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'The Daily Show' with Cathleen Kaveny.

In case you missed the show, here's video of what aired, along with the extended web-only clip after the jump. Nice work, Cathy!

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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I'll echo Jon Stewart's closing comments, "Great job! So interesting!"For me, this closing sentence really highlighted one of the key facets of the current controversy over health care: "Part of what you're seeing now is really an acculturation of Catholic moral rhetoric to a context that's still very affected by Protestantism."For those of us for whom part of the attraction of Catholic moral teaching is precisely that it offers a different framework and context than that of the dominant American culture, one dismaying and disorienting aspect of this debate is the degree to which some of our bishops sound like...well...American Protestants.

Yes, good show.I was afraid it was going to descend into sitting around making fun of the bishops, but it was anything but that. I have to credit both Stewart's genuine curiosity, and Prof. Kaveny's statements.I also that the comedy bit about the controversy was fair, in that it did at least attempt to present the bishops' concern as a concern about religious liberty. Given how the conversation about this has "progressed" (e.g. the Obama campaign's absurd "birth control permission slip someone watching this program would have a better idea what issues were at stake than one following the regular coverage.I should apologize for my fears, and am glad they were unwarranted.

Here's proof that two really smart people can provide needed context for a complex issue in under 7 minutes. Something CCD students could benefit from, I think, as the older ones try to understand Church teaching on these issues and, more importantly, how the Church promulgates teaching.Plus, Cathleen gets extra points for that great necklace. I WANT!

Kudos to Cathy, really superb. And I have to credit Jon Stewart and the Daily Show -- this is as substantative and serious a discussion of the topic as you are going to find anywhere, and in a format that people who wouldn't normally attend to such things will watch. The value of that, in today's media and culture, is immeasurable.

Brava! Cathy. You did a superb job of explaining this very complicated issue in easily understandable terms, with great analogies and metaphors. Moreover, you seemed perfectly at home on Stewart's show. Maybe he will invite you to be his theologian in residence. Fr, Martin, watch out!

I think Fr. Barron should consult Cathy on how to present.I also think the first part of the show -mocking the political debate on the amendmen tyesterday should be looked at to appreciate the ugly politicization that continues to kill serious discourse.Finally, the adoption of Protestant (evangelical?) rhetoric to present , when the Church is moving towards a more welcoming towards evangelical stance, is important to understand the divided frames that a number bring to the topic.

I echo what David Gibson says. It really couldn't have been better on a serious show like, say, the News Hour, and and may very well have been less effective. Congratulations, Cathy.

Splendid! Oodles of kudos!

Wow, Cathy. You were simply the best person for that moment. What a fantastic series of explanations, exchanges, and a fitting conclusion (to the extended web segment): telling an audience of millions of younger viewers why you have stayed Catholic. Every human being matters. On a lighter note, I loved that they included Commonweal and not just ND in your bio. Maybe you're going to be like Jim Martin now, and become a Theologian-in-residence on Comedy Central, just a half-hour earlier. You'll have to move to NYC, though....

Very nice work. Prof Kaveny showed herself to be a very fair minded and patient woman and is a credit to ND and the Church. I was struck by the juxtaposition of two comments, at the beginning and the end:"Catholics are used to having a morality that pretty much everybody accepts. We used to call it natural law, it was a common morality accessible to everyone. But now were in a context where its very clear where not everyone accepts Catholic teaching on contraception, homosexuality on the one hand or even the death penalty on the other hand ..."And"Its picked up a lot of Protestant discourse ... jeremiad ... an acculturation of catholic moral rhetoric to a context thats still very affected by Protestant[ism] ..."So maybe we're in deep doo-doo because we've ignored our own intellectual heritage. Maybe we need an authentic, rigorous, scientifically informed application of natural law reasoning to these questions, not just the vague use of natural law vocabulary (ala Humanae Vitae) or the waving about of the words 'intrinsically evil.' Calling something "intrinsically evil" is not the same thing as making a reasoned natural law argument, which by its very nature is an argument about morality that is "accessible to everyone."

