All posts tagged: news

Gestational Surrogacy Is Big Business

The recent spate of abortion laws pushed through state legislatures across the country has been much in the news. New York now permits even full-term babies to be aborted, and the new law has rightly sparked controversy. Forty-six years after Roe v. Wade, the abortion mindset has influenced the culture in insidious ways. I have been interested in the issue of surrogacy (and wrote about it in greater length here), and I found myself thinking of the parallels between the abortion mindset and that of surrogacy. Gestational Surrogacy Gestational surrogacy involves an agreement between commissioning parents and the woman who carries the baby in pregnancy, the birth or gestational mother (sometimes called the surrogate mother). The baby is conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) using the genetic material of the commissioning parents, a donor, or a combination thereof, and subsequently implanted in the birth mother’s womb. She then carries the baby to term, gives birth to the baby, and, under the surrogacy contract, hands over the baby to the commissioning parents, having no right or …

Unfulfilled Promise: The Synod on Young People

Almost right from the start, there were many people determined to impugn whatever came from the recent Synod on Young People, Faith, and Vocational Discernment. I am not one of these people. I wrote a book for the occasion, wrote numerous articles, and worked with my colleagues to host a major preparatory conference. I was in. For this reason, I was disappointed with the final document of the Synod. Like many documents assembled by committees, it lacks a consistent narrative. Yes, it is overly long, meandering with a persistent “oh-and-another-thing” quality to it. But, its length is not its sole vice. The lack of a guiding vision is apparent throughout the text. By seeing this firstfruit of the synodal process, I have come to recognize that the failure of the Synod was in its roots. In place of a vision, this document offers an affirmation of the Synod’s own process. The Synod, it says, has been an exercise in “walking with young people,” “listening to them,” and making them “co-protagonists” in the Church. The proposal …

The Addictions of the Catholic Samizdat

Imagine a film so entertaining, so captivating that it is impossible to tear one’s eyes away from the movie. The viewer is paralyzed by the act of watching, losing all control of the will. The rest of life fades away as the viewer escapes from the workaday world into the phantasms that appear on the television screen. The creation of this seductive entertainment is central to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. The film (also called “the Entertainment” or “samizdat”) anesthetizes each person who views it. The person is emptied of everything except an insatiable desire to watch the film. The film is but one form of addiction that Wallace highlights throughout the novel. But the movie is the key that unlocks Wallace’s diagnosis of a U.S.A. hooked on the pleasurable phantasms created by alcohol and drugs, by elite sports, by consumerism and the entertainment industry. “The Entertainment” is a parabolic literary device expressing our love of pleasure and self. As Rémy Marathe, a member of the Wheelchair Assassins, says about the samizdat: These facts of …

When the State Kills

Going through old albums can really pull you into a remembrance of things past. For instance, when I came across my old Metallica album, Ride the Lightning, it took me back to a time when we unironically used Polaroid cameras, watched time-travel movies on VHS in which 2015 was considered the very distant future, and—as indicated in the album’s title—the state still killed people with electric chairs. Ancient history, right? Except that we killed a man in Tennessee via electric chair just last month. Tennessee only allows those convicted of a capital crime before 1999 to choose the electric chair, but Edmund Zagorski elected to be killed in this way because of what we are now learning about death by lethal injection—the strong possibility that it causes “immense pain and suffering.” Perhaps he had also heard about the lethal injection of Jack Jones who was “coughing, convulsing, lurching, [and] jerking” during his botched execution. Indeed, just weeks after Zagorski, a second Tennessee death row inmate requested the electric chair. These are remarkable choices, especially because some botched executions by electric chair have resulted in the …

Contributions Towards a Structural Analysis of the Catholic Abuse Crisis

Child abuse is always a horrendous crime. Nevertheless, Catholics sometimes think the abuse scandal mostly does harm to the Church, because some Catholics use the scandal to further their own agendas such as the lifting of obligatory celibacy for priests. Everything changes when you come to know a victim of child sexual abuse personally, especially if they are a friend of yours or someone you have known for many years. Abuse becomes a visible problem when it is given a face. When that happens both sadness and outrage follow. The ultimate aim of questions raised about coping with the abuse, and the new perspectives that answers to them raise, must be oriented towards a hoped for healing of the survivors and their families. As more details about clerical child abuse become known there are two possible approaches for a responsible coping with what has happened. The first approach is reflection upon the reasons why this massive abuse by clerics in the Catholic Church happened (1). There are various causes for the abuse: individual causes (1.1) …

