Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Peter Singer honored by Australia

Australia has dishonored herself in appointing Peter Singer a Companion of the Order of Australia this week. Singer is famous for his radically narrow views on who counts as a human person with moral significance and natural rights. He upholds the permissibility of infanticide up to the age of two, experimentation on the disabled, and non-voluntary euthanasia of those whose lives fall short of a certain measure of quality of life. The award has provoked controversy, with many Australians outraged, but some supporting the award. Green Party leader Christine Milne said, ""Peter Singer . . . deserves his global reputation for challenging people to reconsider their views on ethical behaviour, animal welfare and the human condition." Read the full story here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

LAWSUIT FILED: Notre Dame v. Sebelius

May 21, 2012
A Message from Father John Jenkins, C.S.C.,
President, University of Notre Dame

Today the University of Notre Dame filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana regarding a recent mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  That mandate requires Notre Dame and similar religious organizations to provide in their insurance plans abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures, which are contrary to Catholic teaching.  The decision to file this lawsuit came after much deliberation, discussion and efforts to find a solution acceptable to the various parties.

Let me say very clearly what this lawsuit is not about:  it is not about preventing women from having access to contraception, nor even about preventing the Government from providing such services.  Many of our faculty, staff and students -- both Catholic and non-Catholic -- have made conscientious decisions to use contraceptives.  As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs.  And we believe that, if the Government wishes to provide such services, means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents.  We do not seek to impose our religious beliefs on others; we simply ask that the Government not impose its values on the University when those values conflict with our religious teachings. We have engaged in conversations to find a resolution that respects the consciences of all and we will continue to do so.

This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives.  For if we concede that the Government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions.  For if one Presidential Administration can override our religious purpose and use religious organizations to advance policies that undercut our values, then surely another Administration will do the same for another very different set of policies, each time invoking some concept of popular will or the public good, with the result these religious organizations become mere tools for the exercise of government power, morally subservient to the state, and not free from its infringements.  If that happens, it will be the end of genuinely religious organizations in all but name. 

The details of the process that led to the mandate are publicly known.  In an Interim Final Ruling issued August 3, 2011, the federal government required employers to provide the objectionable services. A narrow exemption was given to religious institutions that serve and employ primarily members of their own faith, but, departing from a long tradition in federal law, organizations like Notre Dame—schools, universities, hospitals and charitable organizations that serve and employ people of all faiths and none—were granted no exemption, but instead were made subject to the law to the same extent as any secular organization.  On September 28, I submitted a formal comment encouraging the Administration to follow precedent and adopt a broader exemption.

Despite some positive indications, the Administration announced on January 20, 2012, that its interim rule would be adopted as final without change.  After an outcry from across the political spectrum, President Obama announced on February 10 that his Administration would attempt to accommodate the concerns of religious organizations.  We were encouraged by this announcement and have engaged in conversations with Administration officials to find an acceptable resolution.  Although I do not question the good intentions and sincerity of all involved in these discussions, progress has not been encouraging and an announcement seeking comments on how to structure any accommodation (HHS Advanced Notification of Proposed Rule Making on preventative services policy, March 16, 2012) provides little in the way of a specific, substantive proposal or a definite timeline for resolution.   Moreover, the process laid out in this announcement will last months, making it impossible for us to plan for and implement any changes to our health plans by the government-mandated deadlines. We will continue in earnest our discussions with Administration officials in an effort to find a resolution, but, after much deliberation, we have concluded that we have no option but to appeal to the courts regarding the fundamental issue of religious freedom.

It is for these reasons that we have filed this lawsuit neither lightly nor gladly, but with sober determination. 


The lawsuit is available online at

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Center Fellow speaks at Oxford Decalogue conference

The Influence of the Decalogue: Historical, Theological and Cultural Perspectives
an Interdisciplinary and International Conference

The Decalogue or the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5) have constantly been received, taught, and transformed over two and a half millennia, not only in religious catechesis and exegetical interpretation, but also in art, music, film, philosophy, and in the history of law. The two tablets of the law have become a fundamental religious icon in both Judaism and Christianity. The Decalogue certainly is one of the most intensely used texts in world history. The first attempt to systematically investigate its fascinating history of reception was made in an interdisciplinary conference organised by Dominik Markl SJ in cooperation with Christine Joynes, Director of the Centre for Reception History of the Bible, at Trinity College Oxford, 16–17 April 2012. The conference was sponsored by Heythrop College, University of London and the Faculty of Theology of the University of Oxford. The papers of the conference are planned to be published next year.

Seventeen speakers from ten countries included Luciane Beduschi (Paris, music), David Clines (Sheffield, Hebrew Bible), Gerhard Lauer (Göttingen, German literature), Christopher Rowland (Oxford, New Testament), Randall Smith (Myser Fellow, Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, theology) and Steven Wilf (Connecticut, law); international speakers enjoyed the hospitality of Campion Hall. They were joined by thirty delegates including Michael Kirwan SJ (Heythrop, theology), John Langan (Georgetown, philosophy) and Anthony Swindell (Jersey, Bible and literature).

