The jet splashdown in the Hudson yesterday was one of those riveting spectacles, such that I almost felt sorry for George W. Bush since no one seemed to pay attention to his farewell address. (Okay, I didn’t feel too bad.) It was really astonishing, even if it did mess up the West Side Highway commute. It brought Weehawken (where I used to live, a fine little township with a bust of Alexander Hamilton marking his duel with Aaron Burr) some well-deserved national. And it was a tabloid-ready story for a tabloid-loving city that may be a cesspool of secularism but NEVER tires of ”miracles.”. What I don’t understand is this: While I could personally never hurt a living creature (blog commenters accepted), Canada geese of the variety that may have cause this near-tragedy get my goat, especially as I try to navigate the fecal minefields in parks and on lawns. What to do? “South Park” had it right:
Archive for January, 2009
A suggestion from the Wall Street Journal:
Even after the IRS audited him in 2006, Mr. Geithner paid back taxes only for the two years — 2003 and 2004 — for which he had been audited. He did not bother to amend his 2001 and 2002 returns until late last year, when the tax issue came up during the Obama vetting process.
But [Senator] Baucus, who once called the tax gap “an affront to all the rest of us who pay our taxes,” is not affronted. “This is an honest mistake and it’s clear there was no intention not to pay,” said the Finance Committee Chairman.
For our part, we are delighted that Mr. Baucus and Democrats are suddenly in such a forgiving tax mood. In addition to being a teaching moment for liberals, perhaps Mr. Geithner’s tax snafu can do all of America some good. We’d suggest that Mr. Geithner and Mr. Baucus together set a new standard for the IRS in dealing with people who, like Mr. Geithner, make a boo-boo on their tax returns.
Let’s have an amnesty — with penalties waived, as they were for Mr. Geithner — for all those Americans who somehow “forgot” to pay their taxes but are now willing to fess up or are audited. If forgiveness is to be the order of the day for the man who may soon be responsible for the IRS, American taxpayers deserve a similar reprieve.
A Pew Forum survey of the religious make-up of the new Congress shows that the 535 members generally reflect the country’s religious demographic, though Catholics–24 percent of the population–comprise 30 percent of the House and Senate.
But here’s the kicker: 50 members overall–9 percent–are Jesuit-educated, according to the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, via Michael Paulson at the Globe. Georgetown rules, of course, with 18 grads. Michael also counts Boston College (and finds another alum, for a total of 51 the Society can claim) and Holy Cross, but no word on Fordham et al. Or whether Notre Dame is on the radar…
Really funny. But kinda mean. I think Bono can take it. (HT: The Daily Dish.)
(For those of you who weren’t watching tv in footed pajamas in the early 70′s, Mr. Kinkaid is the manager of the Partridge Family.)
You remember Fr. Rodney Rodis. He’s just been sentenced to thirteen years for embezzling nearly half a million dollars from his parish in Louisa County, Virginia. (Technically, the judge sentenced him to 200 years–the maximum–but suspended 187 of them.) AP story is here.
Authorities said Rodis set up bank accounts and a post office box where he directed parishioners to send contributions. He then transferred the money to his personal account.
Rodis was pastor at the central Virginia parishes of St. Jude and Immaculate Conception from 1993 until May 2006, when he retired because of health problems.
Louisa County prosecutors have estimated that Rodis stole more than $1 million from the two parishes. The 10 embezzlement convictions relate only to the years 2003-2006.
Local TV outlets have some touching quotes from parishioners.
Rosemarie Ayres, another parishioner, said, “I thought it [the sentence] should have been more but I don’t really have a right to question the judge.”
Ayres said, “I just have a feeling that if he’s ever released, he’ll be deported and we’ll never see a dime, and I’ve resigned myself to that fact.”
And, best of the lot:
Parishioner Marilyn Gutekenst said, “He didn’t practice what he preached at all.”
From Bob Woodward at the Wash Post
”The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a “life-threatening condition.”
“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution.
“Crawford, a retired judge who served as general counsel for the Army during the Reagan administration and as Pentagon inspector general when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense, is the first senior Bush administration official responsible for reviewing practices at Guantanamo to publicly state that a detainee was tortured. “
Read the whole story here:
Reflections on the meaning of Crawford’s statement by two people who have followed the issue closely.