Reading the News as a Spiritual Exercise

We know there is a problem with the way we disseminate, consume, and respond to the news. We also generally share some sense of where the problem lies. It has something to do with a complex interaction of factors like the structure of digital media, the industries that support those technologies, and our cultural, economic, and political climate. Somehow those factors both foster and are fostered by trends such as narrowing echo chambers, a fractured accountability to diverse publics, comments that fail to respect and engage others, decreasing attention spans, and the exhaustion and despair that fester before the parade of emergencies that counts our days and disciplines our emotions like a liturgical calendar. Something is wrong with how we pursue the truth together in a digital society. Reasonable suggestions for how to address this problem generally come in two flavors. The first approach emphasizes the structure of our news technologies and the corporations that develop and profit from them. We must fix Google, Facebook, and Twitter through legislation and consumer pressure. The second approach …

The Orthodox Schism Under Western Eyes

A schism is underway between two major Orthodox Churches, one with significance for Catholicism. And yet, in Catholic media the phenomenon—called by many the biggest split in modern Orthodoxy history—has gone conspicuously unnoticed. A single Catholic News Agency article from October 14th summarizes the problem tellingly and laconically: The Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow has cut ties with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, claiming his recognition of an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine departed from Orthodox Christian norms . . . . . . Patriarch Bartholomew’s plan to create a single, self-governing Church in the Ukraine, led by its own patriarch, is motivated by a desire to unify the country’s 30 million Orthodox Christians. The Russian Church sees the move as an infringement of its jurisdiction and authority. There are about 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide. The Orthodox Church split from the Catholic Church in 1054. Something is afoot that should capture the Catholic imagination. It has something to do with unity, authority, and Apostolic Christianity. Its precise meaning, however, remains elusive not …

What Did Pope Francis Mean to Say with His Strange Abuse Crisis Letter?

I was received into the Roman Catholic Church exactly one calendar year before Pope Francis published his letter in response to the most recent paroxysm over the Church’s sexual abuse scandal and its cover up.[1] I have been a Christian my entire life, at once nurtured in the Gospel message that “the Kingdom of God is at hand” and recurrently disappointed by the faithlessness and callous immorality of Christians. About a decade of appropriating the Catholic intellectual tradition finally folded me into the Roman flock (though marrying a Latina Catholic from Texas played a role as well). The small boat of Pietist Evangelicalism in which I was raised welcomed philosophy and theological speculation, but the broader Evangelical sea by which it was tossed contained an aged Leviathan of anti-intellectualism. Along the way, I learned from Catholic thinkers about intellectual persistence, hermeneutical charity, patience of judgment, and how to distinguish reflections that are exciting in implication from those that are reliable in their conclusions. In light of recent revelations and accusations, I have felt a terrible …

What Does It Really Mean to Speak of the Right to Life?

Despite a court order to return them, hundreds of undocumented immigrant children still find themselves separated from their parents and living in US detention facilities. The psychological and even physical effects of such traumatic and unexpected separation are not difficult to imagine. Some children have been victims of sexual abuse—and at least one has died shortly after being in US custody. These children clearly find themselves in this terrible situation through no fault of their own. The Trump administration specifically choose to inflict this harm on them as a means of deterring both illegal immigration and asylum claims. They were used as pawns in a political war over immigration policy. This deterrence was designed to impact both the choices of possible future immigrants, but also the parents who were already here—many of whom were claiming asylum from extremely violent situations back home. Indeed, sometimes the children leave because they themselves have been marked for death. It is also worth nothing that this violence has deep ties to US American consumer practices and foreign policies—particularly our current lust for drugs and our neo-colonial practices during …

Confusing the Self-Emptying Love of the Cross with Political Power

Recently, First Things asked a group of “younger” Catholics to sign a letter related to the substantiated charges of sexual abuse against Theodore McCarrick. I signed this letter (despite my identity as a “former” young person who is moving toward forty), disgusted that the promise to protect the young made by the bishops in 2002 has been broken. Much of my young adult life has unfolded in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis. In 2002, my former bishop, Anthony J. O’Connell resigned from the Diocese of Palm Beach, having admitted to molesting children in his charge at St. Thomas Aquinas Preparatory Seminary. As a member of the diocesan youth Council in Knoxville, if this bishop had not been moved to Palm Beach, FL, I would have spent the night at his house at what was once an innocently named event, “Bunking with the Bish.” In 2003, my undergraduate seminarian classmates were pulled into our common space so that we could hear about Fr. Sam Peters, CSC—popular rector of Sorin Hall at Notre Dame. Fr. …