"So maybe were in deep doo-doo because weve ignored our own intellectual heritage. Maybe we need an authentic, rigorous, scientifically informed application of natural law reasoning to these questions"Cathleen's reference to Jeremiads and Protestant discourse are not to the content of Church teaching, but the style in which it is presented.

Natural law nevertheless remains a common morality accessible to everyone if it is applied in a way that is authentic, rigorous, and scientifically informed.

Great job, Cathy!

Prof. Kaveny - with David Gibson's remarks. Can we make you a bishop now?Your students are lucky - clear, precise, partnered with Stewart who picked up and highlighted excellent, brief synposis of what our moral and social justice traditions have really been. Agree - less than 7 minutes and said more than 20 hours of debates or congressional hearings.


Fully agree with David Gibson's view (10:39AM). Consider what a sad statement it makes about the state of current Church-related public activity that he, not known for hyperbole, could say what he did. Two bright people with different backgrounds and purposes met for a few minutes with grace and mutual respect on the subject of Catholicism. They chatted intelligently and intelligibly and wrapped up, leaving at least the possibility of more later. Is that how the New Evangelization is supposed to work?

"Cathleens reference to Jeremiads and Protestant discourse are not to the content of Church teaching, but the style in which it is presented."I think that's true, and it would have been interesting to see where a longer discussion about that might have gone. Is there a "Catholic" way of teaching that has been lost? (I can't speak to that because my life as a Catholic was very short, but I hope my son's will be much longer and I suspect it may depend as much on HOW he is taught as on WHAT.)

The interview covered a lot of ground in its 13 to 14 total minutes, and Stewart seemed genuinely interested and engaged. Too bad the "We try to be unpopular with everybody" comment at about 2:40 of the extended interview wasn't part of the TV portion of the interview. The comment clearly resonated with Stewart, too. Though the ratings wouldn't be nearly as high, you should try to get a full hour on Charlie Rose. :)

Jim and Jean, I would argue that style affects content. A jeremiad is prophetic speech, poetic invective, with prophecies of society's downfall. Natural law is rational and analytic in nature, a different beast altogether. I have a hard time imagining an analytic jeremiad. Change the style and you can't help but change the content.(John O'Malley's Four Cultures of the West is a wonderful short book about the four styles we've used in the past to communicate: prophetic, analytical, literary and visual/artistic. Great stuff.)

We try to be unpopular with everybody." I'm not sure we're trying hard enough. Bill Dehaas: She was wearing red, so maybe she's beyond the bishop level?! Or just making the guys envious...I very much agree about the Protestant and apocalyptic style, and how much it has informed these Catholic jeremiads and also that it affects content. I'd second Jeanne Follman on O'Malley and on Prof. Kaveny's writing on casuistical and prophetic discourse. Natural law I can never figure out, especially as it is deployed today -- as if it is a way to end an argument rather than engage one. But it's also perhaps relevant that Evangelicals seem to be adopting and deploying natural law theory, borrowing from Catholics. Maybe the cross-pollination is producing a hybrid?

"I would argue that style affects content."I thought that's what my point was.

The terrible polarization in the churches in the last thirty years seems to be a result of the flight of many Christians from their churches. What the churchers could not do through persuasion they began attempting to do through politics. In the last 20 years or so Evangelicals especially have formed bonds with the church as they fear a common threat to religious authority. It is a coalition based on empire building and to keep religion in power in public life. The reality is that Protestants are also sounding like Catholics also. The pope became more popular among Evangelicals than Falwell or Robertson as it became a matter of protecting turf or religious power and advantage. "Though miles apart on salvation, they find common ground in the language of moral absolutes." Translate 'moral absolutes' as power in the religious empire. Now religious freedom seems a better theme than abortion, same sex marriage, and contraception. All of a sudden EWTN is talking about religious freedom. The influence of the empire is amazing. for the peaceful days when anti-communism, 24/7 was enough to keep the Empire going full steam.

