After two weeks of teaching a bioethics course in Pune in the second half of June, I began July in Bangalore where I taught a very intensive two week course for 26 licentiate and doctoral students meeting 4 hours a day.
The course was “Biblical Ethics” and it was to be team taught by Lúcás Chan and me. Though I team taught courses frequently with Dan Harrington and with Roger Haight, this would be my first time team teaching with a former doctoral student. We agreed to meet in Bangalore on July 1 a little more than two weeks before Chan would be chairing the first ever Pan Asian conference of Catholic Theological Ethicists. We had each written two books in this fairly new field that Chan pioneered. Unfortunately, as many of you know, Chan died of a heart attack on May 19th.
In this light, I decided I should only teach his work. I thought, if I taught both his and mine, more students would naturally ask me about mine. Besides they probably would have been more deferential to my work, though Chan’s you will see is the more significant.
The decision was a good one.
Unlike anyone before him, Chan established normative criteria for doing biblical ethics. In Doing Biblical Ethics in the 21st Century: Developments, Emerging Consensus, and Future Directions, he insisted that writing biblical ethics required exegetical competency as well as a competency in ethics, particularly in proposing a method for applying the exegetical insights to ordinary moral life. Additionally Chan argued that virtue ethics was a most worthy method for making that application.
Chan learned this from assisting the biblical exegete Dan Harrington and me in our team teaching. He also saw that others, like biblical theologian John Donahue and ethicist William Spohn had also worked together to highlight the needed double competency. While Catholics had more modestly divided the competency into a team approach, Protestants Allen Verhey and Richard Burridge had each managed to write with both competencies. When Chan then wrote on The Ten Commandments and the Eight Beatitudes: Biblical Studies and Ethics for Real Life, he became the first Catholic to actually achieve the integration in his writings by honing the double competency. Not surprisingly, Margaret Farley called the work “a major step forward,” Dan Harrington called it “a milestone,” and Alain Thomasset in Paris called it a “tour-de-force,” a “classique”
This double competency might seem self-evident to the reader, but Chan shows us in Doing Biblical Ethics how major biblicists like Frank Matera and Richard Hayes, and major moralists like Bernhard Häring might have attempted a biblical ethics, but ignored the very competency they were lacking.
Moreover, exegesis, the science that aims to understand the meaning of the biblical texts when and as they were written, is a relatively new science, going back to the end of the nineteenth century. Still, Chan found many ethicists who in trying to develop writings on biblical ethics were very pastoral, but by their lack of exegesis, they were not very biblical. Likewise, biblicists pretending to be ethicists never appropriated an adequate method for making their ethical application.
I taught his six major essays and two books. The last essay that he wrote was on immigration today and the hospitality of Boaz, the post-exilic figure who welcomes Ruth and Naomi. Chan saw in an anxious Israel and the decisive presence of Boaz, a relevant hero from whom many lessons could be drawn for today’s unsettling, immigrant world. In fact most of the students did their papers on Boaz, such was the relevance of the lessons that Chan drew.
But what we most studied were his ten commandments and the eight beatitudes in which he treated each of the eighteen teachings with an examination of exegetical claims and then an application through virtue ethics. As he explains in his introduction, these are the two pillars of Christian morality or, echoing Raymond Brown he writes, “the Decalogue expresses God’s will while the Beatitudes reveals the values Jesus prioritized.”
The ten chapters on the Decalogue were eye-openers, but even more revelatory were his treatment of the beatitudes. I need to confess that I could never “got” the beatitudes; each seemed so arbitrary that I never saw them as integrated, composite, or complete. Chan began, however, his treatment echoing Augustine’s claim that the beatitudes are the “complete, perfect teaching of Christian morality.”
Along with the exegetes, Chan chooses Matthew’s Beatitudes because of its coherence. Moreover, the radical nature of its summons is for all Christians and even if perfection is not achievable, it is still a way that we should strive to follow: it instructs us on which anthropological values Christ wants us to develop. Here, he finds John Climacus’ “ladder” approach to growing in virtue helpful.
