Russell Shaw

May 20, 2016

New dispatches from our endless culture war

By Russell Shaw

Although the wave of battles now underway in several parts of the country over religious freedom laws and LGBT rights may come as a surprise to some people, it shouldn’t. At least since last year’s Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, and probably longer than that, it’s been clear that something like this was bound to happen. Recall Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion in the Obergefell case holding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. In that...

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To no one’s particular surprise, the process of filling the Supreme Court vacancy created by Antonin Scalia’s death has morphed into a huge Washington-style power struggle. What may not be so obvious is that the struggle is actually three struggles in one. These layers of meaning are worth examining for the light that sheds on the troubled state of America today. On one level, this is a fairly conventional political fight, another of those Democrat-Republican sumo wrestler matches that...

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February 22, 2016

The coming celibacy debate

By Russell Shaw

Speculation and trial balloons floating lately over the Vatican walls suggest that Pope Francis wants to open up a discussion of married priests in the Church. According to reports, this will be the topic of the next world Synod of Bishops in a couple of years. Yes, I know the Church already has some married priests, and many of them are admirable people doing excellent pastoral work. The point now would presumably be to broaden the practice in the western Church and increase the number...

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February 04, 2016

Lent and temptation

By Russell Shaw

It would be like telling the story of World War II and leaving out Hitler. That’s what telling the story told in the gospels would be like without taking account of the devil. He and his evil companions are a sinister presence throughout.  The gospel narrative concerning what might be called the first Lent is testimony to that. I mean the 40 days Christ spent in the desert before launching into his public career. At the end of it, Satan appears and proposes three famous temptations,...

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The potential presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, a media critic when it suits his purposes, is a creature of the media. Trump has a knack for saying outrageous things, and journalists have heaped lavish free coverage on his outrageousness. The result: a candidate who has never held public office and has made the art of personal insult a significant part of his chosen path to the White House. Piety probably isn’t going to solve this problem, but in the Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed...

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December 26, 2015

Belloc and Christendom

By Russell Shaw

Chatting with a British bishop who’d said the famous Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc sometimes came to his home when he was a child to visit his father, a friend, I asked the obvious question: What was Belloc like? The bishop didn’t say a lot, but I do remember this: “…an old man in a rumpled, stained black suit.” The image has stuck with me, as apparently it did with the bishop. That would have been Belloc in the last years of his life. (He died in July, 1953, just short of turning...

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December 14, 2015

Catholic voters and 2016

By Russell Shaw

With the election of a new president less than a year away, at least one thing about the outcome seems reasonably clear: whoever the winner turns out to be, a majority of the voters identifying themselves as Catholics will probably have voted for him or her.   That’s been the pattern for a long time now, and there is no reason to think it will change next November. And why should it? People like to be on the winning side. Why should Catholics be any different?   Hold on though....

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November 13, 2015

Roots of the Great Divide

By Russell Shaw

The inability of parties to America’s culture war to communicate meaningfully with one another on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and assisted suicide is a disturbing fact of national life today. One observer remarks that the two sides seem to be living in “different moral universes.” But that isn’t new. The problem is the same one analyzed in depth by, for example, Notre Dame philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in his acclaimed book After Virtue, which first appeared in 1981. What is...

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October 16, 2015

Assisted suicide a century ago and now

By Russell Shaw

As Robert Hugh Benson’s apocalyptic novel Lord of the World moves toward its shocking conclusion, a naïve young woman who has placed simple-minded faith in the utter goodness of the Antichrist figure at the center of the story awakens to the fact that her hero has artfully constructed a regime of violence, oppression and thought control. Profoundly disillusioned, she turns to one of the new state-run euthanasia ‘homes’ for help in ending her life. As she ponders what has happened and what...

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Let’s begin by recognizing that the case of the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because same-sex marriage conflicts with her religious faith raises questions that both sides in this argument need to take seriously. Up to a point, this particular dispute has been settled—more or less. Kim Davis was jailed for contempt of court while others in her office issued the licenses, then was released. Whether that’s the end of it remains to be seen,...

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