All posts filed under: Culture

How to Talk to Young People about the Dangers of Pornography

As pornography becomes increasingly pervasive, the distinct divide between sacred image and profane picture is threatened; increasingly erotic images have less and less shock value. The previously middle ground between the two poles has been hijacked by “soft-core” pornography, which according to society, should no longer offend.[1] The day-to-day life of the modern person is fraught with pornographic images, as sacred or beautiful images, along with neutral images, are pushed out of the mind. What effect does this change in vision’s scenery cause in the human person, especially in the young child and adolescent? How can today’s parents, educators, and catechists properly form young children so that they might not fall prey to pornography? Theologians from Christianity’s beginnings have expressed the power found in viewing both icons and idols, and have much to say to today’s modern situation. A Christian understanding of idols, icons, images, and the transformative power of vision can uncover new tools for catechizing on pornography by closely examining the unique role that vision plays in the formation of the human self. …

Catholic Higher Education and the New Evangelization

Today courses in Catholic theology are supposed to be characterized by the New Evangelization. My contention is supported by two basic lines of evidence. First, magisterial teaching strongly testifies to the necessity of teaching theology with an evangelical orientation, including Vatican II’s Gravissimum Educationis, several documents issued by the Congregation for Catholic Education, and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s 2008 address to Catholic educators. These sources demonstrate that professors working in Catholic institutions of higher education are supposed to explain the rationale for Church teaching in the classroom. Second, I briefly outline and discuss the results from a questionnaire that I sent out to at least one theologian at every Catholic college and university in the Unites States. The results of this questionnaire indicate some hesitations about my proposal. I exposit these challenges under five broad headings and offer rebuttals to their concerns in the light of Catholic teaching. Magisterium, Universities, Evangelization One of the most important documents for understanding the role of Catholic education in the modern world is Vatican II’s Gravissimum Educationis. This Declaration …

Toward a Monastic Notion of the Common Good

It is said that Christendom has fallen, and societies around the world have entered into a post-Christian phase. These conditions have been exacerbated by a caustic and divisive election season. How are Christians to enter into a society whose values and general framework seem hostile to those of the Christian tradition? Is it possible for Christians to find common ground with others in order to offer significant contributions to society’s development? This implies the need for Christians to develop a nuanced and intelligent response to the needs of a nation divided by political discord. Some propose that the only viable response of the Christian is either to prepare for battle against the tides of culture, or to retreat to the outskirts of mainstream society, both for the sake of preserving their heritage and convictions as Christians. Perhaps Christians and society at large would benefit more from an option that synthesizes the values that are found in both: offering a markedly Christian proposal that engages contemporary society that also maintains an ascetical dimension of detachment from …

Abstraction, Contemplation, and the Architectural Imagination

The Question: “The Story at the Heart of Faith: Can abstraction call the person into the fullness of humanity?” The Working Definitions: Contemplation/Contemplative Imagination: The total imagination involving all of our faculties: thinking, feeling, remembering, hoping, believing, perceiving, abstracting, conceiving and interpreting. It is the conditional ground for our reception of reality, and hence truth, thereby leading us into the fullness of our humanity. Analogical: Proceeding according to a proper proportion or measure. It is the principle of unity in difference between the part and the whole, the particular and the universal, essentia and esse, becoming and being, the finite and the infinite, where the contraries are so integrated and mutually dependent and informing that to preference one to the expense of the other is to distort the way we contemplate, create, and live in the world. The Response: The titular question as it relates to architecture, specifically sacred architecture, possesses a rather enigmatic character because architecture is an essentially “abstract” art, at least in any strict use or “icon”ic sense of the term. In …

Man, Woman, and the Mission of the Laity

Many of us living through this period of history look on with confusion and concern as we watch while our culture appears to unravel before our very eyes. It is becoming increasingly difficult to gain any traction for our efforts to defend our families and our communities from forces that seem determined to undermine the traditional understanding of the moral life that has governed Western culture for centuries. We find ourselves increasingly marginalized in public discourse about issues that cut to the heart of what it means to be human, let alone Christian. The controversies extend across many fronts, from religious liberty to women’s “rights,” from the breakdown of the family to same-sex unions, from local economic realities to the sometimes dubious benefits of globalization. As lay Catholics, we rely on our faith in the promises of Christ in the face of this situation, and rightly so. We renew our commitment to prayer and regular reception of the sacraments. We keep our families close and do our best to guard our children from the toxic …

Motherhood as a Path to Sainthood

Saints throughout the ages have lived lives of heroic virtue in every imaginable context, as martyrs, missionaries, and mystics; doctors, lawyers, and teachers; workers, cloistered contemplatives, and itinerant beggars. There are also plenty of canonized saints who were married, at least for some part of their life, and many of them were mothers and fathers. One cannot help noticing, however, that the life circumstances of these married saints look rather exceptional in comparison with the mundane reality in which most Christian parents are called to holiness. To become a canonized married saint, it would seem imperative to either found a religious order later in life (St. Elizabeth Anne Seton, St. Bridget of Sweden), die under especially painful or tragic circumstances (St. Gianna Beretta Molla, Bl. Elisabeth Leseur), or be of noble birth and from a family of wealth (Bl. Elizabeth Canori Mora, St. Frances of Rome). The most notable exception to these rules would be Sts. Isidore and Maria of Spain, simple peasant farmers and faithful spouses, but their choice to live a celibate marriage …

Catholic Apologetics and the New Evangelization

Today apologetics has a questionable reputation among many Christian scholars, laypersons, and clergymen. Because Christianity is a matter of faith, the critics say, apologetics must be taken as a curious example of modern-day fundamentalism.[1] Despite the decline of apologetics after the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), the discipline seems to be making a steady comeback in certain quarters of the Church. As Avery Dulles espies, the Church is witnessing the “rebirth of apologetics.”[2] He says that a newer approach should be shaped under the theology of Vatican II. This vision of apologetics still needs to be nurtured by theologians and other intellectually engaged laypersons in the light of other prevailing activities and attitudes in the Church, including the following: “dialogue instead of apologetics,” “practical relevance instead of apologetics,” “love instead of apologetics,” “holiness instead of apologetics,” “ecumenism instead of apologetics,” “justice instead of apologetics,” etc. None of these aforementioned attitudes should negate or weaken the perennial enterprise of apologetics which can help foster the Church’s mission to evangelize the world. On the Need for Apologetics Before …

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 …