For the first beatitude, “the poor in spirit,” Chan with other exegetes like Hans Dieter Betz insists that these poor are not only spiritually so; their condition is such that being without everything, being in a word beggars, they are in special need of God’s help. Chan, who grew up in poverty, writes that “the poor in spirit who often suffer from economic poverty are those who acquire the internal attitude of humility.”
Here then Chan shifts and argues that the condition “poor in spirit” brings on an attitude, “poor in spirit.” The attitude is the equivalent of the virtue of humility. Chan points out that this humility is a spiritually emptying out; he writes, “humility means accepting the complete poverty of our human condition.”
For each of the beatitudes, Chan begins the section on ethics, by first naming a virtue that expresses the particularity of the beatitude. He then offers how the virtue functions, what practices express it, who exemplify it, and what is the social context that most needs the virtue.
For the first beatitude, Chan underlines how from Climacus, Chrysostom, Ambrose and Augustine to Gerald Vann and Johannes Metz, all found humility as the foundation of any Christian anthropology. The practices of humility begin with the acknowledgement of God as the ultimate source and meaning of our lives, which leads us to renounce anything that separates us from God, that in turn requires an ability to be both detached as well as free to share what we have, and which depends on ascetical practices of self-denial. Exemplars begin with Jesus who tells us (Matt 11.29) “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.”
Chan begins each chapter with, “What did the text proclaim?” For the second beatitude, Chan notes how Matthew notes that his mourners will be comforted, while Luke’s will laugh. At the start, Chan wants to know who is mourning about what. Again he turns to Betz who suggests that grieving in the second beatitude is directed to the poor in the first.
Chan is aware of the banality of many ethicists and preachers who insist that the beatitude is a summons to mourn, for if one denies one’s own grief one will never know the comfort and happiness that follows, in other words a cheap summons to grief counseling. But Chan notes, “no one is being told to mourn!” “The object of mourning is not so much one’s own suffering… mourning points to an other-oriented moral value.” Then emphatically he writes, “Such is the lot of the disciples of Christ---when our brothers and sisters suffer, we cannot help but mourn. This is very different from other interpretations of the beatitude, such as the ‘call to console’ proposed by Häring. The beatitude is not about that; it is about a certain disposition that genuine disciples have with one another, such that if one suffers, the other mourns as well.”
Solidarity is the virtue of the second beatitude. The practice related to solidarity is not comfort, but rather mourning itself. “In mourning the self tries to identify with the other. Mourning is then the ready subordination of one’s own comfort and well being to the suffering of another.”
Climbing the latter further, Chan takes us to the third beatitude, the meek who will inherit the earth. Here Chan surveys the exegetes and uncovers, as in the first beatitude, the difference between condition and attitude: “while the term ‘meek’ as a condition tends to refer to the poor, the powerless, and those who mourn, as a moral attitude it considers also the rich and powerful.”
When he turns to the virtue of meekness, he turns to the question of arrogance in the powerful and argues that “the virtue of meekness helps our desire to dominate into a vital force to serve.” He adds, “we need to emphasize it as a virtue for the poor and the powerful.” Here he turns to Monika Hellwig’s astute observation that the powerful “need to unlearn those patterns of behavior that control and dominate others and that ‘defend’ their possessions and prestige at the cost of others.” In a fairly remarkable application to social context, Chan explores how meekness would look alive in the corporate world.
We could follow through on the remaining five beatitudes, but what is so refreshing in each of these instances, (most beatitudes are treated by Chan exegetically and ethically in 5-6 pages) are the ways Chan engages the double competency. In the fourth beatitude, for instance, knowing the biblical investigations he appreciates that “God’s righteousness as revealed in Scripture is very different from our contemporary understanding of justice.” To get us to a right understanding of what we are to strive for, Chan, who taught on three continents (Asia, Europe and North America), tries to coax us from our assumptions and tries to lead us to understanding what exactly the text might mean and why that makes a difference for how we should live as Christians. Once we understand why we should strive for the righteousness of God, Chan leads us to understand fortitude as the virtue of the fourth beatitiude.
I have learned many lessons this summer about friendship, about life and death, and even about the struggles and hopes in Asia, particularly in India, but here I learned, for a brief moment, to give up teaching my own agenda and to engage the agenda of a younger person, a man I knew and loved. In accepting his agenda and making it my own, I found that I learned a lot about the commandments and the beatitudes, especially the beatitudes.
