An Introduction to the Catholic Commons
“The horror is that for the first time we live in a world in which we can no longer imagine a better one.”1
Can an idea change the world? If not, we in the Church should give up now; there is no point in continuing. For over two-thousand years we thought we knew the answer to this question. It led us to welcome the stranger, to feed the hungry, to redistribute our wealth, and to fight against the principalities and powers of the darkness of the age. Granted, we were never entirely faithful to the Idea. From the beginning, some of us tried to use it to enslave the stranger, to engorge ourselves, to consolidate our wealth, and to become the principalities and powers. Yet the Idea would not stay our possession, it would always return to confront us, to invite us back, and at times, it would bring the Emperor himself to his knees. Continue reading
“Depending heavily on export markets is like saying it is normal and right to be at the mercy of people who are not my friends. Common sense tells me that I shouldn’t put myself at the mercy of anybody who is not my friend.”
In the early days of the American Revolution Thomas Paine denounced British rule in America and the monarchical system of government in his famous Common Sense pamphlet. Paine appealed to a logic of justice that invoked the Protestant concern for scripture read through the lens of an egalitarian rationale. Unique among the American Founding Fathers as an advocate of radical democracy Paine is almost more reminiscent of the French Revolution, in which he also took part, than the American. At any rate, Paine is an important figure in the libertarian strain of American political thought, a tradition to which Wendell Berry, a farmer/poet/essayist from Kentucky, is heir in many ways. Continue reading
The Left’s Response to the Tea Party and what it Reveals
Without a doubt, the rise to concrete govermental power of the Tea Party has been one of the most important political developments in 2010. Much has already been written about the origins and developments of this movement, starting as it did from a variety of grassroots libertarian or conservative movements and blossoming as more American citizens became outraged 7at the government’s willingness to provide bailouts in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown. But what interests me most is the left’s reaction to this upwelling of violent anger. It is not hard to understand why the left has serious problems with the movement: it is radically individualistic, against social programs, in favour of a small government and an unregulated or minimally regulated economy, and violently opposed to anything that appears liberal, leftist, or socialist. That the Tea Party lacks a coherent platform and presents contradictory demands has been pointed out by numerous pundits; but if we look at the movement as a sociological phenomenon – a grassroots political uprising led by fairly ordinary and minimally educated citizens based in a strongly-held moral ideology – there is much to commend it. We may completely disagree with everything that the Tea Party is saying, but the very fact that the people saying it are ordinary citizens who are passionate about the direction of their country and willing to organize themselves politically to change it is important, and worth taking seriously. And yet the overwhelming response from the left in both America and Britain has been either dismissive or hysterical, with a few noteworthy exceptions. I want to argue that the response of the left has been both problematic and troubling; problematic in the sense that it has only led the Tea Party to more heated rhetoric and an even more determined attack, and troubling because it points to what is a growing rottenness at the core of the Left. Continue reading
Facing “a new sobriety,” where does the movement for Christian unity go from here?
There is apparently an old Norwegian saying that goes something like this: “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” So when the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, a Lutheran pastor from Norway who is also general secretary of the World Council of Churches, met last autumn with Pope Benedict XVI, among his gifts to the pontiff was a pair of Nordic woolen gloves.
“They say we are experiencing an ‘ecumenical winter’ right now,” explained Dr. Tveit after his audience with the pope. “And I, being Norwegian, ask back, ‘What is so terrible about winter?’ We know that winter can be beautiful, and we know that winter is only one of four seasons. In winter, we have time for reflection, time to think about what we have experienced in the past and what we expect from the future, and, of course, how we can prepare for the future.”1 Continue reading
The word Catholic is often a word I associate with violence, patriarchy, and old men preaching irrelevant points. I did not grow up in the Catholic Church or even a Christian home, so I am not speaking from years of experience on the ‘inside’; I am however currently situated in a work environment that is a Christian run agency and refugee resettlement office. Although Romero House is open to people of all faiths and is inspired by Christian principles, its internship program and other spiritual activities are heavily influenced by the fact that the Romero House founder and many board members are Catholic (of which there is a nun, a former nun, and a Jesuit priest). On the train ride from Winnipeg to Toronto, I remember reflecting on how I was more afraid to meet the Catholics than I was to meet the refugees; what I have come to know in my time at Romero House, however, is that it is in the living that faith becomes fact. I don’t work for a church, I work for a refugee office so there are some basic distinctions, but I have come to appreciate the underlying framework of Catholicism that shapes the work we do here. I believe that Romero House has opened itself to the idea that catholic means universal. In order to illustrate, I would like to spend some time reflecting on a few examples of how I have come to know this in my experience. Continue reading
Loughlin, Gerard, ed. Queer Theology: Rethinking the Western Body. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2007, 351 pages.
Reviewed by Scott Bergen
It is a word that my grandparents throw around nonchalantly to describe events in their daily lives, a word that makes my parents squirm with uneasiness, and a word that I use positively as a marker of sexual preference. My grandparents describe an odd experiences as making them feel “queer,” my parents hear the word “queer” as a derogatory slur against gays, and I use the term “queer” to refer to those, including myself, who do not feel as if they fit into heterosexual hegemony.