David, the problem with natural law is exactly how it is often deployed today, as a way to end an argument rather than engage with one. Humanae Vitae certainly exemplifies that. It's really a shame, because it could be such a powerful tool, if actually used, as a way to reason about how to act based on doing good and avoiding evil. if an argument is an authentic natural law argument, it can't *not* make sense! And if it did make sense, then it would be a "common morality accessible to everyone."Interestingly, there is an old article in Ethics from 1965 (pre Humanae Vitae) that makes a Thomistic natural law argument in *favor* of contraception (subscription or fee required):

Jeanne, thanks for that reference. It's a vexing issue and yet part of tradition and an enticing mode of discourse, at least to an interested "layman" like me. Speaking of modes of discourse, contrast Limbaugh on Georgetown students Sandra Fluke and Georgetown University pres John DiGioia: becomes substance at a certain point.

Jean - to your excellent point about "style" - read John O'Malley's wonderful book about Vatican II in which he highlights the complete and deliberate decision to change the tone and style of concilar language - no anathemas; no condemnations. Statements were almost always put in the affirmative to be supportive and induce discussion.Here is a written response from Bishop William Lori to America magazine editorial: tone is "whinny and petulant" - almost sophomoric in its statements. Lori states: "....abortifacient drug called Ella. Here the details would seem to be fertilized ova, small defenseless human beings, who will likely suffer abortion within the purview of a church-run health insurance program." (natural law & HV - as Kaveny says - there isn't just one interpretation and HV is really discredited); IOM disputes this conclusion about the drug Ella- "tubal ligations" - have been a part of most insurance plans for years (catholic hospitals deal with this in another manner - does he have a clue?)- Lori states: "bishops should regard it not as a matter of religious liberty but merely policy that, as providers they teach one thing but as employers they are made to teach something else. In other words, we are forced to be a countersign to Church teaching and to give people plenty of reason not to follow it. The detail in question here is called scandal." (very narrow definition - in fact, catholic hospitals, universities, agencies have been a sign of church teaching within the public arena that, obviously, includes birth control, abortion, etc. His way of defining this could actually impact these ministries as a "countersign" - HHS compromise does not create scandal?)Catholic insurance companies and catholic self-insured comapnies - well, that is being negotiated and there is a period of time to do this in. Lori makes a statement that refuses to acknowledge this and, in effect, skews his accuracy.His easy dismissal and quote about $10 bc at Walmart ignores the reality of millions of very poor women, immigrants, non-insured, etc. He is disingenous at best.Like his congressional committee hearings and talks, Lori is not a very good advocate for what Prof. Kaveny said in less than 10 minutes. He reminds me of a scolding Southern Baptist minister in my youth.

I'm not sure that Evangelicals are adopting and deploying natural law theory on any but sexual issues, namely, birth control. And even on that, those Evangelicals who oppose contraception seem more radically Augustinian than natural-law Catholic in their disdain for "natural" family planning, believing every couple should have as many children as "God gives them" a la the Duggar family of Arkansas.

Cathy's point about the need to consider not only the religious freedom/conscience rights of institutions but of individuals affected by decisions made by institutions was neatly made, Too bad it was in the web-only segment. Happy thought: when the news gets around about this appearance, no doubt Cathy will be much in demand and will be able to explore the subject further in her inimitable style on TV and the Web!

Thanks for posting an interesting video.I had never really gotten the viagra analogy but the more I think about it, the more it seems a very apt analogy.There are some circumstances in which viagra is morally liciit and some when it is not. It is the same with contraception.There are some circumstances in which the use of contraception is within Catholic teaching eg before or after rape, as treatment for certain medical conditions (eg heavy periods), outside marriage, coercion in marriage, to prevent infection etc.Cathy's point that the rhetoric of persecution here is overblown is well taken.God Bless