In a way by mourning for his loss, I learned something about solidarity and meekness and fortitude, but especially humility. In his writings, I studied these two moral pillars of the Christian tradition that gave me a way to find my own way home. After 50 days of moving literally around the world in grief, to funerals, classes, and yes, even international conferences, my Asian pilgrimage comes to a somewhat strangely satisfying end, because I learned to let go from one who surprisingly went before me.
Last April 24, I noted here a letter from Laurence D. Fink to the chief executives of Fortune 500 firms. Fink, Chairman of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager (approximately $5 trillion), expressed alarm at how “short-termism” was skewing the economy. A low capital gains tax (20 percent) on any stock held more than a year provided an incentive for shareholders, investors, and executives to value quick returns rather than long-term growth in productivity, work force skills, and innovation.
Fink had a remedy. He proposed taxing gains on investments held less than three years as ordinary income (around 40 percent) and investments held for less than six months at an even higher rate. The rates on capital gains would then tail off, even dropping to zero after ten years of ownership.
Now Hillary Clinton has taken up the idea, proposing a different schedule of rates—ordinary income rates for the first two years, then declining not to zero but the present rate over six years—but using the same principle. “Since when was one year considered a long-term investment?” Mr. Fink wrote last spring. Hillary improved on that line by pointing out that one year “may count as ‘long-term’ for my baby granddaughter, but not for the American economy.”
This sort of proposal, as I wrote here in April, does not address a lot of questions about the capital gains tax, either its fairness or its effectiveness. I simply quoted William A. Galston and Elaine Kamarck, who wrote on a Brookings Institution blog that “Fink has opened up a crucial debate, and it’s time for Congress and presidential aspirants to join it.”
Right-wing denunciations were immediate.Read more
In the New York Times Magazine, Eliza Griswold on the plight of Christians in the Middle East:
For more than a decade, extremists have targeted Christians and other minorities, who often serve as stand-ins for the West. This was especially true in Iraq after the U.S. invasion, which caused hundreds of thousands to flee. ‘‘Since 2003, we’ve lost priests, bishops and more than 60 churches were bombed,’’ Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Erbil, said. With the fall of Saddam Hussein, Christians began to leave Iraq in large numbers, and the population shrank to less than 500,000 today from as many as 1.5 million in 2003.
The Arab Spring only made things worse. As dictators like Mubarak in Egypt and Qaddafi in Libya were toppled, their longstanding protection of minorities also ended. Now, ISIS is looking to eradicate Christians and other minorities altogether. The group twists the early history of Christians in the region — their subjugation by the sword — to legitimize its millenarian enterprise. Recently, ISIS posted videos delineating the second-class status of Christians in the caliphate. Those unwilling to pay the jizya tax or to convert would be destroyed, the narrator warned, as the videos culminated in the now-infamous scenes of Egyptian and Ethiopian Christians in Libya being marched onto the beach and beheaded, their blood running into the surf.
"Yes, Racism is Rooted in Economic Inequality," says the Jacobin's Seth Ackerman:
[I]f racial inequality isn’t merely a symptom of economic inequality, what is it a symptom of?
I already feel like I can hear the answer: it’s a symptom of hundreds of years of slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow, and urban apartheid.
Yes. But what were slavery, colonialism, Jim Crow, and urban apartheid if not extreme forms of economic inequality?[...]
And what exactly do you think all those African slaves were doing in the American South?
To quote Barbara Fields:
"Probably a majority of American historians think of slavery in the United States as primarily a system of race relations — as though the chief business of slavery were the production of white supremacy rather than the production of cotton, sugar, rice and tobacco. One historian has gone so far as to call slavery ‘the ultimate segregator’. He does not ask why Europeans seeking the ‘ultimate’ method of segregating Africans would go to the trouble and expense of transporting them across the ocean for that purpose, when they could have achieved the same end so much more simply by leaving the Africans in Africa."
