Moral Principles Not Polls

“We are not into polls. We are into moral principles.”

— Archbishop Timothy Dolan in response to CBS reporter Charlie Rose.

      Earlier today I had the pleasure of watching a clip of CBS’ “This Morning” in which Archbishop and Cardinal-Designate Timothy Dolan was asked to give his comments about the recent contraception controversies in Obama’s healthcare reform. I’m not so much concerned here with the actual controversy as I am with Dolan’s response to it. He seems to be the exact type of apologist that we need at this exact moment. Plain. Straightforward. Unassuming. Accurate. Unafraid. Unshakeable. These last two prove to be the most essential weapons in Dolan’s arsenal of conversion-warfare and perhaps, the very ones our opponents were not expecting from an American Bishop.

It has become commonplace for the rhetoricians of our time to feed us what we want to hear and nothing other, rendering us complacent with surface level truth so long as we are not affected or afflicted. The result of which is a tendency to remain on the surface, to please the crowd with palatable prose, switching truths and doctrine so long as the hoi polloi is charmed and comforted. The antithesis to this, at least thus far, as been Archbishop Dolan, who has not shied away from proclaiming Catholic, nay Universal (or perhaps that is redundant), Truth. When asked about the many polls which indicate the overwhelming support and usage of contraception amongst Catholics (some reports suggesting 98% of Catholics are using contraception), Dolan simply said, “We are not into polls. We are into moral principles.”

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De Lubac’s Challenge for Authentic Catholic Unity

The following is a paper I submitted for my Theological Traditions II class. It discusses Henri DeLubac’s “Catholicism” in light of its influence on Vatican II. Enjoy.

De Lubac’s Challenge for Authentic Catholic Unity


With profound clarity and insight into the writings of the early Church Fathers, Henri De Lubac S.J. envisioned the Catholic Church as “Jesus Christ spread abroad and communicated.”[1] This paper hopes to communicate De Lubac’s deep and eternal understanding of the Church, as well as how that understanding has shaped our view through its influence on the Second Vatican Council. By first discussing the general themes of De Lubac’s Catholicism, I will attempt to formulate the challenge he proposes to the faithful. Then I will bring out how this challenge was met in Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium.

It would be an understatement to describe Henri De Lubac’s vision of the Catholic Church as holistic with a specific focus on unity. As if to say that the Church is merely Catholic by its seemingly universal presence in the world. It would be an understatement precisely because the true wholeness and unity of the Catholic Church cannot be understood as a worldly unity, but rather, it can only be realized by a unity in the one Triune God made visible in Jesus Christ – “erat in Christo Jesu omnis homo.”[2] Each man in his unique and unrepeatable personhood is made to live in common glory with all the saints through the one Christ. At first glance, this might appear to diminish that irreducible individuality of each person; however, De Lubac envisions the Church as the place where in joining the Body of Christ, the individual finds the fullest instantiation of his identity. Let us now turn towards discovering how De Lubac arrives at this conclusion of the Catholic Church by drawing on the following themes in Catholicism: man in the image of God, the Church as the visible Body of Christ, and the sacrament of the Eucharist as the means of salvation and unity. Continue reading

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A Pint, a Pipe, and a Cross

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Another Chesterton assignment. Comparing the ficticious world of the novel Father Elijah to our own, I commented on Chesterton’s defense of the complexity of Catholicism’s creed and his disdain for half-truths. Included are Professor David Fagerberg’s comments.

A Pint, a Pipe, and a Cross

Over spring break I had the opportunity to travel outside of the country for the first time in my life. The destination was Germany, a distant land teaming with great food, even better beer, and lots and lots of train rides. Fortunately, I brought with me a water bottle and a good book, the two essentials to any arduous train ride. The book was entitled, Father Elijah, and I can say with some certainty that it has changed my life[DWF1] . But without going into too much detail, suffice it to say the reason for its profound effect on my psyche was the applicability of its fictitious world to our own. It was not hard to draw comparisons between Father Elijah and the writings of G.K. Chesterton, especially when one of the main characters, Monsignor Billy, consistently refers to himself as a “Chesterton man.”

