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Saturday, August 04, 2018

Catholics And The Death Penalty: A Brief Note On Theological Method

It didn't take long, but many observers began to think that the revised paragraph CCC, 2267 was ambiguous. There is some talk of asking for clarification in some official capacity. If something could be read in continuity with the tradition, or it could be read in discontinuity, the most charitable and sensible thing is to read it in continuity. Sensible, because a radical discontinuity is in many respects impossible, and charitable, because it's reasonable to think that the pope, whoever he is, wants both continuity and clarity. I think it would be reasonable to say, "This or that wording might be better, because..." but I cannot help but be concerned when the first reaction to something like this is suspicion and fear.

One thing at a time: "What do I understand the teaching to have been? Do I need to look more extensively at things previously offered? Do I understand what is being said now? What are major key terms used? Are they similar in meaning/intent to what's been used terminologically in the past? What are alternate plausible reasons for using different terms now? If I wanted to arrive at the same conclusion, but with different words, what might I say?"

If I have a serious concern that no information to this point can assuage, have I spoken to a trusted priest, or spiritual director? Or if it is of an intellectual nature, can I find a trusted theologian who will speak informally and privately with me about it? Is it at all reasonably possible to avoid criticism of the Holy Father and his brother bishops in public, so as to avoid scandal?

It's actually two separate discussions often conflated together: Prudential opinions about the needs and struggles of the flock at this time--how to address them--and how to understand the teaching of the Church. Various battles in the "culture wars" make us adept at sharing and arguing the former, and not at doing the latter.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Why Liberalism Failed (Patrick Deneen) JK's Opening Remarks

I have not been able so far to give this book the attention it deserves, but now I'm ready. At present, I am re-reading both the Introduction and the first chapter, and I've been looking things up. When I am ready, you'll get my summaries with questions, comments, and wider reflections. Once more, I take the posture of a student to a teacher. I saw him at a recent conference with Professor Cross, but Deneen was practicing what he's been preaching, and joined one of his children at an event, so I didn't get to introduce myself. I can say that what he's arguing is deeply resonant with my own experience, my own biography, and my sense as a person with a profound disability that the anthropology of our whole world order is wrong.

Someone offered a blurb on the back that this book would have something to challenge both sides of our political culture, so to speak. I suppose that's true. But I come to this book having largely removed myself from politics, at least in terms of partisan or even ideological identification. I hope that being in this place allows me to ascertain what Deneen is saying, firstly, and then to perhaps be able to offer something constructive to him, and with him.

The sorting of ourselves into tribes and parties happens with a particular intensity, precisely when we believe that some person or group wants to harm us, to take away something that we love. When this happens, claims or arguments made by someone who is Other become almost impossible to regard seriously. I am able to say that my shields are down with Dr. Deneen. I believe that he wants what's best for me and all of us. Consequently, if any part of these reflections does venture into critique, it will be that of a friend, if that isn't too presumptuous to say. [I'm sure Deneen will be thrilled and honored that he's in the same category as Barack Obama.--ed.] Be nice. [You do accord the former president too much respect.--ed.] Perhaps so. Someone has to balance the tendency to accord him too little.

There are some potential readers who will find Deneen insufficiently critical of "The Left" (though I don't think that's a fair criticism, based upon what I have read). I think this particular criticism will be offered by those who have accepted their own skewed views, at least in some areas, as normative Catholic teaching.

He holds a profoundly conservative worldview, when considered apart from the political and ideological baggage with which "conservative" usually comes. It is definitionally conservative to aim at preserving and defending that which makes for human flourishing, and in that way, this is a conservative book. It will be a radical book in the ways he suggests that we must re-build, or build from scratch, institutions dedicated to the common good.

With that, read along with me, and I hope you enjoy it!