The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik on Max Beerbohm, whom George Bernard Shaw called "The Icomparable Max":
Beerbohm’s best writing is a form of criticism of other people’s; his gift for the observation of manners is small next to his gift for the understanding of how writing engraves itself on our brains. “Note that I am not incomparable,” he said once to , protesting the “incomparable” label. “Compare me.” If we do, we find that, among the great English essayists, he is the one whose genius depends least on the apprehension of immediate experience and most on what happens when we read. Everything good he writes is about how books, after building us up for life, let us down once we’re in it.
What will the Iranians do with all of that money when sanctions are lifted. Some opponents of the nuclear agreement have argued that they will buy conventional weapons and carry on with their terrorism, etc.
Questions: How much money are we talking about? Whose money is it? This helpful rundown from Al-Monitor may not be definitive, but it lays out some of the amounts, the owners, and the entanglements that come with international finance. The phrase, "usable funds" figures in the analysis, "Will Iran Get Its Billions Back."
Can I say a few words in defense of Germans? The Euro crisis that’s been building for years now, with Greece as its molten core, is hard to comprehend. I mean, I get the general idea. Two dozen nations (give or take) are united by one currency but lack a governing entity that can set fiscal policies. It’s like trying to run an orchestra without a conductor. But is it in fact true, as Paul Krugman has been repeating for years, that Brussels and its technocrats are “trying to run Europe on the basis of fantasy economics”? For an untrained person, the fine points (or any points) of macroeconomics and international finance can get pretty murky.
What has been clear is the role increasingly assigned to Germany, at least here in the United States: villain. A recent article from the New York Times, ominously titled “Germany’s Destructive Anger,” faults the Germans not merely for being selfishly shortsighted in their economic policies, but for being rigid, vindictive, self-righteous and dyspeptic. The article is by an economist, and that’s significant. Most “average” Americans may only vaguely know that a Euro crisis is happening (“you mean, the soccer thing?”), but if you sketch for them the outlines of the current situation, most will say that the Greeks need to clean up their act and pay their debts. Why should the Germans be blamed? But the opposite opinion prevails among economists, almost all of whom see Germany at fault. The main points:
1) Austerity in Europe has been a mistaken policy. When financial crisis hit here in 2008, our government responded with bailouts, government spending, and cheap money to inflate the economy. Europe should do the same.
2) Germany fails to grasp its own self-interest. If lesser countries are allowed to leave the Euro zone—or forced out—it will over time almost certainly damage Germany’s powerful export machine. But Germans are choosing to punish Greece, rather than taking a coolly systemic view of the situation.
3) Germans are conveniently forgetting the role debt and debt forgiveness played at critical moments in their own history: after World War I, when massive debt destabilized governments and led to fascism; and after World War II, when the victorious allies chose the Marshall Plan (another proposal, the Morgenthau Plan, which sought to keep Germany perpetually under-developed, was rejected), forgave war debts, and laid the foundation for the postwar “economic miracle” in West Germany.
Increasingly, though, the critique rests on the idea that Germans are mean and vindictive.Read more
(Continuation): A California Superior Court judge has issued a temporary restraining order barring further releases of videos surreptiously made by David Daleiden and the guerrilla film maker, Center for Medical Progress. This ABCnews story seems to imply that the company StemExpress is featured in those videos. (StemExpress was featured in the science section of the NYTimes story previously posted).
The legal grounds for the judge's action are unclear; a hearing is scheduled for August 19. Any legal beagles here able to clarify the grounds for the restraining order? [UPDATE: The Washington Post offers this legal analysis, which may turn on a California law requiring both parties to agree to a taping of a conversation.]
This story has legs and I can't help observing that taking it to court gives it very long legs. (Are there bachelor degress in film-making that teach students how to keep a story going?)
In the movie Trainwreck, the comedian Amy Schumer stars as a reckless but successful magazine editor who has been drinking for love in all the wrong places. Like Schumer’s sketch-comedy series Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central), Trainwreck contains its share of off-color humor. (“You dress him like that just so no one else wants to have sex with him? That's cool,” she asks her sister about her husband.) She may not be everyone’s cup of tea; critics deride her work as self-gratifying, crude, and offensive. But her fans call her a brilliant, courageous feminist leader. Whatever one makes of her work, there’s no denying that she is unapologetically herself. It’s not a shtick. Schumer wants to challenge the ways in which we talk about feminism—as loaded a term as that may be.
