TCA Podcast – “Conversations with Consequences”

Episode 23: “A Year With the Mystics” with Kathryn Jean Lopez

Good friend of the podcast Kathryn Jean Lopez stops by the studio to discuss her new book, “A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living,” as well as Kathryn’s long and successful career at National Review. Kathryn is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.

In addition to discussing the book, Kathryn, Grazie Christie and Andrea Piccioti-Bayer talk about the influence of the founder of National Review, Bill Buckley, as well as a life-changing trip that Kathryn took to Rome.

1. Pro-life group: Pull links to Planned Parenthood, Catholic schools pressured to remove material.

By Christopher Vondracek, The Washington Times, September 27, 2019, Pg. A8

The national pro-life advocacy group Students for Life is pressuring Catholic colleges to remove Planned Parenthood internships, programming, even web links, from their campuses.

“Catholic universities should not be promoting abortion nor Planned Parenthood,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America. “Catholic universities should be promoting respect for all human life.”

“An authentic Catholic college would never direct students to Planned Parenthood,” Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic higher education organization, said in a statement. “Sadly, many Catholic colleges today have secularized and are not serious about teaching truth.”

2. Judge: Michigan adoption agencies can turn away LGBT couples.

By David Eggert, The Associated Press, September 26, 2019, 9:25 PM

Religious-based adoption agencies that contract with the state of Michigan will be allowed to refuse to place children in LGBT homes under a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge Thursday.

District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids blocked Democratic state Attorney General Dana Nessel, Michigan’s first openly gay statewide officeholder, from barring the faith-based agencies from excluding LGBT couples from services.

He said her action conflicted with state law, existing contracts and established practice. Nessel had, through a legal settlement between same-sex couples and the state Department of Health and Human Services, reversed the state’s stance earlier this year.

Jonker, in issuing a preliminary injunction, said Lansing-based St. Vincent Catholic Charities’ longstanding practice of adhering to its religious beliefs and referring same-sex and unmarried couples to other agencies is not discriminatory.

Wanting to cancel the contract “strongly suggests the State’s real goal is not to promote non-discriminatory child placements, but to stamp out St. Vincent’s religious belief and replace it with the State’s own. … It would disrupt a carefully balanced and established practice that ensures non-discrimination in child placements while still accommodating traditional Catholic religious beliefs on marriage,” he wrote.

In April, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty challenged Nessel’s deal, suing on behalf of St. Vincent, two adoptive parents and a former foster child who was adopted. The complaint alleges violations of the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act — claims on which the plaintiffs will likely prevail, according to the judge.

Jonker, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, also declined to dismiss Nessel from the suit, saying she “targeted” St. Vincent. He said she is at the “very heart” of the case after she made past statements referring to proponents of the 2015 law as “hate-mongers” and calling the measure indefensible during her 2018 campaign.

3. Pope commends nuns for ‘standing on front line’ against human trafficking.

By Inés San Martín, Crux, September 27, 2019

Speaking to a network of religious sisters that helps human trafficking victims, Pope Francis on Thursday told them to work closely with the local church, because this is necessary for their project to be successful.

“I want to reiterate that the journey of consecrated life, both female and male, is the path of ecclesial insertion,” Francis said. He discussed how religious must work within the bounds of officialdom. “Outside the Church and in parallel with the local church, things do not work.”

The pope also praised the network of religious sisters that combats human trafficking for being “on the front line.”

The pope was speaking to the first general assembly of Talitha Kum, a project started in 2001 by the International Union of Superiors General. Today, it’s a worldwide network coordinating the efforts of religious communities committed to the fight against human trafficking, which affects an estimated 40 million people.

Talitha Kum now coordinates 52 religious networks present in more than 90 countries on six continents. There are currently some 2,000 operators in the network who have helped more than 15,000 trafficking victims and given formation to over 200,000 people in prevention and awareness programs.

4. Pope endorsement of journal’s controversial articles shines light on his view of U.S.

By Charles Collins, Crux, September 27, 2019

Many have spoken about Pope Francis’s somewhat ambiguous relationship with the United States, best epitomized by his offhanded comment earlier this month on the papal plane before his three-nation trip to Africa: “It’s an honor that Americans are attacking me.”

He was speaking to La Croix‘s Nicolas Seneze, who had given Francis his new book, How America Wanted to Change the Pope.

Seneze’s book argued that very wealthy and influential conservative Catholics in the United States were actively seeking to undermine the pontificate, especially through rightwing media outlets.

Francis even jokingly referred to the book as “a bomb.”

