Authority

The New Pro-Life Movement: Been There, Done That

What would the pro-life movement be without its perennial infighting? From the absolutists vs. the incrementalists to the Seamless Garment vs. everyone else, it is a feature of our movement that just never goes away. The latest controversy over something mislabeled as “new” is evidence that there is nothing new about these internecine fights. Rebecca [...]

What Kind of Thing is Authority?

"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them..." So quoted Malvolio in Shakespseare's Twelfth Night (albeit as he read from a letter written by Maria, so, ironically, the great lines on greatness were not even his). History, along with current events, which will comprise much of future history, is much-ado [...]

Why Treating Everyone Equally Is a Problem

I recently received an email from someone who questioned me on a comment I made about manners. I had said that manners presuppose distinctions. They call upon us to honor those who are excellent with special treatment. At the same time, they allow us to show compassion and consideration toward those who are lesser or [...]

A Reflection on the Requirements for Political Office

Politics is a curious business, and not just in the United States as the Big Day approaches: Here in Ontario, Canada, about a four hour drive from where I live, a 19-year-old Brock University political science student, Sam Oosterhoff, was just chosen as the upcoming candidate for the riding of Niagara West-Glanbrook, and could well [...]

Police Shootings and the Proper Respect for Authority

Police shootings have been lighting up the media for the last couple of years, with incidents such as Philando Castile's death in Falcon Heights, MN and Alton Sterling's in Baton Rouge, LA continuing to raise questions and inspire protests this summer. Hardly had the nation composed itself before blood ran again, this time in Tulsa, [...]

Should We Rely on Good Sense or Expertise?

In public discussion today, expertise has acquired the authority once held by good sense. The change reflects a change in attitudes toward society and politics. Educated, influential, and well-placed people now want a society run by global markets, financial institutions, and public administration based on supposedly neutral expertise. As such people's response to Brexit shows, [...]

When Should We Ignore Tradition?

In a recent column I noted that tradition is not self-contained or absolute. It's complex, so that superior, subordinate, and parallel traditions often come into conflict. Local tradition may say one thing, Church or national tradition quite another. Also, tradition is not about itself but about goods toward which it's oriented, so it's relative to something [...]

Docility in a Time of Dissolution

We are free but somehow not free. As Paul puts it, “the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do.” The conundrum results from Original Sin: our will is turned against itself, because it is not directed as designed. We are social and depend on others, [...]

Protecting God’s Word From “Bible Christians”

"Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours." ~ St. Paul to the Thessalonians A former student of mine is thinking of becoming a Catholic, and she had a question for me. “I don’t understand the deuterocanonical books,” she ventured. [...]

Liberalism, Choice and Compulsion

Social liberals consider traditional moral restrictions cruel in their very essence. Each of us, they believe, should be as free as possible to pursue his happiness as he sees it, consistent with the equal ability of others to do the same. To reject that position, as Catholics and other moral traditionalists do, is either intentionally [...]

De Sales vs. Luther on Freedom and Religious Devotion

One of the major tenets of the Wittenberg Reforms implemented by Martin Luther in the early 1520s was his insistence on the equality of all men before God. A recognition of the “priesthood of all believers” was essential, according to Luther, to ensure proper respect for the rights of each individual person in regards to [...]

The Moral Divide Between Progressives and Traditionalists

A recent account of moral sentiments, proposed by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt in his book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Pantheon, 2012), has attracted attention for its explanation of the difference between progressives and traditionalists. According to the account, moral judgments typically have to do with six dimensions [...]

How Mormons Respond to Theological Dissent

The LDS church recently excommunicated Kate Kelly, a feminist whose organization, Ordain Women, had been aggressively lobbying for women to be admitted to the Mormon priesthood. The aftermath has been interesting, and might offer Catholics some valuable food for thought concerning the logic of heresy and excommunication. I’m not interested in adjudicating the issues over [...]

When Bishops Earn Our Gratitude

Whenever veteran Catholics stop to consider the on-going crisis of faith in the Church, now entering its fifth decade with no abatement in sight, the news does not come as a surprise. They have longed suspected that the center would not hold. And it is no particular sunburst to say so. They certainly know, for [...]

Obedience and the Christian Life

There is no way around it: the Christian's life is to be one of obedience. “Let him who has ears to hear, hear,” says Jesus. That does not mean that we are beholden only to God, under our own understanding of who God is and what He wants from us. God in His mercy does [...]

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