The Turning Point: How the Susan Crawford interview changes everything we know about torture. Dahlie Lithwick and Phillipe Sands
“When Vice President Dick Cheney told the Weekly Standard last week, “I think on the left wing of the Democratic Party there are some people who believe that we really tortured,” he probably wasn’t thinking about Susan J. Crawford, convening authority of the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. Crawford, a retired judge who served as general counsel for the Army during the Reagan administration and as Pentagon inspector general, is hardly the kind of hippie moonbat Cheney would like to poke fun at. And that’s why everything changed this morning when the Washington Post published a front-page interview by Bob Woodward, in which Crawford stated without equivocation that the treatment of alleged 20th Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed al-Qahtani at Guantanamo Bay was “torture.”
Read the rest here: http://www.slate.com/id/2208688/
We are all losers in this current economic crisis. On an intellectual level, though, no one has been more damaged by the crisis and the bailout than property rights libertarians. I think this is true across the libertarian spectrum.
There are two broad types of property rights libertarian. First, there are what some have called “moral” libertarians. This category encompasses those who have a moral commitment to respect for a certain conception of individual liberty understood as the so-called “negative” freedom from coercion by third parties, and particularly by the state. It is exemplified by libertarian theorists such as Ayn Rand and Robert Nozick. On this view, the absence of state regulation or redistribution of property is valued for its own sake, and not because of any good consequences it might generate for society. Indeed, on some versions of this view, libertarian principles are to be respected even when they generate results that are catastrophic for society.
In contrast, there are those who subscribe to a consequentialist defense of libertarian policy. Wealth will be maximized, they argue, when the state respects and enforces rights of private ownership and freedom of contract. Think here of Milton Friedman. This is obviously a bit simplistic. Even Friedman was not a pure libertarian, and there are some figures, like Hayek, who seem to straddle both categories. But I think the broad distinction between a consequentialist defense of libertarian limits on state power and the moral defense of libertarian principle remains a valuable one.
Consequentialist libertarians have suffered the hardest blow. Read the rest of this entry »
Those are the words of Fr. Manuel Musallam, a parish priest in Gaza, in an interview with Caritas Internationalis following the destruction of a Caritas health clinic by an Israeli F-16 fighter jet. According to a Caritas release, which also appeals for funds to replenish medical and other supplies, the clinic in the Al Maghazi district of Central Gaza was completely destroyed in the bombing along with a number of buildings. No one was injured as all the families had already fled the area. But the situation remains dire, according to Fr. Musallam:
“There is extreme fear everywhere here. The bombs the Israelis are dropping are literally cutting through people and through homes. Night and day the sound of children crying is everywhere. The people here don’t sleep. They have lost everything.
“70,000 people are living in schools and they are very cold. The ones who haven’t gone to schools are living in their bathrooms or stairwells because they are afraid of being injured by shattering glass from bombs. There is no water here. We are almost out of diesel for our generator that we have allowed people to come and cook from. When the diesel runs out we will have nothing.
“The Israeli aggression has made these people live like animals and our school is the zoo.
“There are dead bodies lying on the streets. The clinics are carrying out operations on the floor. Women have no place to give birth. One pregnant woman was shot on her way to a clinic to give birth. They tried to save the baby but it too was dead.
“Life and death for people in Gaza is the same.”
Meanwhile, the fighting continues, Israel concedes it will likely not defeat Hamas, and Osama bin Laden (Bush is gone and he’s still here–nice job, W.) is calling for a holy war against Israel. And all eyes are turning to the confirmation hearings and Inauguration preparations.
(H/T: Catholic World News)
When do you take down your Christmas decorations? Everyone seems to have their own idea of what’s proper. Some think they’ve done their Christian duty if they hold out till Epiphany (which means you toss the tree the first week in January). The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, this past weekend, seems like the most liturgically defensible end-date; by now your parish has probably returned to normal. But nostalgics, holiday-lovers, and those of us who have a lot of other things to do in January (that’s me!) like to keep everything festive till the Feast of the Presentation, which buys us another three weeks of cheer.
When the tree and Christmas creche went up in St. Peter’s Square, the assumption was that they’d stay there till Candlemas, February 2, in keeping with Vatican tradition. So, yesterday, CNS blogger Carol Glatz was surprised to see them coming down. Is this another reform — however out of character — from Benedict XVI? So it seemed… Until today, when Glatz saw the decorations restored to their full splendor! What can this mean?
Glatz couldn’t quite get a straight answer from her contacts at the Vatican. Electrical problem? Leak in the stable roof? Or was it, as one staffer reportedly claimed, “a miracle”?
The staffer who had told me yesterday Christmas decorations were going to be taken down early this year retracted the comment saying, “It was false.”
But Italian police who patrol the square told one Vatican journalist they had been alerted that trucks would arrive to dismantle the Nativity scene on Monday.