As my friends and I left the theater after seeing the movie, all we could say was how much we love Schumer. Her voice is refreshing in a time when the culture seems to see feminism through one or the other of two opposing lenses. There are those who believe that feminism means that women should be able to do anything they want sexually without any criticism or fear of consequences – “if men can do it, so can we.” Suggest otherwise and you’re keeping women down. And then there are those who believe that by policing our own behavior, we can flourish as true women. “True empowerment” means being modest, thinking about consequences, and avoiding risky behavior.
In the movie, Amy drinks and sleeps around and explicitly avoids seeking a long-term relationship—at least at first.Read more
"It’s as if he never existed," Andrew Ferguson reports a friend recently commenting about William F. Buckley, Jr., the founder of National Review who died in 2008. Ferguson's friend mainly was referring to Buckley's place—or rather, lack thereof—among the rising generation of writers, and he goes on to suggest that "it’s not clear that younger journalists, tweeting and Snapchatting and texting and Instagramming all the livelong day, have more than a vague notion of who he was." His interlocutor is right, I think, but for reasons Ferguson might be too kind to consider directly.
Rather than blaming the digital lives of young writers for their lack of attention to Buckley, my explanation is simpler. Buckley really never wrote much of lasting significance. If you had to associate him with one form, it would be the newspaper or magazine column; the sustained work of seriously crafted books and essays eluded him. He never wrote a movement-shaping book like Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind. His intellectual virtues, from what I've been able to discern, are those of the debater and polemicist more than the studious man of letters.
Think about it this way: If you wanted to introduce Buckley to a young writer, what book of his would you choose?Read more
Don't want to prolong this discussion, but the Science section of the NYTimes (July 28) tells us some more about fetal research, fetal tissues, and fetal parts pricing. I'm guessing Mr. Daleiden's video prompted the story. The First Post...
Every summer for two weeks we rent a cabin in the woods of Vermont while our nine-year-old daughter goes to a Quaker-run farm and wilderness day camp nearby. Our getaway seats us in the very lap of nature. Birds of all kinds sing outside our windows; giant variegated moths drowse on the screens; the staccato tree work of woodpeckers forms a background percussion. Some unidentifiable creature howls in the woods at 2 a.m. That’s enough to make me rethink sleeping outside in my tent.
But what truly scares some potential renters of the cabin, its owner tells me, is not the presence of wild animals, but rather the absence of something else: internet. The cabin, christened “Off the Grid,” offers no TV, no WiFi, no computers, no cellphone reception. To make a call, we drive a mile down the road to a little spot between the hills where you can get a signal. To triage my email, I drive over to Woodstock twice a week and spend half an hour on the computers at the library.
The prospect of an unplugged vacation turns out to be highly polarizing. “It pretty much instantly rules out two-thirds of the people who inquire,” the cabin’s owner says. “The other third wouldn’t have it any other way.”
We are—and very happily—in that other, neo-Luddite third.
My jeremiads on the topic of handheld-addiction and digital distraction are well known to my friends. Among those friends are many who, in theory anyway, share my belief that digital devices have become a kind of mass addiction, yet still find it really hard to unplug for any substantial period. That’s a widespread reality these days. Every few months, it seems, I read an essay breathlessly touting some device-free getaway camp whose adult attendees rhapsodize proudly about unplugging—for a weekend!
Being away from screens for two weeks poses some logistical challenges, especially in trying to clear work and correspondence away beforehand—and catch up afterward. But the benefits, for my wife and me anyway, outweigh them. Time and space to read more. To exercise and be outdoors more. To prepare a real meal, instead of throwing something together in haste, as is (alas) too often the rule at home.
And, most of all, de-screening spurs conversation.Read more
On this feast of Saint James, fifty years ago, I celebrated my "first Mass" in the Catacombs of Priscilla in Rome. My parents and then sixteen year old brother were present, along with relatives and friends from the United States and Italy. In those pre-cellphone and pre-Skype days, I had not seen or even spoken with my family for almost three years.
Many of those who were present that day have, of course, gone before "marked with the sign of faith."
