Monday, January 30, 2012

MLK's legacy

A few weeks ago America celebrated the legacy of one of its greatest heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a champion for civil rights.  As the nation remembers this great historical figures, various political thinkers claim his legacy in support of their cause.  Unfortunately, many have distorted the true philosophical and theological foundations of King's worldviews.  According to University of Missouri's political science professor Justin Dyer, "Those who praise the modern civil rights movement, but who also want to keep morality and theology absent from public discourse, seldom mention King’s reliance on natural law in his justly famous letter".

Visit the Witherspoon Institute's Public Discourse discussion to read more about the true roots of King's political thoughts.

Friday, January 27, 2012

ND to welcome Patrick Deneen to faculty

Georgetown political science professor Patrick Deneen has publicly announced his move to Notre Dame this fall. He is the founding director of the Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy, an accomplished scholar, and a devout Catholic. His announcement has rocked Georgetown's Government Department, and is a cause for celebration at Notre Dame. Read more about his reasons for moving to Notre Dame in his blog post "Why I am leaving Georgetown."

An excerpt:
"Notre Dame has recruited me explicitly because they regard me as someone who can be a significant contributor to its mission and identity, particularly the Catholic identity of the institution. Considerations of “mission fit” has become a criterion for faculty hiring at Notre Dame – indeed, it was a major consideration in seeking to hire me – whereas it is generally not a consideration at Georgetown. Without such a criterion, Georgetown increasingly and inevitably remakes itself in the image of its secular peers, ones that have no internal standard of what a university is for other than the aspiration of prestige for the sake of prestige, its ranking rather than its commitment to Truth. Its Catholic identity, which should inform every activity of the community, from curriculum to dorm life to faculty hiring, has increasingly been cordoned off to optional activities of Campus Ministry. I would like to be a contributor to a more widely-embraced institutional mission in the life of my institution and community. I don’t doubt that there will shortcomings at Our Lady’s University. But, there are at least some comrades-in-arms to share in the effort."

Read a Georgetown student's analysis of the loss here. An excerpt from "The State of the University":

"Perhaps more alarming, though, is Deneen's explicit grievance at the lack of Catholicism at this place. We are Georgetown, the nation's oldest and preeminent Roman Catholic college, founded by no less than the first Catholic bishop in the United States. We are the touchstone of Catholic education in this country. If Georgetown loses the faith, who indeed is left to defend it?

In a word, it is a tragedy that brilliant Catholic academics who wish to integrate their religious convictions into their vocation no longer feel welcome in Washington. We will never go back to being a small religious school. To have the space compressed, however, for those who would defend the old ways, and to squeeze them out slowly is the best example of eradicating intellectual diversity from a place that ostensibly prizes free discourse and thought."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cancer-stricken teen mom dies for her baby

Jenni Lake, 17, was diagnosed with cancer in October 2010. Seven months later, while undergoing chemotherapy, she discovered she that was pregnant.  Jenni was given a choice: proceed with treatment and endanger the life of her child or end her treatment and risk losing her own life.  Jenni courageously chose to discontinue chemotherapy and save her child.  She gave birth to a healthy boy in November 2011 and passed away two weeks later. Lifesite News recounts her story.

An excerpt:
"After the delivery, she told the nurse, 'I'm done. I did what I was supposed to do. My baby is going to get here safe.'"

Read the full story here.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Responses to Sebelius' decision on contraception

Catholic leaders nationwide have vocally responded to HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius' decision that religious institutions will have to provide contraception coverage in health plans for employees, a decision which violates the rights of conscience of many religious institutions and especially affects the Catholic Church. Here are some of their notable responses:

Cardinal-designate Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, said “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, chairmen of the USCCB committee on pro-life activities said, “Although this new rule gives the agency the discretion to authorize a ‘religious’ exemption, it is so narrow as to exclude most Catholic social service agencies and healthcare providers. For example, under the new rule our institutions would be free to act in accord with Catholic teaching on life and procreation only if they were to stop hiring and serving non-Catholics. Could the federal government possibly intend to pressure Catholic institutions to cease providing health care, education and charitable services to the general public?Health care reform should expand access to basic health care for all, not undermine that goal.”

Notre Dame President John I. Jenkins, CSC, said  “I am deeply disappointed in a decision by the administration that will place many religious organizations of all faiths in an untenable position. This unnecessary intervention by the government into religion disregards our nation’s commitment to the rights of conscience and the longstanding work of religious groups to help build a more compassionate society and vibrant democracy. I find that profoundly troubling on many levels. Moving forward, we call for a national dialogue among religious groups, government and the American people to reaffirm our country’s historic respect for freedom of conscience and defense of religious liberty.”

