Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Being Human In An Age of Unbelief"

Here is a great lecture given at the University of Pennsylvania by the new archbishop of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles Chaput.  He pretty much leaves no stone unturned.  Basically, he's talking about what it means to create a culture of life in the broadest sense of that phrase and not just with respect to the lives of the unborn. Chaput's lecture helps to understand why the battle is so pitched at this point in time and why the stakes are so high. The battle comes down to the nuts and bolts of what we believe the human person is, where he came from and what we believe to be true about him.   That's why BOTH sides --the culture of life vs. the culture of death, the moral relativists vs. the believers in objective Truth, the culture of belief vs. the "culture of unbelief" (Chaput's phrase, see below)--  are in full battle mode.

So, to arms!  Here are a few quotes: 
When Christians and other people of good will talk about "the dignity of the human person" and "the sanctity of human life," they're putting into words what we all instinctively know – and have known for a very long time. Something elevated and sacred in men and women demands our special respect. When we violate that human dignity, we do evil. When we serve it, we do good. And therein lies one of many ironies. We live in a society that speaks persuasively about protecting the environment and rescuing species on the brink of extinction. But then it tolerates the killing of unborn children and the abuse of human fetal tissue as lab material. 
There's a proverb worth remembering here: "To a man with a hammer, every problem is a nail." If modern man is scientific man, technology is his hammer. But every problem isn't a nail. Knowledge without the virtues of wisdom, prudence, and, above all, humility to guide it is not just unhelpful. It's dangerous.
Science involves the study of the material world. But human beings are more than the sum of their material processes. Trying to explain the human person with thinking that excludes the reality of the spiritual, the dignity of the religious, and the possibility of God simply cripples both the scientist and the subject being studied – man himself. To put it another way, we can destroy what we mean by humanity while claiming, and even intending, to serve it.
Most of us here tonight believe that we have basic rights that come with the special dignity of being human. These rights are inherent to human nature. They're part of who we are. Nobody can take them away. But if there is no Creator, and nothing fundamental and unchangeable about human nature, and if "nature's God" is kicked out of the conversation, then our rights become the product of social convention. And social conventions can change. So can the definition of who is and who isn't "human." 
The irony is that modern liberal democracy needs religion more than religion needs modern liberal democracy. American public life needs a framework friendly to religious belief because it can't support its moral claims about freedom and rights with secular arguments alone. In fact, to the degree that it encourages a culture of unbelief, liberal democracy undermines its own grounding. It causes its own decline by destroying the public square's moral coherence.

Monday, November 14, 2011


This article is a good follow-up to the previous one.  It's about Tim Tebow and the controversy about his public displays of faith.  I've been hearing about it on sports radio, but George Weigl does a much better job of sorting out the issue.

Religious Liberty

I thought this Zenit article contained a good summary of some of the infringements on religious liberty going around.  In particular, the article summarizes six problem areas since June of 2011 as noted by Archbishop Dolan, president of the USCCB.
In his letter, dated Sept. 29, Archbishop Dolan listed six major problems regarding religious liberty in the period since June.
-- Federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations that oblige all private health insurance plans to cover contraception and sterilization. This will oblige church employers to sponsor and pay for services they oppose.
-- The HHS request regarding refugees that Archbishop Gomez referred to.
-- The U.S. Agency for International Development is increasingly requiring condom distribution in HIV prevention programs, as well as requiring contraception within international relief and development programs.
-- The Justice Department's attack on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In July, the Department started filing briefs actively attacking DOMA's constitutionality, claiming that supporters of the law could only have been motivated by bias and prejudice.
-- The Justice Department recently attacked what is known as "ministerial exception," a constitutional doctrine long accepted by courts that allows churches to make employment decisions concerning persons working in a ministerial capacity.
-- A new law in New York State allowing same-sex marriage with only a very narrow religious exemption.
Note also the comments regarding the so-called problem at Catholic University (CUA) regarding a Muslim student being discriminated against.  Even the attorney who's filing charges against CUA on this and the suppposed illegality of single sex dorms admits that no complaint whatsoever was filed by any student!