On poverty and the theology requirement

I recently attended the United Nations 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Representatives from around the world discussed the relationship between poverty and the education of women. The Western nations tended to present abstract arguments for “disaggregating data” and the importance of increased access of opportunity to education, political office and economic capital as a means of eradicating the poverty suffered by women in both developed and undeveloped nations. Indeed, access to education seemed to me a valuable means to the empowerment of women until a Nigerian delegate objected that “access to education” does not ensure “quality education.”  Continue reading

On Blind Faith

Ignorant people take things by blind faith. At least, this is the belief of our age, the age which calls itself the “enlightened age.” In an age of technological progress and scientific advancement, the obvious thing to do with “blind faith” is to reject it as a feature of darker times, of primitive man or of tyrannical religion. That being said, I’ve found that Catholicism does involve quite a bit of “blind following.” Catholics are, for the most part “blind followers,” who take up doctrines that they don’t understand and accept them blindly. Catholics, in other words, are just like everyone else. Continue reading

Curriculum Problems are Faculty Problems

In the midst of discussions over curricular developments at Notre Dame, I am mindful of a remark made by Otto Bird, the founder of the Program of Liberal Studies: “In the 1950s I was a member of the Faculty Hiring Committee, a body appointed by the administration to put pressure upon the department heads to seek for and hire the best candidates they could find for positions that became open. As it turned out, I became the one member of the committee who asked the candidate, when he was not a Catholic, about his ability and willingness to live and function in a Catholic university.”

These remarks came out in his 1990 memoir “Seeking a Center: My Life as a Great Bookie,” in which he noted that Notre Dame is a better university than it was in 1950 “measured by the secular standards of non-Catholic universities … Yet it certainly is not as manifestly Catholic as it was.” One might argue over the merits of a less manifest Catholicism — like arguing over the merits of a less incarnate God — but he also writes of PLS: “I do not think that the program today is as good as it was in its first years. In theology and philosophy it has been watered down … There is … less in the way of discipline and rigor … As a whole the program is less ‘intellectualistic’ than it was in the beginning.” I suspect that these remarks could also be applied to the “core curriculum” offered at Notre Dame as a whole.  Continue reading

What’s Next for Love and Marriage?

The following column was published in The Observer on Thursday, December 11, 2014.

The first dozen times I came out I cried. For many of my friends, it was the first time they had seen me cry. Ever. A high school friend once told me that I had two emotions: happy, and more happy. She was wrong. I felt a lot of things, but I had to hide them.  Continue reading

Consent Confusion

The following column was published in The Observer on Friday, November 14, 2014.

Consent is a strange place to start. It’s a confusing concept that’s somehow supposed to govern our relationships and provide the framework for sexual intimacy. The focus on consent as the primary framework for intimacy, however, often creates more ambiguities than protections.  Continue reading

Homosexuality: From Tolerance to Love (audio)

I recently gave a lecture at the University of Notre Dame as part of its Theology on Tap series, sponsored by ND Campus Ministry. You can listen to the audio by clicking here.

Here’s the event description:

Join us for Theology on Tap, a Catholic speaker series for undergraduate and graduate students of all ages, single and married, to share in food, fellowship and faith. The Oct. 29 session will be hosted by Chris Damian, JD Candidate from the University of St. Thomas. This talk will consider the Church’s teachings on homosexuality in the light of God’s love for all his children. In a loving Christian concept of justice, a true Christian view of homosexuality must extend past mere tolerance (which allows for keeping others at arm’s length) to self-giving love. The talk will be hosted at Legends at 8 p.m. All students are invited to attend. Students must be 21 or over to drink. ID required. To see the full schedule of Theology on Tap events, please visit http://campusministry.nd.edu/about-catholicism/theology-on-tap/.

The Church I Disagree With

The following column was published in The Observer on Thursday, October 30, 2014.

I recently gave a lecture in which I tried to take a clever stab at the idea that one indeed can be a Catholic who disagrees with the Church’s teachings. I said something to the effect that I had realized, in my own life, that I couldn’t be “spiritual, but not religious.” I knew my spirituality would consist primarily of self-worship and accommodation, creating a God in my own image. I still think this is a clever argument, but one of the problems with being clever is that someone might ask you to explain what you mean. That’s what happened.  Continue reading

Friendship: The Foundation of Reason

The following column was published in The Observer on Thursday, October 16, 2014.

“I will always consider the possibility that I might be wrong.” So states the commitment to humility in the Center for Social Concerns’ “Virtues of Discourse” pledge. As one of the seven “virtues” in the pledge, humility means, “When I realize that I have been wrong, I will readily acknowledge it.”

This might bring to mind the humble Socrates, who was confounded when the oracle at Delphi announced that none was wiser than he. Conscious that he was “not at all wise,” Socrates thereafter began a search to find a man of greater wisdom. In his search, he discovered that “those with the best reputations seemed … nearly the most deficient … while others with more paltry reputations seemed to be … more fit in regard to being wise.”  Continue reading

On Business Degrees and Free Market Mysticism

The following column was published in The Observer on Thursday, October 2, 2014.

“I don’t like to hire students who studied accounting. They tend to approach problems narrowly, as though they are clear-cut numerical issues with clear-cut, single-answer solutions. This just isn’t true.”

I was a bit surprised to hear this from a partner at a nationally recognized law firm that focused on business law. As a former philosophy major in a joint-degree program in law and Catholic Studies, I tended to see my lack of business knowledge as a liability in my job search. What this lawyer suggested, however, was that a technical or job-oriented degree could be an intellectual hindrance for those pursuing professional work. Continue reading