Curiouser and curiouser. Whom should we believe?!
I don’t know what to make of all this, but I do know a potential conspiracy-theory best-seller when I see one. Aspiring Dan Browns can follow this story via the Vatican’s web cam … unless, of course, that’s just what they want you to think! (Hat tip to Catholic Sensibility.)
Sarah Palin, the first candidate for national office with a journalism degree, continues to stoke the easily heated embers of resentment against the news media. In an interview on YouTube, she was asked to compare the way the news media covered her with the treatment Caroline Kennedy has gotten in her bid to enter the Senate [at about 6 minutes into the clip, below]. “As we watch that we will perhaps be able to prove that there was a class issue … that was a factor in scrutiny of my candidacy,” she said.
Of all the charges of bias leveled against the news media (including anti-Catholic bias), I think class bias may be the one most worth taking seriously. Blue-collar workers, poor people living in neighborhoods journalists are gentrifying and political candidates from the wrong side of town are among the many affected by this bias. Since there is no Al Sharpton (or Bill Donohue) to organize the disaffected against this bias, it tends to go unnoticed.
But I don’t think it was a factor in the way Sarah Palin was covered. The initial reaction to her “hockey mom” persona was positive. Her candidacy failed when she couldn’t demonstrate to the public that she was qualified for the vice-presidency. It’s not the news media’s fault.
If vocal, powerful, and authoritative members of a religious group repeatedly and forcefully claim in the public square that one is a bad member of that group (e.g., a bad Catholic or a bad Mormon) if one does not vote a particular way (e.g., in favor of Prop. 8 –or against Obama), can one really blame their political opponents for reacting against the religious group as such if the religious group wins?
If you use identity politics in your arguments in the public square (“Real Mormons [Catholics] will vote for or against X”] , don’t you have to expect that your political opponents will turn them against you?
Rob’s proposal–and I haven’t read the whole thing, because the website tells me that I’m not a subscriber– seems to me something like the “Don’t hit a girl” rule –which I heartily endorse in its original form, but not when extended to politics. When I was growing up, boys were told, “Don’t ever hit a girl –even if she hits you first.” So with apologies to Holmes, the “bad girl” theory of the rule was that girls could hit, and yet not be hit. (I hasten to add that I never took advantage of this theory.)
Is the bottom line here that religious groups can invoke identity politics to make their case, but their opponents cannot invoke such politics to oppose that case?
Daniel Levy reports the following at TPM; And the inestimable Juan Cole does as well.
“U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was left shamefaced after President George W. Bush ordered her to abstain in a key U.N. vote on the
“She was left shamed…a resolution that she prepared and arranged, and in the end she did not vote in favor,” Olmert said in a speech in the southern town of
“In the night between Thursday and Friday, when the secretary of state wanted to lead the vote on a ceasefire at the Security Council, we did not want her to vote in favor,” Olmert said.
“I said ‘get me President Bush on the phone’. They said he was in the middle of giving a speech in
“I told him the
Dog denies being wagged–not very convincingly
Recommended from our parish pulpit yesterday. Aaron David Miller’s advice to Obama:
“If Obama is serious about peacemaking he’ll have to adjust that balance in two ways. First, whatever the transgressions of the Palestinians (and there are many, including terror, violence and incitement), he’ll also have to deal with Israel’s behavior on the ground. The Gaza crisis is a case in point. Israel has every reason to defend itself against Hamas. But does it make sense for America to support its policy of punishing Hamas by making life unbearable for 1.5 million Gazans by denying aid and economic development? The answer is no.
“Then there’s the settlements issue. In 25 years of working on this issue for six secretaries of state, I can’t recall one meeting where we had a serious discussion with an Israeli prime minister about the damage that settlement activity—including land confiscation, bypass roads and housing demolitions—does to the peacemaking process. There is a need to impose some accountability. And this can only come from the president. But Obama should make it clear that America will not lend its auspices to a peacemaking process in which the actions of either side willfully undermine the chances of an agreement America is trying to broker. No process at all would be better than a dishonest one that hurts America’s credibility.”
Miller, a former government official, is the author of the aptly named, “The Too Much Promised Land. Op-ed piece here:
Don’t write to me, write to your congressperson!
More good news!
“Israel bans Arab parties from running in upcoming elections”
Only now he’s Joe the Journalist. (Well, he wasn’t really a plumber, either.) As Sarah Pulliam reports, Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, a.k.a. “Joe the Plumber” of campaign fame, told a local Ohio TV station that he plans to report from the Middle East for www.pjtv.com, a conservative Web site, for 10 days. Money quotes:
“Being a Christian I’m pretty well protected by God I believe,” Wurzelbacher said. “That’s not saying he’s going to stop a mortar for me, but you gotta take the chance…I get to go over there and let their ‘Average Joes’ share their story, what they think, how they feel, especially with world opinion, maybe get a real story out there,” Wurzelbacher said.
