Friday, May 04, 2007

New Book on the Bible

Friend and teacher Fr. William Kurz, S.J. has a new book on the bible called Reading The Bible As God's Own Story: A Catholic Approach To Bringing Scripture To Life.


The blurb says, “How should Catholics read the Bible? Beyond the history and literature of the Bible, Catholics need to discover God’s own story—and his way of looking at the world. Noted Scripture scholar William Kurz draws from the writings of two church fathers, Sts. Irenaeus and Athanasius, to show how we can read the Bible as the story of God—with the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as its climax. Like a good mystery novel, when we know how the story ends, we can read it again from the beginning in order to search for important clues that will help us see God’s plan for the world and how we fit into that plan. Kurz examines passages from both the Old and New Testament to demonstrate that, as we approach the Bible in faith, we bring new life and meaning to Scripture” 


In a e-mail he sent me he includes a brief bio: “William S. Kurz, SJ, is a professor of New Testament at Marquette University, where he has taught since 1975. His latest book, What Does the Bible Say about the End Times? A Catholic View (2004), was awarded first place in the Scripture category by the Catholic Press Association. Ordained a Jesuit priest in 1970, Fr. Kurz balances teaching and scholarship with pastoral concerns and has been involved in catechetical, apologetic, pro-life, charismatic, and sacramental ministries.”


Available June 1, 2007.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Glorious Weekend

It has taken me this long to post about the glorious weekend my family spent. Not only was the weather great, but we participated in three great events--in fact, we experienced a little heaven. First, on Friday and Saturday morning we went to the Great Milwaukee Catholic Home Educator's Conference, reported on here and here. The highlight for me was hearing Fr. Ray Gawronski speak on John Paul II as father and on the education of persons. Also, it was wonderful to participate in a panel with two other wonderful home school dads, Michael Mazza, J.D. and Dan McGuire, Ph.D. Finally, it was wonderful to be in such a heavenly atmosphere, the center of which was the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Next, we went to an astounding production of A Man for All Seasons put on by the Orestes Brownson Council at Notre Dame. I, of course, always love to be back there (I got my undergraduate degree there), but this was very special. My son, Tim, played Cromwell, the villian. All the actors were great, especialy considering most of them (including the directors) weren't theater people. We all stayed up late into the night sharing fun and conversation at Reckers (in the South Dining Hall). On Sunday we attended Mass at the Basilica and had brunch at Bob Evans.

Finally, on Sunday we drove back to Milwaukee for a group violin concert of the North Shore Suzuki Strings (hopefully they will put more info on their website soon!), directed by the incomparable Suzuki violin teacher, Carol Waldvogel. Three of our children were in it. After that, a feast at Culvers, including frozen custard.

Boy, were we tired on Monday!

Details of the Summer Academic Retreat I mentioned

Andrew Seeley, Ph.D., who is organizing this event gives the following description:

Since the "classical" curriculum refers to something excellent that has been done in the past, the first day is devoted to an overview of the history of Western and Catholic education. We need to consider what the different goals and means of education in the past have been in order to begin seeing what we need to do now.

Christopher Dawson (, who has been called the greatest English-speaking Catholic historian of the twentieth century, has an excellent book that does just this, "The Crisis of Western Education". It is succinct, accessible and profound. It also has chapters devoted specifically to Catholic education in America.

Classical education is often called "liberal arts" education, referring more or less to the seven traditional liberal arts. In one way or another, classical education aimed at teaching and perfecting these arts in students. The trivium consisted of the three language arts -- grammar, logic and rhetoric -- and aimed to make students complete masters of language: heard, read, written and spoken.

So Day Two is devoted to the Trivium, using Sr. Miriam Joseph's book on the trivium ( as a guide. Sr. Miriam taught the trivial arts at the College of St. Mary in South Bend, Indiana. Like Dawson's book, it is succinct, accessible, delightful and relatively complete.

Day Three is devoted to the Quadrivium, which is mathematical in nature. Here we find a conflict between a modern and ancient understanding of mathematics, which can be represented by Euclid and Descartes. Euclid presupposes that math is aimed at knowing the truth about reality, while Descartes thinks math is primarily a method of problem-solving. Considering these two different views and the effect they might have on students will be the focus of the day's sessions.

Day Four is devoted to the Sciences, which didn't really have a place in the classical curriculum. Understanding the aim and method of modern science and it's place in today's "classical" curriculum is the goal of this day's sessions. I have not settled entirely on what we will read, but Newton is the preminent example of a successful science.