Natural law I can never figure out, especially as it is deployed todayI think the problem is that while people claim that natural law is inherent in humanity and independent of revelation or tradition so that everyone should be able to the same conclusion in reality they mean a specific version of natural law which they feel everyone should accept as the correct one - perhaps closer to Grisez than the Greeks or the philosophers in between.Back in the days of the Catholic Encyclopedia, they didn't hesitate to say which were the right kinds of natural law and which were wrongRadically, the natural law consists of one supreme and universal principle, from which are derived all our natural moral obligations or duties. We cannot discuss here the many erroneous opinions regarding the fundamental rule of life. Some of them are utterly falsefor instance, that of Bentham, who made the pursuit of utility or temporal pleasure the foundation of the moral code, and that of Fichte, who taught that the supreme obligation is to love self above everything and all others on account of self. Others present the true idea in an imperfect or one-sided fashion. Epicurus, for example, held the supreme principle to be, "Follow nature"; the Stoics inculcated living according to reason. But these philosophers interpreted their principles in a manner less in conformity with our doctrine than the tenor of their words suggests. Catholic moralists, though agreeing upon the underlying conception of the Natural Law, have differed more or less in their expression of its fundamental formula. Among many others we find the following: "Love God as the end and everything on account of Him"; "Live conformably to human nature considered in all its essential respects"; "Observe the rational order established and sanctioned by God"; "Manifest in your life the image of God impressed on your rational nature." The exposition of St. Thomas is at once the most simple and philosophic. Starting from the premise that good is what primarily falls under the apprehension of the practical reasonthat is of reason acting as the dictator of conductand that, consequently, the supreme principle of moral action must have the good as its central idea, he holds that the supreme principle, from which all the other principles and precepts are derived, is that good is to be done, and evil avoided (I-II, Q, xciv, a. 2).Based on their understanding of natural law, they were able to distinguish between the morality of one man having several wives and one woman having several husbands:For example, under no circumstances is polyandry compatible with the moral order, while polygamy, though inconsistent with human relations in their proper moral and social development, is not absolutely incompatible with them under less civilized conditions.

Great presentation. She certainly kept it divorced from all the anger.

I thought Professor Kaveny did surprisingly well but I have to disagree with David G. I thought Stewart was off his game--perhaps because he wanted to take it easy on a political ally or more likely because he was a bit intimidated. What I found frustrating was he took the discussion over such a broad range that the talk was a bit too high level to really set out different points of view. I don't think anyone watching the show would have come away thinking, "Yes, now I understand both sides and can make an informed judgment." It was more of a course overview of, hopefully, things to come. If he's smart, he'll have her back and delve into 1 issue. 6 minutes is not a lot of time but it's enough if he comes prepared.

Beverley B. --Deploying natural law principles is not a matter of simply repeating *other* theologians conclusions. By definition, natural law ethics is (or is ideally) based on the facts of human behavior and how different behaviors can be shown to affect the flourishing of both individuals and society. Natural law ethics requires evidence, and that evidence must be presented explicitly in premises which are verifiable in experience. The hierarchy seems to have forgotten that, and blithely talks about "natural law" without data to support its conclusions.Once more, let me recommend Alasdair MacIntyre's "After Virtue". It sets out the basic theory extremely clearly, and shows why the theory is still relevant today, at least in major parts. (I'm speaking of Aquinas' version here. There are many versions Catholic and Protestant) with many disagreements. But most scholars put Thomas at the top of the heap.

P. S. MacIntyre"s "A Short History of Ethics" is also authoritative AND clear. It will help you understand some of the deficiencies of other ethical systems and why natural law theorists become so attacged to it. Consider the alternative, as the saying goes.

Overall a good job. With the caveat that if I were interviewed on television, I'd probably miss many an opportunity to make a good point, I wish the answer had been different when Stewart made the point about how employees can just buy contraception with their wages. The answer was that it's a wonderful question and Stewart should be a moral theologian. But the question actually wasn't that good -- if an employee happens to take his wages and buy heroin, the employer has nothing to do with that choice, but if the employer provides the employee with "free heroin" coupons as part of his wages (even if the heroin really is free), the employer is obviously more deeply involved.

Great. Amazing topic to be discussing in that context, with so much seriousness! So much respect for our hierarchy!More and more, for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert humor is not the main goal but only a tool for communicating important messages. I wonder, though: would the typical viewer have preferred less content and more jokes?

