This October twenty-sixth, voters in Ireland will decide at the polls if the country’s prohibition on blasphemy should be removed from the nation’s constitution. It comes for me as a welcome sign of some progress against what otherwise was a trend in Western Europe toward establishing an international blasphemy standard that many regard as censorship and a vehicle for possible criminal prosecution of speech and expression.
While the Irish government has insisted that no persons have been successfully prosecuted for blasphemy since the 1850s, the existence of any such statute serves as leverage by the state to control what its citizens may say or what behavior it considers objectionable. The time for repeal I believe has arrived.
The intolerance of art and free expression in many Islamic countries was particularly and painfully evident in the Maldives last week. A beautiful and powerful underwater sculpture by British artist Jason DeCaires Taylor was ordered destroyed by the government after objections by Islamic leaders for its depiction of human forms. Ironically, the art highlighted the dire risk of rising sea levels for the Maldives. Instead, its demise will forever symbolize the risk of rising intolerance of religious orthodoxy. For some tourists who flock to the Maldives, this outrageous attack on art just might be a deterrent to future vacation plans.
I have previously written about the continued use of blasphemy laws in the West, including Spain and Ireland. The continued enforcement of medieval concepts of blasphemy as evidenced by the detention of Willy Toledo, who was accused of ridiculing God and the Virgin Mary in court. Toledo is being targeted due to comments made on social media in support of three women who are being prosecuted for blasphemy. It is chilling to think that an actual judge would hold such a hearing in modern times. The nation that gave us the Spanish Inquisition still claims the right to imprison people for insulting God.
Nature can be mesmerizing when we afford ourselves the opportunity to believe such. Often we keep ourselves at a distance to the outdoors and view each element only as an abstraction: too ordinary and mundane and something simply to drive past.
In such as this example of nature before us, from afar we only see stumps in a drying reservoir. Yet for a small investment in our time and close attention, a century of nature’s craft shows some true woodworking.
Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan quit their jobs in Washington, D.C. to experience the world in their late 20s. Austin wrote on the trip how he had found great decency everywhere they had gone. He wrote: “Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own… By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.” That inspiring world adventure came to the end in Tajikistan when they and two other cyclists were hit by a car filled with ISIS fighters who jumped and stabbed them to death as “nonbelievers.”
The well-known Catholic prayer states “By this holy water and by Your Precious Blood, wash away all my sins, O Lord.” It appears however that the next question for the faithful at Notre Dame may be “what washes away the holy water?” A significant number of churchgoers in Paris are complaining about failing ill after using the holy water at Notre Dame. It is not a unique problem according to some studies.
Students at Cambridge are objecting to the hiring of American Aron Wall, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California-Santa Barbara who studies “quantum gravity and black hole thermodynamics.” It is not Wall’s academic credentials or theories that are controversial. Rather, three years ago, Wall wrote a blog post critical of Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015, the decision protecting the right to same-sex marriage. Wall’s criticism was of non-monogamous relations in the gay and lesbian communities. One can easily see the objections to such arguments but critics have gone further to object that Wall’s personal views create a hostile or threatening environment. Continue reading “Cambridge Under Fire For Hiring American Physics Researcher Who Advocated Monogamy On Blog Three Years Ago”→
Below is my column in the Washington Post on the implications of the resignation of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy and his own decisions setting aside prior precedent. Indeed, Kennedy’s last week before announcing his resignation reenforced the very arguments that could be used by a new conservative majority to strip away his legacy. Indeed, Kennedy spent the last week eagerly sawing away on the branch on which he and his legacy rests.
When Che Abdul Karim Che Abdul Hamid decided to marry his third wife in Thailand, he chose an 11-year-old girl who was handed over by her Malaysian family. The problem however was that this particular marriage to a child of eleven is that it was not approved by the local Shariah court. Besides being a rubber scrap dealer, Che Abdul Karim is an imam. The girl’s father works for him as poor rubber tappers. His third wife will not attend school now that she is an 11-year-old bride.
I’ll admit that I had no idea who was serving as Chaplain of the House of Representatives until the recent controversy over the forced resignation of Fr. Patrick Conroy, S.J. But if someone had told me only that a Catholic priest had just been fired as House Chaplain, I would have guessed that he was a Jesuit.
The Society of Jesus has been a thorn in the side of princes and popes for centuries. Jesuits have been periodically banned by kings and suppressed by the Church, but they have always returned to continue speaking truth to power, inspired by a rich tradition of Ignatian spirituality and a fierce intellectual independence. My own alma mater, Jesuit High School in El Paso, Texas, occupied a campus built by Mexican Jesuits during a period of anti-clerical political repression in Mexico.
While I was still contemplating the meaning of the termination, the resulting political outcry resulted in Paul Ryan’s capitulation to political reality and Fr. Conroy’s reinstatement. But the question remains: what was behind the request for his resignation? The explanation initially provided, that he was not meeting the “pastoral needs” of his congressional flock, struck me as contrived. Nor did I buy into the excuse that he was a victim of generalized anti-Catholic attitudes among certain House members. The correct answer, I believe, lies behind Fr. Conroy’s own comments that he had been asked to “stay out of politics” following a prayer before the opening of a House session on the then pending tax overhaul bill. The words of that prayer suggest that Fr. Conroy’s sin was primarily theological.