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni quickly tried to perform some damage control after the pontiff’s seemingly anti-American comments, saying the pope always “considers criticism an honor,” particularly when it comes from “an important nation.”

Days later, on the flight back to Rome, Francis also downplayed the remark, noting, “Criticism comes not only from the Americans, they’re coming from all over, including the Curia.”

But still, many American Catholics – and not just the anti-Francis clique – felt the sting of the seeming papal backhand.

After the kerfuffle, Crux’s John Allen noted, “as a Latin American, as a social justice-minded Catholic from outside the U.S., and as a someone who sees himself as a tribune of the developing world, there’s just part of Francis who doesn’t cotton to what he sees as American arrogance and privilege.”

5. ‘It should be treated just like every other civil right’: Top Trump health official looks to enshrine religious liberty.

By Kimberly Leonard, The Washington Examiner, September 26, 2019, 2:40 PM

The Trump administration official who enforces civil rights protections in healthcare sees his work on religious liberty as his biggest legacy for the Department of Health and Human Services.

“There is a real problem out there of lack of respect for conscience and religious freedom that needs to be addressed and we are taking the concrete steps to finally address it,” said Roger Severino, 44, director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS. “And I think this is an awakening of sorts that has opened up people’s eyes, both in the healthcare industry and beyond, that this is a right that had been under-enforced, that people were being discriminated against and felt they had nowhere to turn, and now they have somewhere to turn. And it would be a shame if that door ever closed on them again.”

Severino, who is Catholic, enshrined the administration’s commitment to religious liberty last year by creating a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division at the agency. Most recently, his office sent a notice to the University of Vermont Medical Center accusing the hospital of forcing a Catholic nurse to assist with an abortion despite her objections to the procedure.

 Besides religious liberty, OCR enforces federal anti-discrimination laws relating to race, color, national origin, disability, age, and sex in healthcare facilities that get HHS funding, including from Medicare and Medicaid. It takes complaints from patients who can’t get access to their medical records and whose personal data is breached. In all, it got 33,194 complaints in 2018.

But it’s the religious liberty work that has gotten the most media attention. Liberal groups have been critical of the work. Severino oversaw a rule issued in May that lets medical workers file civil rights complaints to the federal government when they are forced against their religious or moral beliefs to discuss, refer, or participate in abortions, sterilizations, or medically assisted suicide.

Severino, who was born to Colombian immigrants, previously worked at the Justice Department and for the Heritage Foundation and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, both conservative groups. He is married to Carrie Severino, who runs the Judicial Crisis Network, which backs conservative judicial appointments. He got a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Southern California, a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University, and his law degree from Harvard Law School.

6. Italian Catholic bishops oppose assisted suicide ruling.

The Associated Press, September 26, 2019, 9:00 AM

The Italian Bishops’ Conference is coming out against a constitutional court ruling that assisted suicide is not punishable in cases when a patient in an irreversible condition is suffering unbearable pain.

The secretary-general of the bishop’s conference, Stefano Russo, says on Thursday that the ruling “creates the preconditions for a culture of death in which society loses the light of reason.”

The ruling late Wednesday is the latest development in the heavily Roman Catholic nation’s long-running debate over end-of-life issues. The constitutional court in Rome ruled in the case of a defendant who brought a friend, a well-known Italian DJ who was left quadriplegic by an accident, to Switzerland to die in an assisted suicide clinic.

7. Pontifical university takes up sex abuse of nuns by priests.

By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, September 26, 2019

A Togolese nun has successfully defended a first-ever dissertation at a Vatican-sanctioned university on the sexual abuse of nuns by priests in the latest evidence of a problem confronting the Catholic Church in the #MeToo era.

Sister Makamatine Lembo was awarded summa cum laude at her defense Thursday at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and was praised by her examiners for her courage in taking on such a taboo subject.

Lembo’s dissertation explores the relational dynamics behind the sexual abuse of nuns by priests, focusing on nine victims in five sub-Saharan countries. It found that the abuses involved entrenched power imbalances that made consent impossible, a yearslong grooming process and often money given to poor sisters in exchange for sex.

The Vatican has been forced to confront the abuse of nuns after its own women’s magazine denounced the problem and religious sisters, emboldened by the #MeToo reckoning that adults can be victims of sexual abuse, began speaking out and demanding justice.

Earlier this year, Pope Francis himself publicly vowed to do more to fight the problem, though examiner Karlijn Demasure noted during Lembo’s defense that the Vatican has had two major reports in its hands since the 1990s and yet “very little” has been done to address the problem.