Finally, the classical curriculum was crowned by moving beyond the arts to considerations of wisdom, or the most important matters for human life. In different ages and settings, different studies were seen to fulfill that role -- literature, history, metaphysics, ethics or theology. So Day Five is devoted to a consideration of three of these subjects. Cardinal Newman has an excellent essay on Literature in the curriculum; Christopher Dawson will represent history as wisdom; and John Paul's "Fides et Ratio" will touch on the nature of theology and it's relation to philosophy.

In the evenings, we will have seminar discussions on Sophocles and Shakespeare. These will be delightful in themselves, connect to the Literature topic, and give teachers a chance to experience the fruitfulness of discussion classes. A lecture on Poetry will complement both the study of the trivium and of literature, while an evening session of music will be delightful in itself and an opportunity to discuss the place of music in the curriculum.

I should say that we might make a few changes in the curriculum, but it will stay essentially the same.

Anyone interested in Catholic liberal education is invited to this wonderful retreat. Contact Dr. Seeley at the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education to register.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Human Life (Medical Ethics) exam

Here is the oral exam I'm giving to my seminarians this week.

The exam will be no more than 30 minutes long. Bring seven of the questions that you have prepared. We will discuss 1-3 of them. The presumption is that the question raised is not of a personal nature. In other words, there is no hidden pastoral situation that the person is trying to get at indirect answer to. Nonetheless, you do need to be pastorally sensitive to the possibility that the person is inadequately catechized or committed to a Catholic view of things. You need to explain in a way that is consonant with the teachings of the Catholic Church. You need to show sufficient medical knowledge. You need to use at least one of the 13 principles from Ashley and O'Rourke's Health Care Ethics accurately. By the way, you are NOT going to be graded on whether you agree with me on the particular issue so long as you don’t argue against a clearly taught Church position.

  1. Can a Catholic doctor prescript Oral Contraceptive Pills?
  2. Can a doctor administer a lethal dose for a state execution?
  3. Can a pharmacist fill a prescription for OCPs?
  4. Can a physician abort a baby in the case of ectopic pregnancy?
  5. Can a quadriplegic get married?
  6. Can a rape victim use emergency contraception?
  7. Can a retarded person get married?
  8. Can handicapped get married?
  9. Can a person get a tattoo?
  10. Can a man masturbate in order to collect a sperm sample for medical evaluation?
  11. Can a person scatter the ashes of the deceased if the deceased wanted it done?
  12. Can the mentally handicapped get married?
  13. If it is likely to shorten a person’s life, may the doctors increase morphine to reduce significant pain?
  14. If suicide is a mortal sin, why do we have funerals for people who committed suicide?
  15. Is Body Worlds okay?
  16. Is cloning okay?
  17. Is Gamete Inter-fallopian Transfer (GIFT) okay?
  18. Is it ethical to put a memory chip in a person’s head?
  19. Is it immoral to use caffeine as a stimulant?
  20. Is IVF okay?
  21. Is plastic surgery permissible?
  22. May a Catholic hospital rent space to a clinic in which the doctors prescribe contraceptives?
  23. May a medical professional refer a patient to a doctor who will perform a procedure forbidden by the Church?
  24. May a woman adopt a frozen embryo and have a child from it?
  25. May a person cease my renal dialysis?
  26. May a person donate his kidney to his brother, who needs a transplant?
  27. May a person escort a woman to an abortuary if he’s tried to talk her out of an
    abortion and she insists anyway?
  28. May a parent use immunizations for his or her children that were developed from aborted fetuses?
  29. May a Catholic vote for a pro-choice presidential candidate?
  30. May a Catholic vote for a pro-choice governor, senator, or legislator?
  31. May one use condoms to reduce the incidents of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa?
  32. Must a person seek a reversal of his elective sterilization (tubal ligation or vasectomy) once he realizes it was morally incompatible with personalized sexuality?
  33. May a Catholic vote for legislation that allows some abortions to be legal, but outlaws others?
  34. Should a Catholic have a living will?
  35. Should the state require Human Papilloma Virus inoculation for all girls under the age of 12?
  36. Should we distribute condoms in jails?
  37. Was what they did to Terri Schiavo right?
  38. What do you think of Ashley’s treatment?
  39. When can you remove hydration and nutrition from a person in a PVS?
  40. When is it okay to put the elderly in a nursing home?
  41. What if you find a great chiropractor who is also heavy into new age thinking?
  42. If differentiation doesn’t occur until a few days after conception, why can’t be
    use emergency contraception that destroys the undifferentiated cells?
  43. Can we use cybernetics to enhance the functionality of the human person?
  44. Can we use drug therapy to enhance the mental functionality of a person?
  45. Is national health care like they have in the UK and Canada a good thing?
  46. Should a woman over forty get amniocentesis on her unborn baby to test for Down’s syndrome?
  47. Should the mentally ill be institutionalized?
  48. Should a Catholic university that has a nursing school hire a moral theologian who publicly challenges the teachings of the Church on abortion and homosexuality?
  49. What should a Catholic hospital administration do about a physician who has privileges at the hospital and prescribes contraception and refers abortions in his private practice?
  50. Would it be ethical to use hormonal treatments to affect the phenotypic gender of an unborn child?
  51. May a person use OCPs to treat acne?
  52. May a person use OCPs to treat endometriosis?
  53. Shouldn’t we stop all this protesting and politicking about abortion and concentrate on caring for women in difficult situations?
  54. May a person get a hysterectomy to avoid the awful menopausal symptoms that the women in the family are usually subject to?
  55. May a person have labor induced a week before a big event like a graduation so that the birth doesn’t interfere with participation in the event?
  56. May a Catholic hospital rent space to a clinic that performs abortions?
  57. May a Catholic hospital rent space to a clinic that performs elective sterilizations?
  58. May a person be a janitor at an abortion clinic?
  59. May a Catholic campaign for a pro-choice candidate?
  60. May a legislator vote for a comprehensive health care reform bill that contains a
    provision to fund the distribution of condoms to public schools?
  61. If a couple is in general open to life, but is having a particularly difficult financial
    crisis, may they use contraceptives?
  62. Isn’t NFP just another form of contraception?
  63. Can drug treatment be used to increase the range of visual sensitivity into the IR and UV range?
  64. Should we put fluoride in drinking water?
  65. Can a researcher work on a DOD project to develop new strains of bacteria for use in developing defenses against biological warfare?
  66. If a person has a serious defect that is hereditary, should he have children?
  67. When is it okay to harvest organs for transplant?
  68. Should I invest in a foreign company that buys and sells organs for transplant?
  69. Is home birth okay?
  70. Should I be an organ donor?
  71. May the tissue taken from fetuses be used for transplants or research?
  72. Can a person get a sex change operation?
  73. Can a person involve his kids in a medical research project?
  74. Should children be given Ritalin for ADHD?
  75. Is electroconvulsive therapy okay?
  76. Should a person use an anti-depressant drug?
  77. Should a Catholic psychotherapists offer sex therapy to unmarried couples?
  78. Should a Catholic psychotherapist offer sex therapy to a homosexual couple?
  79. Should a person with same sex attraction seek reorientation therapy?
Welcome to the brave new world!