The first reading for today's Mass has only grown in meaning in the intervening years:
We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us ... We too believe and so we speak, knowing that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will raise us also with Jesus and will bring us with you into his presence. Indeed, everything is for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people, it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God (2 Cor 4:7,14&15).
My father left school at the age of 16. His father was not pleased and told him that if he wasn’t going to school, he was going to work and brought him down to the brickyards with him. It didn’t take long before my father decided that perhaps he should look for something else to do. He went to secretarial school in New York City, learned shorthand and typing, and found his first real job as a travelling secretary on The Twentieth-Century Limited, the crack train that ran between New York and Chicago. He was available to take dictation and prepare documents for passengers. These would be included in mailbags that, hung outside the speeding train, were snatched by hooks at various stations and sent on their way by the Post Office.
My father lost that job when the Great Depression began and my mother and he struggled through the first years of their marriage (in 1930) as he looked for jobs. Eventually he was hired as a court stenographer in the Rockland County Courthouse, a job he continued in for some thirty-five years.
He was very good at his job, very fast at shorthand and at typing. In a sense his work was only half-done when he came home, because then he had to sit at his typewriter and turn what looked to me like scribbles into perfectly clean and readable type. These were the days before copying machines, and if more than one copy was needed, he would use as many as five or six sheets of carbon paper to make them. I can still see him, if he made a typo, having to correct it on all the copies. We children all learned how to proof-read and help him.
My father was not as good at other tasks, although God knows he tried to save money by taking on other projects inside our large house or out in the backyard. Once he built a kind of outside fireplace out of cinder blocks where we could burn our garbage–this was long before recycling and restrictions on outdoor fires. He was frustrated because he couldn’t put a nice cement facing on the blocks, something that masons could do so easily. “But then,” he said, “they probably can’t type 200 words a minute either.”
He had a favorite saying if something he was working on didn’t turn out as perfect as he wanted it to be: “Well, a blind man on a galloping horse couldn’t notice it.” I looked up the expression and found that it’s original meaning was the opposite of the one he gave it. If you wanted to say that something was completely obvious, you’d say, “Lord, a blind man on a galloping horse could see that!” But I also like my father’s use of the image, and when something my brother and I are working on doesn’t turn out quite the way we wanted, one of us is sure to say, “A blind man on a galloping horse couldn’t tell the difference.”
Any other words of wisdom gleaned from your childhood?
There's new content on the website.
First, E.J. Dionne Jr. explains why Donald Trump should win an award for exposing the double-standards of certain politicans: "For Republicans, Trump was a genius until he wasn’t."
The bowing before Trump, you’ll recall, was happening when the man was the midwife of birtherism. Over and over, he questioned whether President Obama was eligible to be in office because he had allegedly not been born in the United States....
The whole thing is worth a read.
Also, we've made available the best interviews conducted by Commonweal since 1939—including Woody Allen, Jorge Luis Borges, Mary Gordon, (Sister) Elizabeth McAlister, Christian Wiman, and Mario Cuomo. The list spans seventy-six years, five popes, and thirteen U.S. presidents. Each interview covers a broad range of topics, but all share the Commonweal style of putting faith in dialogue with contemporary culture in multifarious forms.
See the full list here.
On Monday afternoon we finished, here in Bangalore, our first ever Pan-Asian Conference of Theological Ethicists: “Doing Catholic Theological Ethics in a Cross-Cultural and Interreligious Asian Context.” There were 95 ethicists, among whom were 14 plenary speakers and another 36 presenting paper during concurrent sessions.
One of the finest plenary sessions, “Doing Interfaith Ethics in Asia” involved three speakers from countries where Catholics are very much a minority. Delivering a flawless paper, “A God by any other name,” Sharon Bong covered the trajectory of lawsuits filed by the Catholic church in Malaysia against its government’s decision to permit only Muslims to use the word “Allah” in referencing God. For twenty centuries, Malay-speaking Christian Malaysians have used “Allah” as their word for God, easily predating the Muslim use of the word. In 2008, the Catholic press was banned from using the word, or else it would forfeit licensing. With a final court decision ultimately upholding the government ban, Bong entertained whether forgiveness or resistance marks the proper ethical response.