Well, that should give us a clear picture of the situation.
NB: As Stuart the Journalist notes below, pjtv.com is not ”Christian,” just “conservative.”
As I said in a post yesterday on Cathy Kaveny’s thread about the meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics, Rev. Jeremiah Wright delivered a plenary address to the Society in which he referred to Israeli action in Gaza as ethnic cleansing. Today in the business meeting of the Society, Ron Green, a former president of both the Society of Christian Ethics and the Society of Jewish Ethics, read the following statement responding to that claim.
There was no discussion of Green’s response, which is too bad because his called for respectful and reasoned debate is exactly right. Here, then, is his statement.
“I stand before you as a member of the Society who is of Jewish background to report the distress and concern experienced by a number of Jewish members of the Society and the Society of Jewish Ethics following the use of the phrase “ethnic cleansing” by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright in his plenary address yesterday. Reverend Wright used this phrase to characterize the current incursion by Israel into Gaza.
The formal United Nations definition of ethnic cleansing describes it as “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove from a given area persons of another ethnicity or religion.” There is widespread agreement that on a spectrum of practices ranging from forced emigration to genocide, the use of “ethnic cleansing” has become almost synonymous with genocide.
There are sharp ethical disagreements about Israel’s conduct in Gaza. These disagreements occur among Jewish members of our two societies. But there is a solid consensus among us, too, that it is misleading and morally offensive to characterize this conduct as ethnic cleansing, and to do so as a throwaway remark in a context that does not permit audience response. Such charged use of language might be appropriate in a political demonstration, but it has no place in the life of a scholarly society dedicated to respectful and reasoned debate.
We ask that our expression of distress and concern be recorded in the minutes of this meeting, and that these minutes, with this expression, be brought to the attention of Reverend Wright.
Ronald M. Green”
Stanley Fish, the New York Times’ online “Think Again” columnist, is always good for sparking debate, and today’s column is no different: An argument for seating Illinois’ disputed senatorial appointee, Roland Burris, based on St. Augustine’s response to the Donatist controversy:
This debate was about the status of churchmen who had cooperated with the emperor Diocletian during the period when he was actively persecuting Christians. The Donatists argued that those who had betrayed their faith under pressure and then returned to the fold when the persecutions were over had lost the authority to perform their priestly offices, including the offices of administering the sacraments and making ecclesiastical appointments. In their view, priestly authority was a function of personal virtue, and when a new bishop was consecrated by someone they considered tainted, they rejected him and consecrated another.
In opposition, St. Augustine (rejecting the position that the church should be made up only of saints) contended that priestly authority derived from the institution of the Church and ultimately from its head, Jesus Christ. Whatever infirmities a man may have (and as fallen creatures, Augustine observes, we all have them) are submerged in the office he holds. It is the office that speaks, appoints and consecrates. Its legitimacy does not vary with personal qualities of the imperfect human being who is the temporary custodian of a power that at once exceeds and transforms him.
Fish argues that this reasoning (and he cites other examples) means the Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who has been indicted for trying to sell the senate seat he appointed Burris to (apparently gratis), should be able to make the appointment and Burris should be seated. (Whether Burris’ standing measures up is another question.) He concludes:
The (perhaps paradoxical) truth is that while governing has or should have a moral purpose — to safeguard and advance the health and prosperity of the polity — it is not a moral practice. That is, one engages in it not by applying moral principles but by applying legal principles. Senator Reid and his colleagues in the Democratic party seem finally to have figured that out, which is why, in the absence of any more bombshell revelations, Roland Burris will be seated as the junior senator from Illinois.
Over at the CT blog, where I saw this, Stan Guthrie argues that Saint Paul would likely agree with Fish.
In any case, could be a good one for debate at the Chicago meeting of Christians ethicists that Cathleen Kaveny is attending this weekend.
UPDATE: Blago has been impeached. Now goes to State Senate for trial. Don’t know how long that would take, or whether it would affect Burris, or Fish’s (Augustine’s?) argument.
This brief reflection from First Things editor Joseph Bottum was just posted to the On the Square blog:
Fr. Richard John Neuhaus slipped away today, January 8, shortly before 10 o’clock, at the age of seventy-two. He never recovered from the weakness that sent him to the hospital the day after Christmas, caused by a series of side effects from the cancer he was suffering. He lost consciousness Tuesday evening after a collapse in his heart rate, and the next day, in the company of friends, he died.
