Three notes on the death penalty

Over the past year, I have made slow progress toward deepening my grasp of moral philosophy.  As a philosopher, I am still not ready to join all the discussions that swirl around the Internet.

But when people began to wrangle about Pope Francis’s comments on the death penalty, I noticed a few points that I could contribute as a theologian.  Here are some key lines from the Holy Father’s remarks:

It must be clearly stated that the death penalty is an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity.  It is per se contrary to the Gospel, because it entails the willful suppression of a human life that never ceases to be sacred in the eyes of its Creator and of which—ultimately—only God is the true judge and guarantor.

This is a strong argument, to be sure.  I hope to do some justice to the strength of the argument below.  But as a Catholic biblical scholar, I see three points that might deserve consideration: Continue reading “Three notes on the death penalty”

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To love the Lord with all your mind

As a college teacher, I often have to reflect on what a college education really aims at.  What should we be doing?

Jesus was asked a similar question once: “What is the greatest of the commandments?” The question was very broad, of course:  it meant something like, “What should we be doing with the whole of our lives?”  But the answer he gave, because it applies to every part of life, applies to a college as well.  He cited Deuteronomy 6:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord and you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

One could spend a life unpacking that one sentence. But what I want to focus on now is the fact that Jesus didn’t quote it the way it is found in Deuteronomy—the way I just wrote it out. What he said was this: Continue reading “To love the Lord with all your mind”

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Holmes’s Law

To criticize X is one thing, to mock X is another; but the more you do of either, the less you see the distinction.

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A note on the Latin text of Veritatis Splendor

In my last post, I offered an argument that Amoris Laetitia was written in a modern language and then translated into Latin later, with the various modern language translations based not on the Latin but on the modern-language original.  The argument had two bases: (1) The Latin text appeared on the Vatican website months after all other languages had been published; (2) the various translations share features that cannot be explained on the basis of independent translation from the Latin.

There are other possibilities, of course.  Maybe the Italians translate a text first, and then all the other translators use the Italian translation as a guide to their translation of the Latin.  Maybe all the translators get together at a pub to decide what the text should really say, and then go home to make it say that.  I don’t know!  But a couple of conversations with people who work in the Vatican Latin offices have left me, rightly or wrongly, with the impression that it has been a long time since a papal encyclical was originally composed in Latin.  Rumors have it that BXVI did compose in Latin, but even these rumors put the claim as a remarkable exception.

But since we are having fun with linguistic geekery, I thought I should look at the word “ideal” in John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor, too.  The famous paragraph, the one people often cite in comparison with Amoris Laetitia 303, is VS 103: Continue reading “A note on the Latin text of Veritatis Splendor”

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A note on the Latin text of Amoris Laetitia

When Amoris Laetitia was first released in all the various modern languages, the geeks among the onlookers were frustrated to find that no Latin text was available on the Vatican website.  Months went by, and eventually a Latin text appeared, long after the debate over Amoris Laetitia was underway.  Just looking at the Vatican website, one would suppose that the Latin text was not the original text but was created some time after the various modern language editions.

Is this true?  I became curious.  Now that there is a Latin text, we can check.  If the Latin is original, then one will expect to find that the various translations render the Latin various ways, with the Polish sometimes agreeing with the Latin against the Spanish, and the Spanish sometimes agreeing with the Latin against the French, and so on.  But if the Latin was later, then one would expect to find sometimes that the various translations all agree with each other against the Latin, and one would expect to find this in a situation where a given phrase is especially hard to get into the Latin. Continue reading “A note on the Latin text of Amoris Laetitia”

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Standing in the Solar System

My home was in the path of the total eclipse of 2017.  The hype before the event made us all doubt it could possibly live up to the anticipation—and yet it did.  And how.  Follow this link to read my essay over at The Peregrine Magazine, “Standing in the Solar System”.

Image credit: The Peregrine Magazine
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And now something silly about a goose

[If you like singing the round, “Why Shouldn’t My Goose,” then you will love this post. If you hate silly things like rounds, click away now while you still can.]

Dramatis Personae
A: City slicker and leader of singing group A.
B: Country bumpkin and leader of singing group B.

My Goose, Thy Goose

A: Oy! Watch out! Thou hast mixed up our things!

B: Sorry about that. We’ll just move over to the side.

A: Oy! Thou hast my goose! Continue reading “And now something silly about a goose”

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Following the Mass with the Imagination

At the Foot of the Mountain

At Home

Either the evening or the morning before Mass, I thoughtfully review the Mass readings.  I do not try to spend a lot of time on them, but I want to be familiar with the main points beforehand.

When the time for Mass approaches, I travel through space to the Church building.  All the while I reflect that the Mass itself will be a journey, but not through space:  it will be a spiritual ascent, a journey in thought, love, and grace.  It will be a journey more real than the physical journey to the Church, just as spirit is more real than body.

This is the law of the temple:  the whole territory round about upon the top of the mountain shall be most holy. – Ezek 43:12 Continue reading “Following the Mass with the Imagination”

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Check out the Peregrine Magazine

The same folks that started The Josias have kicked off another journal, The Peregrine.  While the former is about big ideas and its entries are long, the latter is about living out the ideas and its articles are short.

When I saw that Peter Edmund Waldstein of the Sancrucensis Blog had published a lovely reflection on swimming with goggles at The Peregrine, I was reminded of a piece I wrote quite some time ago titled Life in the Cosmos. I sent it in, but unfortunately their word limit meant they could only publish snippets of the original essay.  It’s enough to offer a feel for the topic. Check out the shorter Life in the Cosmos here.

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The Our Father and the Beatitudes

St. Augustine was confident that the Beatitudes are the key to the Sermon on the Mount.  They lay out the goal toward which the entire Christian life—and so, implicitly, the entire Sermon—is ordered, and they describe the person who attains the goal.  When Augustine commented on the Our Father, the model for all Christian prayer, he was similarly confident that the Beatitudes must somehow be the key.  Our prayer should be directed to the goal of our life, right?

“The Conversion of St. Augustine,” by Fra Angelico

In a moment of inspiration, he decided to line up the petitions of the Our Father with the Beatitudes, in order: Continue reading “The Our Father and the Beatitudes”

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