Haruko Okano from Japan proposed an argument on how feminist Catholic writings on “moral responsibility” could help contemporary Japanese ethics. Explaining how much a shaming culture inhibits any autonomous accountability, Okano considered how often a Japanese apology is a face-saving action that has little to do with assuming personal or social moral culpability. When asked what was the meaning of the Japanese apology for World War II, she answered that it was a way of simply saying, let bygones be bygones, a reply that left the audience speechless.Read more
AIPAC, Sheldon Adelson, and some other members of the U.S. Jewish establishment have announced their intention to spend millions (maybe billions!) to defeat the Iran nuclear deal.
And Yet...the dependable J.J. Goldberg of The Forward tells us that much of the Israeli military and intelligence establishment thinks Israel should support its passage. Instead of being obstructionists, they argue, Israel should work with the Obama Administration to insure its implementation. What a great idea!
P.S. Saudi Arabia appears to be on board with the agreement.
From the London Review of Books, an excellent piece by Tariq Ali about the current situation in Greece. He begins by comparing the Syriza government's capitulation to E.U. demands with the U.S.-backed military coup in 1967:
The date 12 July 2015, when Tsipras agreed to the EU’s terms, will become as infamous as 21 April 1967. The tanks have been replaced by banks, as Varoufakis put it after he was made finance minister.
Greece, in fact, has a lot of tanks, because the German and French arms industries, eager to get rid of surplus hardware in a world where wars are fought by bombers and drones, bribed the politicians. During the first decade of this century Greece was among the top five importers of weapons, mainly from the German companies Ferrostaal, Rheinmetall and Daimler-Benz. In 2009, the year after the crash, Greece spent €8 billion—3.5 per cent of GDP—on defence. The then Greek defence minister, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, who accepted huge bribes from these companies, was convicted of corruption by a Greek court in 2013. Prison for the Greek; small fines for the German bosses. None of this has been mentioned by the financial press in recent weeks. It didn’t quite tally with the need to portray Greece as the sole transgressor. Yet a Greek court has been provided with conclusive evidence that the largest tax avoider in the country is Hochtief, the giant German construction company that runs Athens airport. It has not paid VAT for twenty years, and owes 500 million euros in VAT arrears alone. Nor has it paid the contributions due to social security. Estimates suggest that Hochtief’s total debt to the exchequer could top one billion euros.
From the New York Times, Carl Cederstrom on the "dangers of happiness":
When happiness is recast as an individual choice, attitude becomes everything and circumstances are made irrelevant. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, has worked hard to spread this message, referring to studies that suggest that victims of car crashes are, on the whole, neither less nor more unhappy than lottery winners.
Even if we find such insights interesting or inspiring, they do not form a particularly helpful basis when we seek to make happiness the goal of politics. If we may all be equally happy, irrespective of our circumstances, then that would equip politicians like [Jeb] Bush with a convenient excuse to stop looking at structural issues like class, social and economic inequality or poverty.
It is tempting to see the Conservative British prime minister David Cameron’s sudden interest in happiness in this light. When he decided a few years ago to initiate a so-called happiness index, he did so at the height of austerity, when public spending was being cut, and the “circumstances” were made worse for many people, especially those on benefits. As it happens, this survey was inspired by Mr. Seligman, producing an echo of the “circumstances make no difference” mantra.
Today's (July 21) NYTimes has a sort-of interview with the man who made the "fetal parts available" video. "Sort- of" because as David Daleiden says, "I don't think I'm the story." Distributing organs from aborted fetuses in a non-profit way seems to be legal as Planned Parenthood claims. So I suppose the view of the media is that this isn't about Planned Parenthood, but about Daleiden: "What's his problem."
Daleiden has posted a second video and promises more. He has strategically released these to churn the Republican presidential race. At the moment, the Democrats are saying that Planned Parenthood is doing a good job of defending itself (they don't need our help!).... We'll see how that goes.
If Planned Parenthood's charging for processing, handling, and postage is not illegal (I don't actually know that), than what about the moral status of this practice?
1. Giving the woman having the abortion the right to informed consent to this practice seems wobbly. She doesn't want the baby. What claims does she have in distributing its parts?