My tears are not for him—for he knew, all his life, that his Redeemer lives, and he has now been gathered by the Lord in whom he trusted.
I weep, rather for all the rest of us. As a priest, as a writer, as a public leader in so many struggles, and as a friend, no one can take his place. The fabric of life has been torn by his death, and it will not be repaired, for those of us who knew him, until that time when everything is mended and all our tears are wiped away.
Funeral arrangements are still being planned; information about the funeral will be made public shortly. Please accept our thanks for all your prayers and good wishes.
In Deepest Sorrow,
is being held this weekend at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago. It’s the major professional society for Christian ethicists, and meets concurrently with the Society of Jewish Ethics. While it was originally founded by Protestant seminary professors, it has become far more ecumenical over the years, beginning after the Second Vatican Council.
My undergraduate teacher, Paul Ramsey, used to talk about seeking out the Catholic moralists in the early 1970′s (Dick McCormick and Charlie Curran) because he could get a good scotch –and vigorous, good-natured, moral argument – in their company. And around that time, if you look through the literature, you can see intellectual engagement across different traditions in Christianity. McCormick started citing Ramsey in the Notes on Moral Theology in Theological Studies, and Ramsey found the Catholic casuistical tradition a helpful way to broaden his conversation with Protestants like Joseph Fletcher about the role of moral norms in Christian ethics.
This year, Jeremiah Wright is the opening plenary speaker.
This document covers several interesting topics, which I hope to get to in the days ahead. But the one that calls for rebuttal right away is the section on “[n]ew forms of interception and contragestation.” It says:
Alongside methods of preventing pregnancy which are, properly speaking, contraceptive, that is, which prevent conception following from a sexual act, there are other technical means which act after fertilization, when the embryo is already constituted, either before or after implantation in the uterine wall. Such methods are interceptive if they interfere with the embryo before implantation and contragestative if they cause the elimination of the embryo once implanted.
This is an astute and useful set of distinctions. Unfortunately, the CDF immediately proceeds to violate them.
“I don’t golf. As a matter of fact it leads many people to wonder if I’m really validly ordained.”
– Detroit’s Archbishop-elect Allen Vigneron, in an interview upon being introduced as the successor to Cardinal Adam Maida, who is widely remembered for making a hole-in-one at a 2001 charity tournament.
[Via Rocco, who has blanket coverage of the first of what are likely to be several major episcopal chess moves this year.]
PS: Yes, I know it should be “Quotation of the Day.” But, like, whatever. I’ve graded too many papers.
One sign of shifting opinion on Israel’s military policy is the increase in U.S. media presentation of critical or questioning news, features, and opinions about the invasion.
The NYTimes blog: The Lede has a short interesting piece on the different representations in English and Hebrew on the IDF’s web-site (Israel Defense Force–the army).
And Daniel Levy who has sane and useful things to say about Israeli policy has posted an interesting set of reflections on how this should/could/might end. (Highly recommended!****)
When VP-elect Joe Biden predicted Obama would have a foreign-policy test early in his tenure, Biden was mocked. Well??!!! Someone in our household (not me) predicted it would happen and it would be the Israel-Palestinian frage. Prescient!
And this from Ethan Bonner (NYTimes) on media coverage and lack thereof:
“And so for an 11th day of Israel’s war in Gaza, the several hundred journalists here to cover it wait in clusters away from direct contact with any fighting or Palestinian suffering but with full access to Israeli political and military commentators eager to show them around southern Israel where Hamas rockets have been terrorizing civilians. A slew of private groups funded mostly by Americans are helping guide the press around Israel.
“Like all wars, this one is partly about public relations. But unlike any war in Israel’s history, in this one, the government is seeking to control entirely the message and narrative for reasons both of politics and military strategy.”
Here’s the Rasmussen poll cited earlier suggesting the ins and outs of divided U.S. opinion on Gaza: ”Americans Closely Divided Over Israel’s Gaza Attacks”
And Jon Stuart goes HYPER-CHUTZPAH!
This from Gideon Levy at Ha’aretz on some of the arguments (moral and not so moral) going on among Israelis. (ht: MJ Rosenberg at TPM)
The Trib reports:
As legislators weigh impeaching Gov. Rod Blagojevich and federal prosecutors prepare to indict him on corruption charges, his acting chief of staff and a deputy governor will be keynote speakers Wednesday at an “Ethics in the Workplace” seminar for some 200 state employees.
