Cathleen Kaveny

Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.

By this author

Philomena and Notre Dame (Caveat Lector: Spoilers)

I saw the movie Philomena last weekend: It is a movie about an Irish woman who had a baby out of wedlock, and  was coereced into giving up her little son nearly half a century ago by the nuns who took her in. She ends up collaborating with a posh English journalist to find out what happened to him:  As it turns out, he was adopted by a well-to-do American family, grew up to be handsome and smart, and became a lawyer.  Actually, he became a key legal strategist for the Republican party, eventually rising  to the position of Chief Legal Counsel for the Republican Naitonal Committee. Yet Philomena does not get the resolution she hoped for: it turns out her son died several years ago, his meteoric career cut short by AIDS--he was not only a Republican, but a closeted gay Republican. His ashes were buried on the grounds of the convent where he and his biological mother lived together during the first few years of his life. 

 I thought the movie was good. In fact, Judi Dench was brilliant--she acts with her entire body, not merely by emoting her lines. IMHO, they made a huge mistake in killing her off in the Bond movies--she was wonderful as M, too. 

But it wasn't great. I do not agree with this reviewer, who lavishly praised the movie's storyline.  You may say that the plot I recounted above is too incredible to make a plausible movie; but in fact, all that stuff actually did happen.  Philomena's  son Anthony became Michael Hess--"a man of two countries and many talents." Truth is stranger than fiction, and it's no crime for a storyteller to take advantage of strange truths.

At the same time, I did have  three basic problems with the film's framing of the story.

An Ethic of ‘Life,’ Not ‘Purity’

First proposed by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin in a lecture at Fordham University thirty years ago, “the consistent ethic of life” challenged American Catholics involved in the pro-life movement to broaden their focus beyond abortion. Bernardin asked them to engage other issues where human life and dignity were threatened, such as the ominous possibility of nuclear conflagration, the routinization of capital punishment, and the specter of legalized euthanasia.

Sinners Called to Holiness

This talk,""Fulfiling Our Prophetic Mission,"  by Bishop James Conley, of Lincoln, Nebraska, is one of the best talks on equal dignity that  I've ever seen. 

Money quote:

The Big Chill

Over the past quarter-century, Catholics who support Humanae Vitae have done a superb job articulating the ways their adherence to church teaching against contraception fits into their view of family life. For example, Helen Alvaré, professor at George Mason Law and former spokeswoman for the U.S. Catholic bishops, recently edited a volume titled Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak for Themselves.

"Ghost Burgers?" Really?

Kuma's, a Chicago burger joint, decided to market a

For Bishop Tobin of Providence

Apparently, he just switched party affiliations from Democrat to Republican. I think most people from RI thought he already was a Republican!

But the news provides me with a nice opportunity to link to a very cute little video about my home state, based upon a song from the 1948 musical review "Inside U.S.A." by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. (HT: Barbara Fick)

Billable Hours and Ordinary Time: An Empirical Study

Before going to teach at Notre Dame Law School, I practiced law for three years in a large law firm setting. Like many young attorneys, I found the system of billing very difficult and in many ways alienating. After leaving practice for the academy, I wrote an article entitled "Billable Hours in Ordinary Time: A Theological Critique of the Instrumentalization of Time in Professional Life." The article contrasted the "billable hours" mentality with the view of time--and of human life--embedded in Catholic theological and liturgical practice.

Law's Virtues in London

If there are any Commonweal readers across the pond, please stop by to say hello!

"Loopy Interpretations of Vatican II"???:

I have had to fly to Seattle from Newark and back twice in the past two weeks or so. In addition to affording the opportunity for uninterrupted work, these transcontinental flights also offer the opportunity for guilt free web-surfing (thank you GoGo--the airline internet!).In catching up up on the papal transition, I came across an article by Dr.