Robbie George, law professor at Princeton, said, "The Obama administration's abortifacient and contraception mandate is appalling, but I cannot claim to be surprised by it. In fact, I would have been surprised---indeed stunned---had the administration done anything significant to honor or protect the rights of Catholics and others on whose consciences the mandate will impose. In every area touching the sanctity of human life and issues of sexual morality, the Obama administration is aggressively prosecuting the agenda its critics predicted and its most ardent left-wing supporters hoped for. Those who are driving the train, including key administration officials who self-identify as members of the Catholic Church, have no regard for the ethical beliefs of Catholics and others when they are in conflict with left-liberal orthodoxy.  Their task, as they perceive it, is to fortify and expand the "right to abortion" and "sexual freedom" wherever they can.  They pursue this agenda with a religious zeal because, in fact, the ideology in which abortion is a "right" and "sexual freedom" is a core value is their religion. These beliefs are integral to their worldview. If, like Kathleen Sebelius, they happen to be Catholics, you can be assured that it won't be Catholic teaching, or the Judaeo-Christian ethic, that shapes their policies on issues of life and death and marriage and sexual morality; it will be liberal ideology---pure and simple---that does the shaping."

Friday, January 20, 2012

HHS refuses to expand religious exemption to contraception mandate

Earlier this year, Fr. Jenkins, President of Notre Dame, wrote a letter to Kathleen Sebilius, Health and Human Services Secretary for the Obama administration, making a plea for a wider religious exemption from the new laws requiring all employers to cover contraception in their health insurance plans for employees. That plea has fallen on deaf ears. The Obama administration has refused to modify its new rule requiring Notre Dame and religious educational institutions like it to provide coverage of contraceptives in all its health insurance plans. Religious institutions are being given until Aug. 1, 2013 to comply fully with the new mandate. Here is the full statement from the HHS:

January 20, 2012
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

A statement by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

In August 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services issued an interim final rule that will require most health insurance plans to cover preventive services for women including recommended contraceptive services without charging a co-pay, co-insurance or a deductible.  The rule allows certain non-profit religious employers that offer insurance to their employees the choice of whether or not to cover contraceptive services. Today the department is announcing that the final rule on preventive health services will ensure that women with health insurance coverage will have access to the full range of the Institute of Medicine’s recommended preventive services, including all FDA -approved forms of contraception.  Women will not have to forego these services because of expensive co-pays or deductibles, or because an insurance plan doesn’t include contraceptive services. This rule is consistent with the laws in a majority of states which already require contraception coverage in health plans, and includes the exemption in the interim final rule allowing certain religious organizations not to provide contraception coverage. Beginning August 1, 2012, most new and renewed health plans will be required to cover these services without cost sharing for women across the country. 

After evaluating comments, we have decided to add an additional element to the final rule. Nonprofit employers who, based on religious beliefs, do not currently provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan, will be provided an additional year, until August 1, 2013, to comply with the new law. Employers wishing to take advantage of the additional year must certify that they qualify for the delayed implementation. This additional year will allow these organizations more time and flexibility to adapt to this new rule.  We intend to require employers that do not offer coverage of contraceptive services to provide notice to employees, which will also state that contraceptive services are available at sites such as community health centers, public clinics, and hospitals with income-based support.  We will continue to work closely with religious groups during this transitional period to discuss their concerns.

Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women and their families, it is documented to significantly reduce health costs, and is the most commonly taken drug in America by young and middle-aged women. This rule will provide women with greater access to contraception by requiring coverage and by prohibiting cost sharing.

This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty. I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services. The administration remains fully committed to its partnerships with faith-based organizations, which promote healthy communities and serve the common good.  And this final rule will have no impact on the protections that existing conscience laws and regulations give to health care providers.

Happy Feast of Bl. Basil Moreau!

Blessed Basil MoreauToday we celebrate the feast day of Blessed Basil Moreau, CSC, the French priest who founded the Congregation of Holy Cross, which founded Notre Dame. Here is a special reflection for today's feast, by a long-time friend of the Center:

Happy Feast of Blessed Moreau

Author: Mr. Andrew Polaniecki

The beatification of Blessed Basil Moreau took place in Le Mans, the place in France where he lived, died and was buried, as well as the home of the mother church of his order, the Congregation of Holy Cross. The beatification of Blessed Moreau testifies that he practiced the theological and cardinal virtues to a heroic degree and that he is model of a life that exhibits vision, prayer, zeal, and extraordinary piety.
The first decades following the French Revolution, which were also the years when Blessed Moreau was first ordained a priest, the European world was moving in a direction that emphasized social individualism over the collective good, an ideological shift that continues to be prominent in our secular culture today. It is therefore appropriate for all people, both professed religious and the lay faithful, to use Blessed Moreau’s Feast Day as an opportunity to reflect on an idea that is central to the life of the Congregation of Holy Cross: a sense of community that would be in radical opposition to society’s growing emphasis on the individual.