The New York Times has a story by Abby Goodnough about Catholics resisting the closing of parishes in the Boston Archdiocese by refusing to leave. At St. Frances Xavier Cabrini church in Scituate, Massachusetts, a group of parishioners have been occupying the church in shifts since 2004. What impresses me most is the way these people have formed a cooperative community around this effort, and how much of themselves they’re willing to devote to the cause.
Many of the St. Frances holdouts describe being transformed from passive Catholics to passionate, deeply involved members of a spiritual community that they say could be a model for the future of the troubled Catholic Church.
…Since St. Frances has no priest, parishioners lead services that include everything but consecration of the host. On the Sunday before Christmas, about 50 parishioners attended a service conducted entirely by women, including two who distributed communion. The hosts had been consecrated elsewhere by a priest described… as “sympathetic.”
They may lose the fight for the building. But I hope they’ll keep what they’ve gained along the way.
Speaking of Jesus…I just got round last night to The Tablet’s fat Christmas issue, which had many fine offerings, as usual, but an especially good review by Eamon Duffy of Timothy Radcliffe’s book on the Eucharist, “Why Go to Church?” I am a fan of Radcliffe’s writing, and had heard good things about the book (as well as the fact that it was written at the invitation of Rowan Williams). But Duffy’s closer sealed the deal for me:
This is a serious but never a solemn book: not the least of its joys is the gallery of Dominican eccentrics who punctuate its pages. They include the learned but famously irritable Père Regemay, whom Radcliffe overheard in a Paris common room shouting angrily at one of his brethren, “Since I began to practise yoga I am CALM, I am CALM”. Best of all is the ancient Oxford lay brother who, when Radcliffe offered him Communion with the usual words, “The Body of Christ”, replied, simply, witheringly and with the accumulated wisdom of a long life lived eucharistically: “I know”.
Not surprisingly, priests always seem to have unfortunate stories about odd responses to offering the Body of Christ. They usually run along the lines of “Gee, thanks,” though I’m sure our clerical and/or eucharistic ministering community here has others. But as far as unorthodox goes, “I know” is a new favorite. And not so unorthodox.
According to a Jesuit spokesman in Rome, via this CNS story, the action against Fr. Roger Haight reported below is “a suspension” rather than a final punishment. The process is ongoing, as a committee of three (unnamed) U.S. Jesuit theologians study Haight’s work, with Haight’s cooperation, the article says:
“He can continue to teach, but not systematic theology connected with Christology,” said Father Giuseppe Bellucci, spokesman for the Jesuits.
“The prohibition against teaching is not a condemnation and is not definitive; a committee of Jesuits, in fact, is studying the position of Father Roger, who is willing to collaborate to clarify his positions,” Father Bellucci told Catholic News Service Jan. 5.
In 2005 the doctrinal congregation published a notification that Father Haight could no longer teach as a Catholic theologian because of “serious doctrinal errors” in his 1999 book, “Jesus Symbol of God.”
While discussions with his Jesuit superiors and between the Jesuits and the doctrinal congregation continued, Father Haight has been teaching at Union Theological Seminary, a nondenominational graduate school in New York.
Several news agencies reported in December that last summer the doctrinal congregation barred Father Haight from theological writing and from teaching anywhere, but Father Bellucci said the reports were inaccurate.
The spokesman described the Vatican action as “a suspension” and added, “Father Haight is an excellent Jesuit and neither he nor anyone else is involved in a fight. The desire is simply to clarify his position.”
I’m not sure what the status of Haight’s teaching faculties is. My understanding is that he still must leave Union, even though I believe the bulk of his teaching was not related to systematic theology.
Or just pro-Palestinian? Or anti-Israel? Or are they distinctions without a difference?
As the violence continues in Gaza the prospects for a papal visit to the Holy Land, anticipated for May, grow more remote. In his weekly analysis, Vaticanista Sandro Magister lays out the case for what he says is Vatican foreign policy that continues to slant heavuly toward the Palestinians, and Hamas. The only change under Benedict XVI, he writes, is in a slightly less combative tone toward Israel. The substance remains the same:
The authorities of the Church, and Benedict XVI himself, have raised their voices in condemnation of “the massive violence that has broken out in the Gaza Strip in response to other violence” only after Israel began bombing the installations of the terrorist movement Hamas in that territory. Not before. Not when Hamas was tightening its brutal grip on Gaza, massacring the Muslims faithful to president Abu Mazen, humiliating the tiny Christian communities, and launching dozens of rockets every day against the Israelis in the surrounding area.