Family, community, education

Luigi Giussani makes an interesting comment in his book, The Risk of Education: “Trying to educate children only through the family is neither intelligent nor sincere” (Giussani, p. 130). At first this sounds like a warning against being too restrictive or isolationists--protecthing your children against the world. In fact, what he means is that we cannot be protective simply within the family, but must form larger social units which have a protective function. We must join forces to protect against the destructive forces in society.

Any one who underplays the aggressive evils in the world is like those people from the Ministry of Magic in book 5 of Harry Potter who denied that Voldemort has returned. Only the secret Order of the Phoenix was wise enough to fight. Ver Sacrum. “The family is like a house battered by lightning and thunder. Social forces on all sides assault the family, and the family which is not aware of this situation will be influenced even more by these ruling forces.” (Giussani, p. 130)

We need to gather together to create within our society an alternative to the culture of death. “An intelligent family will come out of its complacent, comfortable position and create relationships, a social fabric, in opposition to the dominant social fabric.” (Giussani, p. 131) This is why movements like CL, Opus Dei, Schoenstatt or a home school group are so important.

And things are only bound to get worse. Giussani sees this as a moral imperative in the coming years as the evils intensify. “In fact, the more society tightens its grip in various areas—something bound to intensify—the only way to save our rights is to join forces with others.” (Giussani, p. 131).

Note: this is not a circle the wagons type attitude; rather, it is a requirement for evangelization--that is, going forth into the world to bring the light of Christ through acts of love, the promotion of truth and the creation of authentic beauty. The Order of the Phoenix went to battle Voldemort. We can't do it as individuals or as families; we are not strong enough or smart enough. This is why the medievals called the family an imperfect society--the family does not have in itself everything it takes to accomplish its own task. It needs to be integrated into a natural and supernatural communities that will give it what it needs.

The scuttlebutt on sin

From Ralph Martin via Oswald Sobrino.

I've always wondered what happened to Martin. Now I know.