2. Who actually buys the parts. Daleiden, in order to give his inquiries legitimacy, set up a dummy corporation that appears to do research but doesn't. Does Planned Parenthood (or others) practice due dilligence in distributing the organs. Who do they actually distribute them to? Is there a list?
3. Is the research done on these organs being done ethically? There are established federal regulations about the use of fetuses and/or their organs in medical and scientific research. Are these being observed?
4. I'm sure you can think of more!
Daleiden has an interesting bio included in the interview.
dotCommonweal reader Jack Marth and members of the Waldron Mercy Academy parent community have highlighted a column in support of the school’s former religious instruction director Margie Winters, whose dismissal I wrote about last week. One of the co-authors of the piece is Mary Scullion—a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy and co-founder and executive director of Project H.O.M.E., an organization devoted to ending homelessness in Philadelphia. Scullion is well known both inside and outside the city, having received Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal in 2011 and being named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2009. Joan McCannon—co-founder of Project H.O.M.E., fellow recipient of a Laetare Medal, and parent of a Waldron graduate—also lent her byline, as did philanthropist James J. Maguire, president of the Maguire Foundation. Scullion’s input on the firing comes as a welcome development to the parents I’ve been in touch with, many of whom had been hoping for her to comment.
From the column, which appeared yesterday on Philly.com:
The recent controversy at Waldron Mercy Academy brings to light that we are at a critical moment for the Catholic Church, and for all persons of faith and conscience in this country. It is a moment rife with pain and struggle, but also hope. ...
[W]e believe that the Church’s truest integrity is at risk when it emphasizes orthodoxy and doctrine without meaningful engagement with human and historic realities. We love the Church: We draw deeply from its rich traditions of spirituality, compassion, service, and justice. But we also recognize (and need to take responsibility for) our many historic blind spots—persecution of heretics, oppression of indigenous peoples in the name of “mission,” and second-class status for women.
While it is painful for us to have to publicly dissent, we are convinced that this is a moment when insistence on doctrinal adherence is clashing with what we believe the Spirit is unfolding in our history—just as it has in the past, with issues like slavery, the rights of women, and the environment. Many Christian denominations have listened to the movement of the Spirit and moved toward both full inclusion and full embrace of the gifts of our gay and lesbian sisters and brothers.
The Church is at its best when it listens to the Spirit speaking in our times and through human experiences. As we listen, we hear the Spirit speaking through the testimony of hundreds of parents and former students, who affirm that Margie has been a marvelous teacher and influence. She has been a gift to the Church, nurturing the faith and morals of countless young people, fostering a spirit of mercy, compassion, and justice.We believe the controversy surrounding Margie Winters is the Spirit inviting us to reflect on Church doctrine that upholds the dignity of every person. ...
As we work through the pain and conflict, as we listen to each other, as we struggle to make sense of the power of tradition and the challenge of newness, we believe this can be a moment of hope and grace.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called it "an extraordinarily effective act" -- the Vatican's move to draw together 60 mayors from around the world to sign a statement today that "human-induced climate change is a scientific reality and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity."
Of course, it's easy to be skeptical of the value of high-minded but non-binding statements like this one. But on a number of counts, it seems to be a very smart form of political engagement.
First of all, it's meant that Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si' is playing on the evening news once again in 60 cities, and then some. Second is that the national leaders who've been slow to respond to global warming are being circumvented with a pitch to big-city mayors , who have to deal up close with poverty and the extremes of weather that may be caused by climate change. And, depending on the country and region, the mayors do have local authority in such areas as transportation, local real estate development, taxes and so forth. The mayors can push their national governments to do more--and they gain some political cover by being able to portray themselves as carrying out the mission of a popular pope. De Blasio, who is not affiliated with any religion, described Francis in his speech at the conference as "the highest moral authority."
It's worth noting, as the Guardian did, that all of the U.S. mayors who participated--they included Betsy Hodges of Minneapolis; Ed Murray of Seattle; Edwin Lee from San Francisco; Mitch Landrieu from New Orleans and Boston's Martin Walsh--were Democrats. "While some Republican mayors were invited to attend the function, a person familiar with the organisation of the conference said that none accepted," the Guardian reported.
Whether Francis's visit to the U.S. in September can help to encourage a consensus remains to be seen.
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