The New Republic has published an elegant and important essay by Philip Kitcher defending the importance of the Humanities and History as forms of human knowledge without which our world would be impoverished and less than humane. I came across it this weekend, before reading Pope Benedict's homily at Arezzo, but it is not difficult to see how Kitcher and Benedict would have something to talk about.
The Holy Father was at Arezzo yesterday and delivered himself of an extraordinary sermon, even by his high standards. I especially liked the way he linked the Church's long history of humanism with the need for solidarity with the poor and with human life at all its stages of development and in all its multifarious experiences of human need.
For me, the central section in the homily, and indeed a central question for our time - and for all times - was this: "Within the context of the Church in Italy, committed to the theme of education, we must ask – especially in this Region where the Renaissance was born – what vision of man are we proposing to the new generations. The Word of God we have heard is a powerful invitation to live God’s love towards all, and, among its distinctive values, the culture of this land includes solidarity, attention to the weak, respect for the dignity of all. Your capacity to welcome those who have come here recently in search of freedom and work, is well known."
The full text is here. (h/t to Rocco.)
The myopia of some in the commentariat, including key politicians, was on full display over the weekend as President Obama’s decision to announce his support for same sex marriage was analyzed on all the talk shows and in the press.
I really don't like Laurence O'Donnell whose "Last Word" show closes out MSNBC's lineup. But in this segment last night, he quotes Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council who, quite wrongly, says that marriage has "always" been one man and one woman. This is demonstrably false as a quick read of the Old Testament would point out. But, then O'Donnell goes on to champion our modern idea that marriage should be about love, he neglects to mention that the idea of one man and one woman might also be part of the "progress" he otherwise sees in modernity.
In the days and weeks ahead, I am afraid that the debate over same sex marriage will bring out the dumbest, ugliest, most bigoted commentaries, and these will be found on the left as well as the right. Here is the episode. As much as Perkins is not to my taste, O'Donnell is even worse.
While searching for something else this morning, I came across this succinct but pointed article at the Distributist Review by James Baresel, in which the author explains why subsidiarity does not imply adoption of the "small government" libertarianism being proffered by the GOP these days. Very well done, a must-read for those commenting on the Ryan budget, and we'll be looking for more from Mr. Baresel.
Mitt Romney heads to Lynchburg tomorrow to deliver the commencement address at Liberty University. The school is set, geographically, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains but in terms of political geography, Liberty is Ground Zero for Romney’s election bid. Liberty University, begun in 1971 as Liberty Baptist College by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, is the largest evangelical university in the country. According to Liberty, they will confer some 14,000 degrees this spring, 60 percent of which will go to online students.
Throughout the primaries, the higher the percentage of white evangelical voters in a given state, the worse Romney did. Until all the other candidates dropped out of the race, Romney failed to win a single state in which white evangelicals were a majority of voters. In October 2011, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, Romney managed only a 40 percent favorability rating from white evangelical Protestants.
In looking at President Obama's comments on same-sex marriage yesterday, Mark Silk at his RNS blog penned the hands-down single finest sentence I have read all year: "The last thing Romney wants to do is get into a discussion of the varied marital norms that human communities have embraced over the years." Still ROFL here.
John Gehring, of the group Faith in Public Life, heads into the modern-day Aeropagus at US News and World Report to look at the moral implications of the Ryan budget. As always, Gehring has a deft touch with words and a sharp-shooters eye for an effective argument.
CatholicMoralTheology.com, now beginning its second year in existence, has quickly become must-reading within the RC blogosphere.
Two recent essays are especially worth checking out.
Tobias Winright looks at the remaining moral debates about the death penalty, especially in tough cases like the Norweigan mass murderer Anders Breivik.
Meghan Clark continues the public debate about what subsidiarity does, and does not, demand, looking specifically at SNAP, the Supplemental Food Assistance Program, or food stamps.
Both Winright and Clark are serious scholars, and the depth of their learning shames the rest of us bloggers! But they also write in accessible ways. I hope that college and even high school Catholic classrooms are pointing their students towards the CMT blog which is proving to be an invaluable resource for serious moral reflection and insight.
To parapharse what was once said about the Austro-Hungarian Empire, if the Public Religion Research Institute did not exist, we would need to invent it.
Here is a link to their most recent polling on the issue of same-sex marriage, broken down by religious affiliation as well as age and other demographic cohorts.