The conference was concluded by a musical presentation of the Heythrop College Consort at Jesus College Chapel (conducted by Joey Draycott and accompanied on the organ by Daniel Chambers), performing settings to music of the Ten Commandments by Tallis, Bach, Haydn, and von Neukomm.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Georgetown Invites Sebelius to Give Address at Commencement

Georgetown University has invited Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to give an address during its commencement exercises this May. Sebelius, a prominent and forceful proponent of abortion, is responsible in large part for the Obama Administration’s birth control and abortifacient mandate, which will force religious institutions, including the Catholic Church, to provide their employees with birth control and abortifacients, even if those institutions find the use of them to be gravely immoral.

Georgetown, a Jesuit institution which will be affected by the mandate, is coming under fire for issuing the invitation.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bishop Jenky Homily

A campus controversy has developed at Notre Dame over Bishop Daniel Jenky's recent homily in which he said, "Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care.
In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path." Bishop Jenky, C.S.C. is the local ordinary of the Diocese of Peoria, IL and sits on Notre Dame's Board of Fellows; you can read the full text of his homily here. In response, scores of Notre Dame faculty denounced Bishop Jenky and demanded that he either retract his statement or resign from Notre Dame's Board. You can read the faculty letter to the Observer, addressed to Rev. John Jenkins and Richard Notebaert, Board Chairman, here. A number of Catholic scholars have responded to the Notre Dame faculty, including Michael Pakaluk, Chairman of the Philosophy Department at Ave Maria University, in his piece, "Incendiary Educators." For background on the controversy surrounded President Obama's visit to Notre Dame in 2009 when he was awarded an honorary degree as commencement speaker, read the National Catholic Register's interview with Rev. Bill Miscamble, C.S.C.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Man, the Religious Animal

"Are human beings naturally religious?"  This is a question often invoked when debating issues of religion.  For secularists and non-religious pointing to disparaties in the religiosity of peoples throughout the world and in different cultures religion is merely a social construct which if anything goes against natural inclinations.  Other evidence, such as the survival and prevalance of religion even in states which attempt to repress and extinguish it such as China.

University of Notre Dame's sociology professor, Christian Smith, takes a stab at this question in his article in First Things "Man the Religious Animal".  Smith starts off by re-evaluating what is often meant by "nature". " We need instead to take a realist approach, which observes that everything that exists in reality possesses distinctive characteristics and capacities by virtue of its particular ontological makeup."  In line with this view of nature, Smith goes on to argue that "human beings are naturally religious when by that we mean that they possess, by virtue of their given ontological being, a complex set of innate features, capacities, powers, limitations, and tendencies that give them the capacity to think, perceive, feel, imagine, desire, and act religiously and that under the right conditions tend to predispose and direct them toward religion." These innate characteristics in human nature include the tendency to belief more than can be proved, the desire to recognize and solve problems, the existential condition, and the human need to make "strong evaluations".  This has many implications.  These tendencies that tend to draw individuals to religion does not necessarily signal a great revival of religious practices, but it does make the possibility of complete secularization highly improbable. 

Read Christian Smith's full article in First Things.

Media training for lay Catholics

Catholic Voices USA is running a new training program for faithful lay Catholics who want to prepare themselves to speak to the media about Catholic issues. Journalist Kathryn Jean Lopez is part of the training team. You can find the application for the program here. They welcome applications from baptized Catholics under age 45 who can commit to regular press briefings, media training, and spiritual development. They especially welcome applications from the New York area.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter Changes Everything

We just celebrated the greatest day in the liturgical year, yet too often the glory of Easter is not fully appreciated.  The celebration of the Resurrection, highlighting the most essential belief we have as Christians, is often overshadowed by other celebrations such as Christmas that have readily captured the Christian imagination.  In "Easter Changes Everything" George Wiegel highlights how Easter gives significance to our lives and the birth of Jesus by drawing on Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, an Italian biblical scholar's, reflection on the story of Jesus purifying the temple of Jerusalem.

"In cleansing the Temple, Jesus is declaring that God is now present to his people in a new and perfect way and in a new “meeting tent”: the incarnate Son, “the Word … made flesh” who dwells among us, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). He, Jesus, is the new Temple, and to recognize that and live in this new mode of the divine Presence one must “remember,” as St. John writes at the end of the Temple-cleansing story (John 2:22)."

We must celebrate Easter.  It is the power of the resurrection that changed everything, that changed both nature and history.  "As St. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 15, Easter faith is that conviction on which the entire edifice of Christianity is built."  As we enter the Easter season, let us remember the great mystery of Our Lord and his resurrection returning to an Easter Faith and allowing it to transform us.