To describe Father Elijah as the simple story of a Carmelite monk living in Israel would be accurate; however, it would do a great injustice to the novel as well as its author. Rather, Father Elijah is the simple story of a complex man named Father Elijah, who just so happens to be a Carmelite monk living in Israel. Father Elijah, a convert to the faith, is called upon by Rome for a special assignment the details [DWF2] of which he knows nothing about. The time period is never explicitly stated; however, the reader can assume the story is set in the not so distant future sometime after World War II. The nations of the world are united in what seems to be the crowning triumph of a global utopian society. War has given way to universal peace and happiness. The world now seeks complete tolerance and cooperation, viewing the Catholic Church as the only intolerant institution [DWF3] holding man back from this goal. Even from within, the Church is under attack. Theology has become relative, with “Catholic” theologians preaching heresy as truth and regarding the Truth of the Mother Church as outdated and oppressive. The Pope is seen as the great totalitarian dictator, forcing all to believe him or to suffer the wrath of eternal damnation.  It is at this time that Father Elijah arrives at the Vatican. The Pope informs Father Elijah that the world in which they live in is coming to an end, the Apocalypse. The Pope believes he has discovered the identity of the Anti-Christ, signifying the arrival of the last battle between good and evil. However, rather than a demon armed with fire and brimstone, this Anti-Christ is the egalitarian champion of the world, the leader of Global Parliament, the great philanthropist, the Golden Boy of all humanity. And yet, under this façade of peace and “love” lies the makings of the one who would usher in the greatest of all evils. Father Elijah’s task is to convert the heart of the Anti-Christ, before it is too late. Continue reading

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The Progress of a Conversation

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The following is a paper I submitted for my Chesterton and Catholicism class. The assignment was to show that Chesterton is relevant in today’s world by relating one of his themes to a present day topic. I chose Chesterton’s idea of “genuine progress” and how it was relevant in a series of conversations I had with my roommate:

The Progress of a Conversation

When I sat down to begin writing this essay, I initially struggled to conjure up a present day topic, which not only related to Chesterton, but also peeked my interest. My prayers seemed to be answered one fateful class when we discussed Chesterton’s discourse on the idea of “progress for the sake of progress.” Coincidentally the night before, after I had just finished reading the first part of Heretics, I was discussing this very idea with my roommate Gilly. I would be charitable if I described Gilly as a scientific fatalist, for he believed that every action was caused by a previous action that could be quantified – in essence, he did not believe in free will. Yet, there were some things that Gilly did believe; namely he believed in science’s blind march into the jungle of the future, progress for the sake of progress. I confronted Gilly with my new found Chestertonian knowledge, “But Gilly, don’t you understand that true progress must have a direction? A goal to which we strive?” After a long pause, Gilbrian Stoy accepted the challenge and gave his answer. The following is a summary of our discussion in the course of seven days:

In the beginning, when Gilly and Peter were about to go to sleep, the campus was a formless snowland, and darkness covered North quad, while a mighty wind swept over St. Joseph Lake. Then Peter said, “But Gilly, do you get what I’m saying? Before we do certain things, don’t you think we should think about them first? To know why we are doing something, before we do it?” To which Gilly promptly responded, “But where is the fun in that? I think we should try all sorts of things and decide later which was the right thing to do.” Gilly’s reply brought up the first topic of contention: what was better, to try and then evaluate or to contemplate first, and then try? At this point our conversation was not directed at any one particular event but rather speaking generally about the supposed inherent differences between philosophical and scientific thought. Gilly’s point was that the philosopher spent too much time thinking of reasons to do or not to do something, while the scientist wasted no time in getting things done. He admitted that the scientist might try and fail a thousand times, but at least he was making some “real” progress. I argued, with Chesterton still on the mind, that we should first evaluate whether or not the thing that we are attempting is worth the attempt. I believed that Chesterton would first question whether or not a particular action was worth the doing in terms of the Big Picture. Gilly dismissed this notion, as he said, ”We (scientists) are concerned with objective fact, what we can know. If we cannot know it, we soon will.” It occurred to me; Chesterton was right: “our theory, that is, about ultimate things, has been driven out” and replaced with a “cry for ‘efficiency.’”[1] I knew now that our conversation was no longer merely a discussion about something I read in a book for class, but that what was at stake was the worldview of my dear roommate. I was questioning his entire philosophy and I could not be happier to rise to the occasion. My goal was to prove that there was indeed a goal, a definite direction, that we should head in and consequently to persuade Gilly to follow it. As I went to sleep that night, I looked at the situation and our conversation and it was…so-so. Thus, evening came and morning followed – the first day. Continue reading

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Sufficient Efficiency in Human Rights Discourse: A Critique of Alan Gewirth

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The following is a crique of Alan Gewirth’s Principle of General Consistency. In my argument I attempt to show that his principle is found wanting due to its lack of authentic personalism, which is required in any interaction between persons.

Human Rights Discourse: A Critique of Mr. Alan Gewirth

Efficiency is the goal of the modern man, who now lives his life based on a cost-benefit analysis of his actions. Just as dogs and cats have been domesticized, man has been rationalized. He is no longer has a need for the distractions of emotions and feelings, he is by his very nature rational. Mr. Alan Gewirth takes this understanding of man and applies it to the concept of human rights. He purports that man no longer has a need for understanding where rights come from, God or otherwise, but that he should focus on practical application of human rights and rights claims. Mr. Gewirth believes this is the most efficient way to discuss rights; however, while his method might be efficient, I do not find it sufficient. Continue reading

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