About Hamas and its vaunted “mission” of wiping the Jewish state from the face of the earth, about Hamas as an outpost for Iran’s expansionist aims in the Middle East, about Hamas as an ally of Hezbollah and Syria, the Vatican authorities have never raised the red alert. They have never shown that they see Hamas as a deadly danger to Israel and an obstacle to the birth of a Palestinian state, in addition to its being a nightmare for the Arab regimes in the area, from Egypt to Jordan to Saudi Arabia.
In the December 29-30 issue of “L’Osservatore Romano,” a front-page commentary by Luca M. Possati, checked word by word by the Vatican secretariat of state, claimed that “for the Jewish state, the only possible idea of security must come through dialogue with all, even those who do not recognize it.” Read: Hamas.
And in the same issue of the Vatican newspaper – in a statement also approved by the secretariat of state – the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, after decrying Israel’s “disproportionate” military reaction, reiterated the same concept: “We must have the humility to sit at the same table and listen to each other.” Not a word about Hamas and its prejudicial refusal to accept the very existence of Israel.
Magister’s analysis is clearly critical of the Vatican, to the extent that I think he skews the record somewhat. He does not highlight Israeli policies that have hurt Arab Christians, nor the absurdly difficult negotiations between Israel and the Holy See over the religious protections and tax policies and such for church properties and communities in the Holy Land. Still, Magister gets the larger picture right. Some would say the Vatican is tilting toward the Palestinians, others would say it is striking a balance. But this is a longstanding Vatican policy, since at least Paul VI. The growth of interfaith dialogue with Judaism–and Islam–complicates the political calculus. Does it change it?
Both in the transcript of its reporters’ interview with Caroline Kennedy and in the front-page story that described it on December 28th, the NY Times reproduced the verbal tic she used many times: the familiar “You know” that many people use in place of a comma in their speech. In today’s “Week in Review” section, Peter Baker’s piece makes fun of her when he writes: “Caroline Kennedy, you know, may get there on the strength, you know, of her last name.”
I don’t recall the Times including such speech-mannerisms in its reporting before, except perhaps on the sports pages. Has their policy changed? Why would they do it in the case of Ms. Kennedy?
Any thoughts on where this is going. What is the end game here?
Glenn Greenwald asks some pertinent questions:
Though the ins-and-outs of Israeli grievances and strategic considerations are endlessly examined, there is virtually no debate over whether the U.S. should continue to play such an active, one-sided role in this dispute. It’s the American taxpayer, with their incredibly consequential yet never-debated multi-billion-dollar aid packages to Israel, who are vital in funding this costly Israeli assault on Gaza. Just as was true for Israel’s bombing of Lebanon, it’s American bombs that — with the whole world watching — are blowing up children and mosques, along with Hamas militants, in Gaza. And it’s the American veto power that, time and again, blocks any U.N. action to stop these wars.
Here’s his whole post: http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/
This from Steve Clemons at TPM
…My friend in Israel asked me for some help on shaping questions that he might pose to various Israel pols. I shared with him some of my thoughts on what he could ask. . .particularly the question of how Israel views long term US support.
I told him that in my view America’s increasingly consequential failures to generate stability in the Middle East is like an eroding levee in New Orleans — and those levees at some point are going to fail leaving Israel quite vulnerable unless Israel and other stakeholding neighbors achieve a different equilibrium in the region. . .and soon. There is great doubt around the world in the ability of America to pursue and achieve its objectives — and this doubt has consequences for Israel’s national security calculus, whether it is acknowledging it or not….
And from my Arabic blogging friend, I received this note — and I should add that this guy is about as positive about “modernity” as one can find in Middle East blogging circles: “Happy new year Steve .. Though GAZA is making this new year very sad for us here .. but i’ll try to smile whenever I can .. I might stop blogging until the war finishes .. it is really hard watching death day and night so close by ..any way .. how are the 1st world countries doing ?”
I agree with Zbigniew Brzezinski that the worsening tragedy in Gaza is part of the blur we have been seeing for some time. I put a lot of the blame on Labor Party Leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak who has been itching to manage a war.
But as Brzezinski said, the Israelis and Palestinians have proven unable to rise to a level of strategic, forward-looking maturity to solve this problem and others now need to stabilize the situation, engage in a credible peace negotiation process that involves the other major Arab stakeholders, the US and Europe.
J Street is the newest American-Jewish lobby; it has questioned Israel’s current military actions, and has been attacked. Here is a response–and a clue to their thinking.
