Taking It For The Team

Taking It For The Team

I was talking to a non-Catholic friend the other day when, for whatever reason, the conversation turned toward sex and morality. I always get a little uncomfortable when this happens because I’m a serious Catholic, and people know that: my friends have become conditioned to expect that I’m unable to participate in a discussion on the comparative merits of the pill or the IUD, or that hearing about steamy Tinder hook-ups makes me a little green about the gills. I’m happy to express my opinion when asked, but on such sensitive topics, I think that discretion is almost always the better part of valor. So I was taken aback when the most recent conversation ended abruptly with, “If that’s what Catholics believe, it’s a stupid religion.” Don’t get me wrong: I welcome serious debate because I think it’s an honor to share my knowledge and dispel some common misunderstandings about Church teachings. I’m well aware that not everybody is going to like or agree with what I have to say. But there’s a constructive way of debating, and then there’s school-yard name calling. It concerns me that many otherwise sensitive people don’t seem to realize how hurtful it is to call a person’s faith or religion “stupid.” It’s like insulting a member of the family. In charity, I have to suppose that most people who thoughtlessly insult Catholics or launch hurtful attacks on our Church, our beliefs, and our practices fundamentally misunderstand what it means to be a religious person. Before I started taking the faith seriously, I didn’t get it either. Being a Catholic and living it out...
Living More Abundantly

Living More Abundantly

It may be different now, but the chapel of the Newman Center at GWU when I was a student was in pretty rough shape. The floor creaked, the AC/heat was unreliable at best, and it had the general run-down, jerry-rigged feel of the room that was built over a retro-fitted garage in an old campus townhouse that urgently needed renovation. Its general decorative theme skewed heavily to 1970s “youth ministry,” with tacky multi-colored stained glass panels covering the windows behind the altar. They had Gospel quotations on them, only one of which I remember: “I have come that you may live more abundantly.”[1] The first time I visited the chapel, I remember looking at that verse and thinking, “That’s what I want.” When I began coming to the Newman Center as a sophomore in college, I was pretty unsure of my faith. I’d been baptized and confirmed as a Catholic, but faith was never an active part of my life. I didn’t know about the Real Presence, I thought most of the moral teachings couldn’t possibly be applied in modern life, and I didn’t want to be seen as one of those religious people. But I was inexplicably drawn to Catholicism—enough to cagily sneak over to the Newman Center’s free Tuesday night dinners without telling my friends where I was going, to sit for a few minutes in the chapel praying that no one would recognize me, and to tell myself that I was just there for the social events, not for any of that God stuff, which I was of course only doing out of politeness before nipping...
Modern Advances and the Moral Order

Modern Advances and the Moral Order

by Mary Walker I think one of the most fallacious arguments I’ve heard in the context of debating religion is that the Catholic Church is patently against technology and innovation. A girlfriend whom I love dearly said to me a few weeks ago, “The Church will come around on things like birth control, it’s only a matter of time, they’re just slow to catch up on these things.” To anyone who knows the Church at all, this can be seen as plainly illogical; her teachings come from Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition, not the whims of our culture. The Church changing her teaching on a serious moral issue is exceedingly rare due to this very fact. Furthermore, the Pope has his own YouTube channel and Facebook has turned out to be a great evangelizing tool. I find great joy in finding Catholic music I can download on iTunes and rocking out to it in my car, to the bewilderment of my fellow drivers. It is possible to love some technology and to oppose the technology that disrupts the moral order. In other words, we as Catholics are totally on board with technological advances until they start being used to accomplish evil ends. I’m speaking, of course, mostly about the reproductive arena of moral teaching. The technologies I mentioned before, the internet and sound systems, are mostly morally neutral, they can be used for good or for bad. JP II used the phrase, “language of the body” to refer to the way men and women’s bodies “speak” to each other in the marital act. For instance, most of us know what it’s...
The Forgotten Modesty

The Forgotten Modesty

Back in my glory days at Benedictine College, I would often peruse the ‘for sale’ shelf at the school library for the next 5 cent masterpiece that would change my life.  The shelf would have more appropriately named ‘pre-combustion row’ and though I rarely found anything worth taking the time to read, the occasional jewel would shine through. One such book was called The Moral Law by Bishop John Swint, in which he discusses culture through a meditation on the 10 Commandments.  Addressing the sixth and ninth commandmentsAgainst adultery and coveting your neighbor's wife, respectively., he writes: This is not an easy matter to deal with in a public discourse.  Much must be left to the privacy and secrecy of the confessional.  However, sexual matters are now so openly discussed, especially in newspapers, magazines, and novels, that no one is any longer shocked; and hardly anyone can be ignorant.  The time has come when the Church must speak – and speak very plainly. … Be careful of the movies you attend.  Undoubtedly, one of the most corrupting and demoralizing influences in the world today are the movies.  Seventy-five percent of them are absolutely unfit to be seen by anybody… Why the very advertising of these shows is an abomination.  Your child cannot go around two city blocks in the business section of a modern city without coming back with mind and heart corrupted.  It is bad enough for these things to be shown on the big screen, but to shove them right out on the street where everyone, even children, must see them is an abomination. Abomination, indeed.  Yessiree,...
Marriage: A “Liberal” Idea?

Marriage: A “Liberal” Idea?

by Mary Walker I’m sure everyone remembers learning about John Locke in high school or college Western Civ classes. Indisputably, he was a huge intellectual force during the American Revolution and we owe much of our esteemed system of government to this brilliant man. But did you ever read the sections of the First or Second Treatise that talk about marriage? Locke is frequently characterized as the inventor of the nuclear family! That’s right! This same man of liberal political ideals also saw marriage as vital to the survival of our western culture! Locke’s understanding of the family is best understood using the phrase “conjugal society”. This society is formed in the interest and well being of all members and the society at large. Locke describes this society, “Conjugal society is made by a voluntary compact between man and woman: and though it consists chiefly in such a communion and right in one another’s bodies, as is necessary to its chief end, procreation” (Locke 319). He understood this conjugal society to be a little political society, a framework designed to best control human appetites while directing desires in a healthy and productive way. In Locke’s view, a person’s greatest downfall is his tendency to give in to license as opposed to freedom. This seems like a completely fair charge, especially given the box of Girl Scout cookies I just finished off. The conjugal society, then, is intended to guide that license into freedom by harnessing the seemingly (in Locke’s view) rampant desires of men into a relationship that is both beneficial and disciplining.  In this initial phase of the...