Dear all,Thank you for your nice words and support. I was nervous, but it was a lot of fun. Jon is really a very nice, and kind person--on camera and off. (Grant, who came to the Green Room with me, can attest to that.) The time on camera was easier than I thought it would be. But I did have a sort of surreal experience: I have a big screen tv at home. Sitting at the desk, I saw him in the same "frame" that I see him in on tv at home. So I had the strange sense for a fleeting second that I was talking to my tv--and the tv was talking back! Plus, I got to spend a day in Manhattan! Who can beat that as a cure for the midwest late winter blues!

"The bottom line of Catholicism -- and why I say in it -- is every human being matters." Amazing. Prof. Kaveny captured volumes in this one line about thoughtful spiritual inquiry.

Not one word about war,torture and assassination.Like those arn't theological/ethical issues confronting American Catholics today.If they're not they should be.Talk about co-existing with evil.Mums the word.

Who would have thought that one of the most rational and thoughtful discussions on the issue would be to The Daily Show? It comes to that. Cathleen, you did a beautiful job. I still have a lingering question, though, how does Notre Dame University leverage its endowment to persuade Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer, WalMart and CVS to cease the manufacture and sale of contraceptives? Isn't profiting from contraception as bad as paying for it, in both cases indirectly? I don't mean this to be a snark, I think it is a legitimate question.

Very good, overall, and I was very pleased to see a civil and not crazed discussion on these points so Kudo's to Kaveny, but neither she nor Stewart addressed the essential question as to whether or not this is a first amendment issue. Since Dolan seems clear that he will be taking this issue to the highest court, it's a necessary discussion point, and one that was barely skimmed over in the discussion of freedom of religion. I am not sure that Catholics can "protect their freedom of religion" while also "protecting the freedom of religion" of others by paying for their contraception. You protect freedom of religion by not telling any church what it "must" do. I think Obama administration, if they want to demonstrate that they are liberal and not illiberal, needs to give serious consideration to allowing church institutions to set up secondary cash funds in insurance policies where employees can use the money as they see fit. There is nothing wrong with such a plan. It is just to both the church and the employees. And it ends the narrative that Obama is trying to disregard the constitution.

Just a few random thoughts:As a Basilian scholastic (c1963-1964) teaching in a Catholic high school, I read through all journal articles that were stirred up by Dr. John Rock's pill. I had no dog in the fight at that time but rather a vow of chastity; the vow of poverty alone would have prevented me from purchasing any kind of contraceptive. I came to understand with my Latin Summae (Theologiae as well as Contra Gentiles) as well as Anton Pegis' English editions of Aquinas' texts that the entire argument was based on teleological causality. I had even as an undergraduate philosophy student come to disregard it as an assumed reading of God's mind. But who has known the mind of the Lord or His unsearchable judgement and inscrutable ways? I came to a determination that family planning (abortion aside) was not any kind of evil when it included John Rock's pill.I am still disturbed by the conversation reported by Father Andrew Greeley and the then archbishop of Cincinnati, Joseph Bernadin, in a Chicago cab. (circa 1968 recorded in his book "The Catholic Myth") Bernadine was to have called "Humanae Vitae" that "goddamned encyclical" (Chapter 5: Sex and the Family). The later Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago later denied he had said this, but check out Greeley's explanation.Our Cardinal Daniel DiNardo (Galveston-Houston) in an editiorial he wrote in the Houston Chronicle (Sunday, February 19, 2012) referred to the Obama/Sibelius compromise as attacking a "core teaching" of the Catholic Church. "...Catholic institutions will have to forfeit core Catholic teachings in order to comply with health care reform law." I had always thought that the core teachings of the Catholic Church were those settled upon by the Council of Nicea and celebrated by all good Catholics verbally at Mass as often as they attended: the Trinity, the omnipotence of the Father, the Son consubstantial with Him but made human flesh, dead, risen, and gloriously triumphant, the Holy Spirit through whom all of God's grace and inspiration comes to man and settles upon all creation, the union of faithful militant on earth, saints in heaven, all who have their sins forgiven, who have or will have risen from the dead; these are the core teachings of the Catholic Church. When will these overseers of the Church, originally appointed by a pagan Constantine, who was glorified by the bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, his mother's travelling companion, direct their attention more to the love of God than to the love of Canon Law, more to the humility of Jesus and less to the splendor of the Roman Empire?I would hope that someone in authority would review the old idea of Jacques Maritain in his "Man and State", written it seems ages ago. And in this review he or she would see that then as now we live a pluralistic society and we find a way to live together in some kind of harmony. We American Catholics are not always right or sometimes forfeit our own moral judgements, for example, in waging unjust wars. We forfeit our rights to offsetting compensation for what we bear in shouldering the expenses of Catholic education, which we do to be even better citizens.

