I love turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes and cranberry relish and pumpkin pie. I love making and sending Christmas cards. I love putting on Handel's Messiah and playing Christmas carols on the piano. I love going into the forest to find the perfect Christmas tree and decorating it. But, the real reason this is the best time of the year is different from these reasons. The real reason is that at the moment we can watch BOTH college football and college basketball.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan has an op-ed up at the New York Post about the way commercialism is infecting our celebration of Thanksgiving and robbing it of its humanness. (Or, as Brad Gregory would have it, the way the goods life is obstructing to good life.) I wish to make two points. First, I emailed my colleague Heidi Schlumpf, who wrote about this horrible Black Friday sales-a-thon mentality, and asked if she had begun ghostwriting for Cardinal Dolan!
Peter Berkowitz, writing at RealClearPolitics, has an essay about freedom of expression and the way it is threatened in our culture, especially at our colleges and universities. I have as little use for the censors of the left as for the censors of the right, and Berkowitz is on to something.
Father John Zuhlsdorf, the right wing priest who has a penchant for referring to NCR as the "fishwrap," thinks Pope Benedict XVI had NCR in mind when he wrote this sentence: "Jesus' freedom is not the freedom of the liberal."
There is so much to be grateful for this year. But, before we get to that, I wish to reflect a moment about gratitude and why it may be the most vital human attitude, especially in our contemporary culture.
Last Friday, a federal judge ordered a temporary injunction against the HHS contraception mandate for a private, but distinctly religious, employer, Tyndale House Publishing. There is an important distinction to be made here. I have long argued that the most important aspect of the entire controversy is to enlarge the exemption from the mandate for religious institutions such as Catholic schools and hospitals and charities. But, I also believe that private firms, not officially affiliated with any particular church, but engaged in pervasively religious work, should also be exempt.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan penned an article for his archdiocesan newspaper about the recent elections. As in his comments before the election, Dolan's words are measured.
Here is a link to a video of Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete discussing Ross Douthat's book "Bad Religion." The tape is not of great quality, and Monsignor's voice is a soft one, but it is worth the effort to ramp up the volume. Albacete correctly notes that the problem with Douthat's work is its reduction of religion to moralism.
I do not know many people who worry as much as I do about Catholic identity. A priest friend routinely introduces me as a "Catholic fanatic." My three jobs - NCR, CUA and the Tablet - are all involved with the Church. And, in my writing, I am as often damned as praised for a certain stiff-neckedness about my Catholicism, a charge I accept and in which I relish.
Nothing is very clear about the political situation in the Mideast, except one thing: There are no good options. In such terrible moments as this, we seek guidance, perspective, a light in the darkness. Before we even set our minds to thinking about what should be done, it is worthwhile, always worthwhile, looking to history to see what lessons it affords.