Catholic redaction of liberal theories of individual rights to property. But the Catholic vision of human rights, in fact, is neither “liberal” nor “American” nor “modern” for that matter. The plausibility of this rather unconventional claim rests on whether or not it can be shown that the commitment to human rights so essential to the social doctrine of the Church today has its roots in a debate internal to the Catholic tradition, rather than developing as a delayed response to a modern political order external to it. A turn to the evangelization of the Americas in the sixteenth century provides …

Mary in the Movies: A Review of “Full of Grace”

For more than a century, the Blessed Virgin Mary has caught the imaginations of filmmakers of all religious persuasions: devout believers, agnostic, and even atheist affiliations. The intersection of theology and secular culture presents the monumental challenge to filmmakers of depicting what escapes all visual categories: Transcendence and Mystery. The cinematic depictions of Mary of Nazareth range from being in harmony with the Christian faith to sacrilegious portrayal and caricature. One day after the Solemnity of the Annunciation (celebrated this year on April 4), the Institute for Church Life was privileged to host a screening of Full of Grace, a feature film depicting the early Church ten years after Christ’s Ascension. The film, written and directed by Andrew Hyatt, is unique in that it portrays an aging Mary, one decade after Pentecost leading up to her Assumption. The public event, attracting more than two hundred people, was one of three belonging to an undergraduate course called Mary in the Movies. During six weeks of intensive learning, nearly forty students familiarized themselves with the portrayal of …

Syria, Human Dignity, and the Responsibility to Protect

Human Dignity vs. the Throwaway Culture Human dignity is innate by virtue of each human person being made in the image of God. It is independent of a person’s role in society, talents and weaknesses, and demographic profile. Each person is entirely unique and irreplaceable. The persecuted, the degraded, the humiliated person has dignity. No one can strip a person of his or her dignity, even if they choose to ignore or violate it. A person does not lose their dignity if they become more dependent on others, as the dignity of the person can be neither forfeited nor stolen. This mentality could not be more at odds with what Pope Francis has deemed the “throwaway culture”—a culture in which human beings are treated like consumer goods, used, and then summarily discarded. With this utilitarian mindset, the human person is debased, stripped of his or her humanity and personhood in the mind of the one who is objectifying them. And this utilitarian mindset is all too prevalent in today’s world. We see it in the …

Family, Careers, and Sexuality: Spiritual Trends in College Men of Faith

Where are the men? How do we get more men involved and engaged in our ministries? I hear these questions time and time again from people across the country in my travels as an educator, minister, and scholar. I hear them from every population: priests, nuns, brothers, pastors, lay ministers, catechists, parishioners, teachers, and coaches. I hear them in every context: parishes, churches, colleges, high schools, and parachurch organizations—even ministries focused specifically on men, from faith-sharing groups to retreats and conferences. Catholics and Protestants alike are struggling to get men (lay and religious) through the door and to keep them there. Everyone is looking for a silver bullet—a quick fix for a complex and enduring problem—only to be disappointed when an initiative or program that may have worked in another context does not work in their own, or when a program has a strong opening and then loses momentum. The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every context has its own sets of unique challenges and opportunities for engaging men in their faith. So …

The Virtue of Tenderness: David Foster Wallace and the Practice of Love

In 2005 David Foster Wallace gave the commencement address at Kenyon College. The speech, which has acquired the title “This is Water,” still makes the rounds on the Internet regularly.[1] When I first heard it, blaring from my computer while I was giving my daughters a bath, I was struck by how compelling it is, and how close Wallace comes to telling the graduating class of 2005 that to flourish in adulthood and make the most of their liberal arts education—well, they needed God. Of course Wallace doesn’t quite say that, but his speech makes an excellent starting place for thinking about the virtue of tenderness and why it might have resonance in secular culture in these first decades of the twenty-first century. If we pay careful attention to what David Foster Wallace says, we find that he sets before his hearers two possibilities for their adult lives. On one hand, they can be swept along by the forces that drive the world of advancement and prosperity. On the other hand, they may develop the …