The Awkward Avoidance of Biblical Interpretation

In contemporary biblical interpretation, much emphasis is placed upon such questions as: Which book or chapter was written first? Which stories have greater historical credibility? What other biblical stories or texts was this book’s author aware of? How far back did the oral tradition of this text go, and, consequently, how true are the words to the original?

In understanding the Bible in relation to Christendom, these are remarkably strange questions. They skip around the fact that, though these texts have long histories and stories surrounding their authorship, their significance for Christianity comes primarily from a selection of texts by a particular Christian community. That is, the relation of the texts to each other finds its significance more from the Christians compiling the Bible for a communal identity, than from the individual authors and histories of the texts themselves. Continue reading

Bosses in Bedrooms

Following today’s decision that Hobby Lobby would not be required to provide birth control to its employees, I did a google image search for “hobby lobby supreme court.” A few images came up from protestors on both sides of the case. In one image, a group of women hold up signs saying, “NO BOSSES IN MY BEDROOM.”

You might be surprised to discover that these women did not mean to show their support for the Christian craft store. I suspect they were confused (as we all are from time to time, especially when we’re carrying posters). Regardless of their intent, perhaps both Hobby Lobby and its past critics can come together in appreciating one consequence of today’s decision: one more boss is out of the bedroom.  Continue reading

Infantile Questioning and the Contemporary Theologian 

I recently attended a conference on women in the church. During one panel, two young Catholic women sought to present the Church’s teachings on women and gender through an orthodox perspective, offering advice and ideas on the roles of women in the Church. One woman stated that she would not be discussing the issue of women’s ordination, as it was not germane to her paper. Her co-panelist did the same, quoting Pope Francis’s statement that the door to women’s ordination “is closed”.  Continue reading

Justice and the Band of Robbers

In the early nineteenth century, the United States was seeking to establish a reliable system of property ownership. This was particularly difficult, given that much land was still inhabited by native Indian tribes, and these tribes attempted to give land grants that often conflicted with grants given by the United States government. An 1823 Supreme Court case called Johnson v. M’Intosh involved such a conflict, and the case was in part resolved by the American adoption of a longstanding European principle: that “discovery gave an exclusive right to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy, either by purchase or by conquest”. That is, a nation may claim land as its own when that nation has either discovered that land or conquered its peoples. Continue reading

On Being a Zoo Animal

When I started law school, I expected to get into all kinds of contentious debates. I do hold, after all, pretty extreme views. I agree with Catholicism’s teachings on… well… everything – abortion, birth control, marriage, etc., etc., etc. I always suspected that I would become a source of controversy. I never suspected I would become a zoo animal.  Continue reading

Compliance Questions

The following column was published in the Irish Rover on Thursday, March 20, 2014. 

On February 12, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held an oral argument in Notre Dame’s case against the HHS mandate. Among the more surprising moments was Judge Posner’s question to Notre Dame attorney Matthew Kairis, asking whether the use of birth control was a mortal or a venial sin. Even more surprising was the admission of ignorance by Kairis, a graduate of Notre Dame’s Program of Liberal Studies, followed by Judge Posner’s answer that it is a mortal sin.

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