To read George Wiegel's reflections visit First Things

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Vatican approves new rite of blessing for unborn

This Sunday, March 25, nations across the world celebrated International Day of the Unborn Child.   This celebration follows a very important Catholic feast day, the Feast of the Annunciation.  On this great Feast day, in which our Lady said "Yes" to life and to the will of God, the Vatican approved the publication of the "Rite for the Blessing of a Child in  the Womb".  This blessing will be made available to parishes by Mother's Day, a fitting reminder of the beauty of life and motherhood.  It was developed in response to inquiries for such a blessing.  This blessing further emphasizes beauty of life even in its beginning and  most vulnerable stage in the womb.

To read more about this new blessing visit LifeSiteNews

Thursday, March 22, 2012

'Beyond Ignorance and Dogma' by Christian Smith

Notre Dame Sociology Professor Christian Smith gave sociologists who deride religion a dressing down in the most recent issue of the American Sociological Association's journal. In "Beyond Ignorance and Dogma: On Taking Religion Seriously," Prof. Smith says,

"The time has come for American sociology to stop being so ignorant and dogmatic about religion. As someone who knows something about the real history, cultures, and organizations of religious traditions, I am regularly appalled by the illiterate prejudices about religion that are routinely expressed by sociologist colleagues. It is embarrassing for our discipline and galling to those who know better."

Read the full article on page 14 here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

World Down Syndrome Day is Today

The University of Notre Dame community will mark World Down Syndrome Day on Wednesday, March 21, with Mass at 5:15 pm in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, followed by a reception in Remick Commons in Carole Sandner Hall (located behind the Basilica). This gathering, to which all members of the campus and off-campus communities are invited, is in support of persons with Down Syndrome and their families. Sponsorship of the free event is provided by the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and the Jacques Maritain Center. This March 21 is the seventh anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day but is the first time the day will be officially observed by the United Nations.

Here are two wonderful youtube videos celebrating the blessings the Down Syndrome children bestow on their families:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bishop Lori responds to America editors

In their March 5 editorial "Policy not Liberty," the editors of America magazine lambasted the American bishops for rejection President Obama's "accommodation" on the HHS mandate as inadequate. Bishop Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, has responded to their editorial. An excerpt:

" Oh, and as Detective Colombo used to say: “Just one more thing.” It’s the comment in the editorial about when we bishops are at our best. Evidently, it’s when we speak generalities softly and go along to get along, even though for the first time in history the federal government is forcing church entities to provide for things that contradict church teaching. Maybe Moses wasn’t at his best when he confronted Pharaoh. Maybe the Good Shepherd was a bit off his game when he confronted the rulers of his day.
But those are just details." 

Read his full piece here.

" Oh, and as Detective Colombo used to say: “Just one more thing.” It’s the comment in the editorial about when we bishops are at our best. Evidently, it’s when we speak generalities softly and go along to get along, even though for the first time in history the federal government is forcing church entities to provide for things that contradict church teaching. Maybe Moses wasn’t at his best when he confronted Pharaoh. Maybe the Good Shepherd was a bit off his game when he confronted the rulers of his day.
But those are just details."

Monday, March 5, 2012

No Cooperation with Evil

Our Myser Fellow, Prof. Randy Smith, contributed yesterday to "The Catholic Thing" blog, with his article "No Cooperation with Evil," concerning the HHS contraception mandate.

An excerpt: "Those who want you to violate your conscience will first seek to misinform your conscience, and then try to deaden its voice."

Read the full article here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

'My Brother the Pope'

Georg Ratzinger, brother of Pope Benedict XVI,  revealed intimate moments of their childhood and his relationship with his brother.  Michael Hesemann's week-long interview with the Pope's brother provides the material for their book, "My Brother the Pope."  Ratzinger speaks in great detail about their Catholic upbringing which included attending daily mass, family prayer, and celebrations of the great Christian feasts.

"In our family, though, it was not only Christmas that was marked by the deep faith of our parents and the religious customs of our homeland. From our parents we learned what it means to have a firm grasp of faith in God. Every day we prayed together, and in fact before and after each meal (we ate our breakfast, dinner and supper together)."

Ratzinger attributes the faith of him and his brother to their parents devotion and piety. The practice of daily prayer and devotion was instrumental in creating the deep faith of the Ratzingers.  It is this daily commitment to faith that Ratzinger feels is lacking in many Christian families.

"I am convinced that the lack of this traditional piety in many families is also a reason why there are too few priestly vocations today. Many people in our time practice a form of atheism rather than the Christian faith. In some respects, they may maintain a sort of vestigial religiosity; perhaps they still go to Mass on the major feast days, but this rudimentary faith long ago ceased to permeate their lives, and it has no bearing on their everyday routine."

Faith is not only reserved for Sundays or feast days.  The Christian life calls each person to live out their faith daily in their actions, their words, and in prayer.  Faith needs to become a part of everyday routine.

To read more on Ratzinger's childhood in the Huffington Post, click here, and to read more of Michael Hesemann's reflections on the interview, click here.