Thursday, April 19, 2012, 11:00 AM
Part 3 in a series.
In recent two posts, I wrote about Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba in March 2012. Now that a few weeks have passed, I reflected on the question: does this visit represent a new opening for the Catholic Church in Cuba?
Before answering that question, I will briefly summarize the history of the Catholic Church since the Cuban Revolution. The first 20 years after the Cuban Revolution of 1959 can be described as time of survival for the Catholic Church. With many of its clergy and religious expelled from Cuba,, the remainder harassed or sent to forced labor camps for “rehabilitation” into the new, communist society.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012, 12:01 PM
As I explained in a previous post, I have traveled to Cuba multiple times to visit family members. During my visits, I became close friends with a group of young Cubans who are very active in a parish in Santiago de Cuba. Anxious for news from my friends in Cuba about the Pope Benedict’s visit, I emailed this group of friends in Santiago to tell them I would be thinking of them during his visit and to ask them to send me news of their experiences.
Monday, April 2, 2012, 9:30 AM
Perhaps by now you have seen some of the images of two ideological opposites, Pope Benedict XVI and Cuba’s Fidel Castro, who met for 30 minutes at the end of the Pope’s visit to Cuba in March. If you don’t know the history of Cuban communism or the main themes of Benedict’s writings on liberty, reason and truth, you may have missed the significance of his words to the Cuban people. For example, Benedict’s profound statement “No hay patria sin virtud (“there is no authentic fatherland without virtue”) seemed to be a play on the Cuban slogan “patria o muerte” (fatherland or death). As I’ve written before about the contradictions of Cuban communism, there is nothing virtuous in denying people liberty in order to achieve a real or supposed collective well being.
Monday, March 19, 2012, 11:00 AM
As a graduate student, I remember reading Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on Faith and Reason and reflecting on his claim that science, for all of its great advances, is insufficient by itself to answer questions about the meaning of life, questions better left to philosophy and theology. As he wrote, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.” Reading Cardinal John Henry Newman’s book The Idea of a University communicated the same message: the intellectual life, the life of a student, a scientist or a university professor, is a search for truth, and all sincere search for truth leads us to God.
Monday, March 12, 2012, 11:00 AM
Although he is known by many as a political dissident, Islamic scholar Mohsen Kadivaremphasized to me over lunch recently, “I never wanted to get involved in politics. I just wanted to be a scholar of religion.” But when the intelligence service in his home country of Iran killed at least four dissidents accused with apostasy and claimed a fatwa of unknown religious authority to justify the killings, Kadivar objected. In articles he wrote and speeches he delivered at a mosque to several thousands of believers during the holy nights of Ramadan, Kadivar argued that according to the Qur’an and the authentic tradition of the prophet Muhammad “terror is forbidden in Islam.” Punishment, he argued, is only the job of the court, not anyone else. It is not lawful, he argued, to kill dissidents for religious crimes.
Monday, March 5, 2012, 11:00 AM
In December, Georgetown scholars Tom Farr and Tim Shah organized an online debate through the New York Times that asked if religious freedom is under threat in the U.S. was particular struck by the viewpoints of representatives of minority religions in the U.S.— such as Sikhs and Muslims—who feel misunderstood, mis-represented, and often find it difficult to carry out their basic religious duties.
Monday, February 27, 2012, 11:00 AM
What does Lent, which starts today, have to do with a topic I’m very interested in: markets and morals? Recently I wrote that in order to reform a system, it’s good to have concrete alternatives, often tied to concrete traditions of thought. Through my classes in economic sociology and in social theory, I introduce students to scholars they may not encounter elsewhere in college, such as Friedrich Hayek or Amartya Sen. I use those readings, and this series of video interviews with scholars about markets and morals created by the Templeton Foundation, to teach students that markets are good but they also need to be regulated by morals.
Monday, February 20, 2012, 11:00 AM
In his recent column responding to the You Tube hit video, “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus,” New York Times Columnist David Brooks sent a clear message to many would-be reformers: if you desire reform, you are better off joining a movement tied to a tradition.
Tradition is hardly a word we hear anymore. When it is evoked, it is often used negatively. Many people distrust institutions that symbolize traditions, such as the government and religion. The free market—which can be considered a tradition in that it refers to a set of principles on which our economy is based—has also come under fire. Change Washington, Occupy Wall Street, and give me Jesus without the church may be catchy phrases, but Brooks’s column leads us to ask: with what will you replace those traditions?