Early in the life of Holy Cross, Blessed Moreau presented his religious with the Holy Trinity as the image of the union they should strive for among themselves: “Just as in the adorable Trinity … there is no difference of interests and no opposition of aims or wills, so among the priests, brothers, and sisters there should be such conformity of sentiments, interests and wills as to make all of us one in somewhat the same manner as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one. This was the touching prayer of our Lord for His disciples and their successors: “That they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you’” (Circular Letter 14).
In other words, characterizing the communal life of Holy Cross are individuals sharing a life of common prayer and work where the good of the community would be put ahead of the good of the self.  Whether in educational institutions, parish life, or missionary endeavors, Blessed Moreau believed that the common life of the community would be the driving force for the evangelization and transformation of the people Holy Cross religious served. He hoped that the lived witness of the communal and common life of Holy Cross would lead observers to a radical commitment to the service of God.   

The current Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross state it this way: “It is essential to our mission that we strive to abide so attentively together that people will observe: ‘See how they love one another.’ We will then be a sign in an alienated world: men who have, for love of their Lord, become closest neighbors, trustworthy friends, brothers” (Constitutions 4:42).

Like many others, my four years of high school consisted of playing sports, attending class, hanging with friends in the lunch room, and growing in faith and knowledge. However, these ordinary experiences where shaped and formed by the lives of the 10 or so Holy Cross religious that were the very flesh and spirit of the Notre Dame High School community (today called Notre Dame College Prep) in Niles, IL.  What I never envisioned was that the joy, faithfulness, and love that I saw in this family who were my teachers, coaches, and mentors would inspire me to live my life in a uniquely “Holy Cross” way.

Although I initially discerned a vocation as a Holy Cross religious, I was eventually led by the Spirit and called by God to be a Holy Cross educator in the faith as a married man and father.  Blessed Moreau’s charge that it is necessary to live a life of common prayer and shared faith is still entwined in the very depths of my heart. I primarily live out this life in my family, but I also live it out with the Holy Cross religious that I work with on a daily basis as the director of Campus Ministry, the dozens of Holy Cross lay educators that partner with me to make up the faculty and staff of Holy Cross College, and of course the hundreds of students with whom I am intimately connected on a daily basis.

Blessed Moreau’s Feast Day is one of great joy in which we give thanks and praise for his family of religious men and women who share a common life of faith and work together to bring hope to the world.

Mr. Andrew Polaniecki, who spent several years in formation with Holy Cross at Old College, is now the Director of Campus Ministry at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, Ind. A great friend of and collaborator with Holy Cross, he helps us today celebrate the Feast Day of Blessed Basil Moreau. Learn more about the holy founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pope Participates in Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Pope Benedict XVI commemorated Christian Unity Week by praying for union among believers and reminding Catholics of their ecumenical responsibilities. He said that ecumenism is the responsibility of all faithful Christians, not just a few, and that “the unity we strive for cannot result merely from our own efforts." but instead  “it is a gift we receive and must constantly invoke from on high.” read more at the National Catholic Register.

Monday, January 16, 2012

From the Archives: A Supposedly Fun Thing

The unfortunate news of the capsizing of the Costa Concordia cruise ship off the Tuscan coast this weekend brought to mind one of David Foster Wallace's most popular pieces, originally published in a 1996 edition of Harper's as "Shipping Out: On the (Nearly Lethal) Comforts of a Luxury Cruise," and later republished as "A Supposedly Fun Thing I Will Never Do Again." Read his original article on his time on the 7NC Megacruiser Zenith here. An excerpt:

"You are, here, excused from even the work of constructing the fantasy, because the ads do it for you. And this near-parental type of advertising makes a very special promise, a diabolically seductive promise that's actually kind of honest, because it's a promise that the Luxury Cruise itself is all about honoring. The promise is not
that you can experience great pleasure but that you will. They'll make certain of it. They'll micromanage every iota of every pleasure-option so that not even the dreadful corrosive action of your adult consciousness and agency and dread can f*** up your fun. Your troublesome capacities for choice, error, regret, dissatisfaction,
and despair will be removed from the equation. You will be able-finally, for once to relax, the ads promise, because you will have no choice. Your pleasure will, for 7 nights and 6.5 days, be wisely and efficiently managed."

Friday, January 6, 2012

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

We at the Center for Ethics and Culture congratulate our old friend, Msgr. "Charlie" Brown, a graduate of Notre Dame, who on the Feast of the Epiphany was ordained Archbishop Charles Brown by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. He now goes to take up his new position as papal nuncio in Ireland. Bishop Brown has spoken at a number of our events over the past five years, most notably the annual Fall Conference; he helped organize our annual medical ethics conference when we took it to Rome; and he has been a good friend of many of us at the Center, especially David Solomon, who has know him since he was an undergraduate at Notre Dame. You can read Pope Benedict's homily for the occasion here.  Let us pray for the new archbishop, and for the whole Church, as he goes serve Ireland, where the Church is in great need of his holiness, wisdom, and compassion.