8. Remembering Cardinal William Levada (1936-2019).

By Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Catholic Register, September 26, 2019

As the highest-ranking American in the history of the Roman Curia, and earlier as archbishop of San Francisco, the late cardinal had an outsize influence on the Church.

At the beginning of April 2005, the Catholic Church faced a difficult question: Who could possibly succeed Pope John Paul II? Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, previously thought too old, was elected, the most worthy available successor, even if he insisted that after the “great pope” he was only a “humble worker in the vineyard.” Humble but most formidable.

Who, then, would succeed Ratzinger as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF)? That was in some ways an even more difficult question.

When, less than a year later, the case against Father Marcial Maciel — the fraudulent, corrupt and wicked founder of the Legionaries of Christ — was brought to a successful conclusion, it demonstrated that Cardinal Levada could do the second task. He would continue what his predecessor had started.

In 2010, Levada would strengthen the legal provisions for sexual abuse brought in under St. John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger in 2001, and the CDF would mandate reporting to civil authorities.

The great example of helping the Curia to think theologically, rather than bureaucratically or even politically, was the establishment of the “personal ordinariates” for former Anglicans who wished to become Catholics that was accomplished during Cardinal Levada’s tenure. It was a generous and creative ecumenical gesture, allowing groups of Anglicans to enter into full communion with Rome while maintaining their distinctive Anglican patrimony.

9. The Baby and the Bathwater.

By Ryan T. Anderson & Robert P. George, National Affairs, Number 41, Fall 2019

Among the most prominent lines of argument in political theory in the past several years has been a sharp critique of “liberalism” as essentially incompatible with pre-liberal ideals of human flourishing. Scholars advancing this critique object to the notion commonly asserted by progressives, usually in the name of “liberalism,” that liberal ideals require laws that are “neutral” — by which they mean laws that do not embody and are not predicated upon any substantive view of what is humanly and morally valuable or what is right and wrong — and that only laws that elevate unlimited personal choice in matters like abortion and sexuality can pass that test. Any political arrangement that insists on such neutrality is misbegotten and harmful, the critics argue.  

Such arguments are right about what many influential progressives have made of “liberal” political and social theory. But could it be that an order that might be called “liberal” — namely, the sort of thing sometimes described as “liberal democracy” — is morally defensible? We believe so, while agreeing that “neutralist” liberalism is misguided. Indeed we think that the contemporary critique of neutralist liberalism itself points toward a defense of a certain (very different) sort of liberalism, or at least to a defensible social and political order in which certain “liberal” principles and institutions are key parts of the picture. The supposed neutrality or (to use John Rawls’s term) “anti-perfectionism” of contemporary progressive liberalism is indeed illusory. Appeals to moral neutrality, however sincerely offered, have functioned in practice as smoke screens to disguise the smuggling in of a certain controversial conception of the good — one that progressives hold and just about everyone else rejects.

Rejecting anti-perfectionist liberalism need not commit one to rejecting all forms or aspects of what might legitimately be called “liberalism,” even if one judges — as we do — much of Enlightenment liberal philosophy, including its most influential contemporary forms (e.g., Rawlsianism), to be misguided. As two scholars who have deployed and sought to contribute to the development of the Aristotelian-Thomistic moral tradition, we see no reason to view Lockean liberalism — or Kantian or Rawlsian liberalism — as philosophical advances (whatever might be learned from them). Indeed, we have good reasons to judge them unsound in fundamental ways. And yet we are prepared to defend, for our own reasons, what are sometimes labeled “liberal” political institutions. (Of course, there is no magic in the word “liberalism,” and it need not be used if one regards it as so bound in common social usage to neutralism that its use risks misleading people.)

Many “liberal” political ideals and institutions predate liberal philosophy and, more to the point, have proven effective at promoting the common good. Some such ideals and institutions have much stronger (in the sense of more credible) justifications in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition than in Lockean or Rawlsian liberal theory. None of them rests upon or presupposes the necessity, desirability, or even possibility of neutrality about the human good. Representative government, separation of powers, constitutionalism, limited government and respect for the autonomy and integrity of institutions of civil society (beginning with the marriage-based family), jury trial, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and other basic civil liberties all pre-date John Locke. They are more than defensible (and are indeed better defended) without invoking Lockean philosophical ideas.

We should not do away with any of them, for they are the political ideals and institutions that, compared to the alternatives, best promote and protect the common good — even when we conceive of the common good in a manner quite alien to some central principles of Enlightenment or contemporary progressive liberalism.

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