Notre Dame

Both politicians spoke of how their families and their Catholic faith, in small personal moments, in joy and in tragedy, had inspired and informed their decades of political service.

John Gehring 05-13-2016

Image via REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/RNS

When Pope Francis became the first pontiff in history to address Congress last fall, two of the most powerful Catholics in Washington sat behind him.

Image via REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/RNS

Vice President Joe Biden and former House Speaker John Boehner, devout Catholics and longtime political foes, will share a prestigious honor from the University of Notre Dame in a pointed rebuke to the polarization and ugliness of American politics shown perhaps most vividly in the Republican nominating contest currently led by Donald Trump.

“We live in a toxic political environment where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership,” Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, said in statement announcing that Biden, a Democrat, and Boehner, a Republican, would receive the 2016 Laetare Medal.

Photo via University of Notre Dame / RNS

The Rev. Richard McBrien. Photo via University of Notre Dame / RNS

The Rev. Richard McBrien, a renowned Catholic theologian at the University of Notre Dame who wrote comprehensive works on church history and delivered punchy sound bites from a liberal perspective, died Jan. 25. He was 78 and had been in poor health for several years.

McBrien joined Notre Dame in 1980 and quickly became not only a standout for the theology department but also an outspoken liberal commentator just as Pope John Paul II, who was elected in 1978, was pushing the Catholic Church in a more conservative direction.

In his media punditry and in a weekly column that ran in some diocesan newspapers — and was increasingly barred in others — McBrien argued for the ordination of women as priests, optional celibacy, and birth control, among other things. That made him a hero to progressives and the bane of conservatives, who often lobbied the hierarchy to discipline him.

Despite courting controversy, he always remained a priest in good standing.

Photo courtesy Brian McConkey Photography

Notre Dame theologian Candida Moss, who wrote a book on Christianity and persecution. Photo courtesy Brian McConkey Photography

Growing up Catholic in England, Candida Moss felt secure in life, yet was told in church that Christians have been persecuted since the dawn of Christianity. Now, as an adult and a theologian, she wants to set the record straight.

Too many modern Christians invoke, to lamentable effect, an ancient history of persecution that didn’t exist, Moss argues in her newly published book, The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented A Story of Martyrdom.

Although anti-Christian prejudice was fairly widespread in the church’s first 300 years, she writes, “the prosecution of Christians was rare, and the persecution of Christians was limited to no more than a handful of years.”

We asked Moss, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, to talk about the travails of early Christians, and how they are misappropriated in the public sphere today. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Eugene Cho 01-18-2013
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish warms up before a game. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Listen, I’m not here to bash Manti. I’m not here to ridicule or mock him. I’m not even suggesting that Manti is lying or that his statement is not accurate but we can all agree that the whole story is absolutely bizarre and the total truth has yet to be fully revealed. But because I’m a believer in people – and more so – because I believe in the power of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration, I want to see Manti do well – not just as a football player – but as a man … as a human being … and as someone who often speaks of God.

If I were Manti’s pastor …

While more details will emerge in the future,  I wondered what kind of advice I would give him if I were Manti’s personal pastor. (Manti, being Mormon, is supposedly a deeply religious person.) Here are the four pieces of advice I’d give him.

Duane Shank 01-30-2012
Conscientious objectors rally in Germany. Image via Getty Images.

Peace activists support Iraq war veteran and now conscientious objector Agustin Aguayo. Photo by Getty Images.

One of the U.S. Constitution's difficult balances is found in the freedom of religion clause of the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

What happens when those two values conflict?

That is the issue with the controversy over whether religiously-affiliated organizations should be required to offer free coverage for contraception in health insurance plans made available to employees. Those opposed — most notably Catholic organizations — claim that this requirement would violate their freedom of conscience. Those who support it claim that exempting religiously-affiliated organizations would establish a religion over the rights of individuals.

David Cortright 11-03-2011

Afghanistan Girl
During interviews with more than a dozen Afghan women leaders, researchers, international aid workers and former Afghan government officials, we learned of persistent dangers and threats to the country's future.

Afghan women face continuing repression. They are witnessing the erosion of previous gains as Taliban control spreads in the countryside and reactionary warlord influence increases within the Kabul regime. The government's own security forces are often responsible for violations of women's rights. Check back in a few days for a more detailed account of what we learned.
The withdrawal of foreign forces will produce an economic crisis for the government of Afghanistan, which remains almost completely dependent financially on the U.S. and other foreign governments, especially to pay for its huge 300,000-person security forces. I wrote about this funding failure in an earlier post.
A new security agreement between Kabul and Washington is likely to call for the continued presence of U.S. military forces in the country beyond the 2014 transition deadline. This is seen as necessary to provide security for Kabul, but it could also have the effect of prolonging the insurgency and impeding prospects for reconciliation.

It was clear from what we heard that maintaining security requires more than deploying a large number of troops.

David Cortright 05-03-2011
The killing of Osama bin Laden brings partial closure to the long war against al Qaeda.
David Cortright 03-14-2011
The clock is ticking toward a July decision by President Obama to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, as he has promised.
Cesar Baldelomar 09-29-2009
As a struggling Catholic, the uproar and division caused by conservative U.S.
John Gehring 09-21-2009
Catholic progressives are not the only faithful people worried about the dangers posed by some U.S.
John Gehring 07-10-2009
When Pope Benedict XVI meets with President Obama in Rome today, a shy German theologian and a charismatic leader known for his international rock star appeal will find plenty to agree on despite s
John Gehring 05-23-2009
Against the backdrop of protest and spectacle that threatened to overshadow graduation at the University of Notre Dame last week, President Obama delivered a graceful commencement address that stan
Jim Wallis 05-21-2009
The media coverage and analysis of President Obama's speech at Notre Dame on Sunday largely focused o
Jim Wallis 05-18-2009
After weeks of controversy surrounding Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama to receive an honorary doctorate as this year's commencement speaker, we have seen both the American democratic tra
Jim Wallis 03-30-2009
Barack Obama will be the ninth president awarded an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame and the sixth president to address its graduates during commencement services.