Juan Cole’s post today (January 4) has some helpful observations about Israel’s macro and micro wars: http://www.juancole.com/2009/01/gaza-2008-micro-wars-and-macro-wars.html
Jesuit theologian Roger Haight, whose writings on Christology, especially in his 1999 book “Jesus: Symbol of God,” led the Vatican to bar him from teaching in Catholic institutions, has received a further punishment: The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has barred Haight from writing on theology (he may continue a work in progress on Ignatian spirituality) and he is forbidden to teach anywhere, even non-Catholic institutions. That means that at the end of the coming semester Haight, who resides at America House in New York, will stop teaching at Union Theological Seminary in Upper Manhattan.
The CDF began investigating Haight, 72, in 2000, which led the Vatican’s education office to bar him from teaching at Jesuit-run Weston in Cambridge, MA. Haight began teaching at Union, a leading Protestant seminary, as an adjunct professor of theology in September 2004. A final negative verdict on Haight’s work from the CDF, reported by NCR’s John Allen in February 2005, meant the teaching ban at Catholic schools would not be lifted and Haight remained at Union.
The latest sanction takes the discipline against Haight to a new level. The news seems to have emerged first in a German Catholic news service report a few weeks ago; I saw it in a French agency report here, and the details were later confirmed for me by other church sources. Haight himself would not comment. One can only imagine what this action means to Father Haight personally, and I think even critics of the Jesuits or Haight’s work would have to give him (as well as other Jesuits, like Tom Reese) credit for the kind of obedience and graciousness that is too often overlooked in criticisms of the order.
Haight’s work has been critiqued and criticized, including in these pages by fellow theologians like John Cavadini and Luke Timothy Johnson. In a piece two years ago, Paul Lakeland defended Haight’s work. Clearly there is a legitimate range of opinion on Haight’s work, including tough questions from those who would be sympathetic to him and his larger project.
But the latest Vatican action does not address the substance of Haight’s work or provide any explanation as to what spurred the CDF to take such a drastic action now. “It appears to be purely punitive,” one Jesuit source told me. The notification was apparently issued last spring, but Haight only found out about it last summer. As usual, he has never heard directly from Rome, only through his superiors. He was not told why this action was taken, and his responses to the list of CDF criticisms during the earlier investigation have never been answered by Rome.
Some will see this as the institutional church being the institutional church, either doing what it needs to do to defend orthodoxy (or what it considers orthodoxy), or yes, doing it ham-handedly but, as Rome has always done. So don’t exaggerate, the reasoning goes: “Nothing to see here, just move along.” I also think there is a great—and unfortunate, in my mind—degree of habituation to this kind of Vatican action, which has become the norm over the past 30 years under John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict. There is in some corners a kind of “Stockholm syndrome” as well, as those who work within the church fold can come to identify with their overseers. Above all, I think this extends the “big chill” not only on Catholic theology but on all kinds of discussion and debate within the church. Conservatives often see themselves as a victimized minority, but in ways large and small, I see church officials and institutions shying away from hiring or inviting to speak anyone who might run afoul of Vatican sensibilities. Religious orders and the Catholic theological community itself seem to be finding ways to accommodate this dynamic, understandably, I guess.
But I think a few points regarding the latest penalty against Roger Haight are important to make:
One is the continuing lack of any due process or the merest nod at some kind of transparency in CDF procedures. “Draconian” is an overheated word. Would “extraordinary rendition” be a more apt and contemporary analogy? No hearings, no explanations, just harsh penalties communicated by indirect means. Wasn’t this was supposed to change?
Two, the ban on teaching even at a non-Catholic school seems particularly broad. Is that unusual? I know the Vatican often punishes Jesuits because they can—because the Jesuits have a particular relationship to the pope (which has been harshly reiterated in recent decades) that enables the pontiff to enforce orders that might be ignored eslewhere. But Charles Curran (a diocesan priest) and others teach at places like SMU without sanction. Moreover, as Union is a Protestant institution (though with a number of Catholic students), who is the Vatican protecting from Haight?
Three, while many will just dismiss this as “business as usual,” actions like these reinforce—and it is not an unfair impression—the view that the Catholic Church is unjust, that it is not a place where one can step out of line (or even know where the line is) without receiving a blind-side smack that comes off as mean-spirited. Does every injustice, like that against Galileo, have to wait five centuries to be rectified? That won’t wash with today’s Christians. Moreover, this kind of action seems to undercut Benedict’s focus on love and charity and the beauty of the Catholic faith. Catholics and non-Catholics will measure Benedict’s words against his actions, and many will see a disparity that can only hurt his credibility (and that of the wider church) in trying to point out the failings of the world beyond the Vatican precincts.