" -- allowing church institutions to set up secondary cash funds in insurance policies where employees can use the money as they see fit. "And how exactly does that differ from simply paying an insurance premium for coverage that covers contraceptives?Same money. Different pocket. Is this what it takes to keep certain Catholics "happy?"In my day that was called casuistry or sophistry.Of, as that Doctor of the Church, Eric Idle, once said: "Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Say no more!"

This interview is going to make Cathleen a lot of enemies. What ambitious Catholic leader would not be jealous of her clarity, of her ability to engage in respectful civil discourse while remaining firmly within the bounds of accepted Catholic teachings, of her visibility, and of her likability?She's been propelled to the frontline and will now be under close surveillance. One word out of line, and some people are going to be clamoring for her head. She needs to watch her back!

I apologize if I am repeating an earlier thread; however I found the Professor comments more determinate to the Church than helpful. I disagree with many of her basic assumptions and how they are presented.First, birth-control is not an issue of woman's health that is if you consider pregnancy a disease. If so, I would ask each of you to look in your hearts if you truly understand the Theology of the Eucharist. When a child is conceived, the child becomes part of the body of Christ. If your heart at the primal level does not have some level of fidelity towards all of us who walk the earth, then what is the significance of the Eucharist? Second, sex without any consequences is objectification. Again, I would ask you what does the Eucharist mean to you?Second, the honorable professor is a moral relativist. While she may have a Ph.D. in Theology, is she infallible? Us as Catholics hopefully understand the doctrine of infallibility. The honorable professor seems to have missed this lesson. I also would question her on her understanding of the death penalty. The death penalty is applied to those who have committed crimes or as adults have been victims of unfavorable circumstances. These adults are given a chance albeit slim at times to avoid this fate. How can a human in the embryonic stage of life do the same? How can a human in the embryonic stage of life defend or make rational choice of their volition? How can any educated person equate these two events?As for the connection of health benefits that are afforded with employment, I have major issues on her understanding of economics. First, endangered servitude was extinguished more than a century ago. We have free will to how or where we will be employed. This free will extends to employers. Employers have the ethical obligation to determine the terms of employment. We as employees have the right to either accept these terms or not. If we accept the offer for employment then we have chosen to abide by such principles. If we disagree then we are given the right and have the obligation to give our talents as well as services to where we have alignment. If people choose to be employed by Catholic institutions then they have chosen a Catholic ethic.While I appreciate the courage that it takes to put a foot forward, sometimes it is best that others should have stepped forward. In this case, I pray that she did not lead parts of the flocks deeper into darkness. Either way, I hope the University of Notre Dame vets its potential employees so that they understands the obligations that comes with representing the Catholic ethic.

E. J. Dionne, Commonweal, NCR, and Mark Shields have covered well the effect of the Administration's contraception ruling. As for the Church's (read: hierarchy) contraception teaching: it is an unjust 'law' illicitly promulgated.

Relative to the last 2 posts, I think I'm actually in the center. Strange place for me.

" We have free will to how or where we will be employed. "With all due respect, when was the last time you were in search of a job in this market?

Based upon a request, I needed to repond. Thanks be to God, I started a new job this week. I also have walked out of interviews where I would be selling porn or advocating abortion.

James Foy: consider yourself very, very lucky that you found a job and had a choice. I know many people, most of whom are 40 and over, who have not, and most likely will not have, that very good luck. Some of them might even avail themselves of the options you turned down in order to keep their homes, feed their families, and have any kind of hope for a future.

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