Why Look at Porn?

Notre Dame students look at porn. It’s just a fact. In 2013, I conducted a very informal survey of more than 400 Notre Dame students on pornography use. Sixty-three percent of men and 11 percent of women admitted to viewing porn while on campus.

I don’t know entirely what to do with this fact. I don’t like pornography. I agree with Timothy Bradley and Hailey Vrdolyak’s recent claim that “pornography use erodes our ability to love real persons.” And yet, the lack of “real persons” is precisely what makes pornography so attractive. Continue reading “Why Look at Porn?”

The Pain of Parting

Michelangelo began sculpting the Pietá when he was about 23 years old, about a year older than most of the students who will soon graduate from Notre Dame. His Pietá was a novel piece among Italian art representing Our Lady. The artistic tradition had previously maintained a Mary who stood strong at the foot of the cross and who neither trembled nor wept upon her Son’s death. This tradition had stressed a kind of devotion to God that neither swayed nor sorrowed at times of loss or pain.  Continue reading “The Pain of Parting”

On poverty and the theology requirement

I recently attended the United Nations 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Representatives from around the world discussed the relationship between poverty and the education of women. The Western nations tended to present abstract arguments for “disaggregating data” and the importance of increased access of opportunity to education, political office and economic capital as a means of eradicating the poverty suffered by women in both developed and undeveloped nations. Indeed, access to education seemed to me a valuable means to the empowerment of women until a Nigerian delegate objected that “access to education” does not ensure “quality education.”  Continue reading “On poverty and the theology requirement”

On Blind Faith

Ignorant people take things by blind faith. At least, this is the belief of our age, the age which calls itself the “enlightened age.” In an age of technological progress and scientific advancement, the obvious thing to do with “blind faith” is to reject it as a feature of darker times, of primitive man or of tyrannical religion. That being said, I’ve found that Catholicism does involve quite a bit of “blind following.” Catholics are, for the most part “blind followers,” who take up doctrines that they don’t understand and accept them blindly. Catholics, in other words, are just like everyone else. Continue reading “On Blind Faith”

The Church I Disagree With

The following column was published in The Observer on Thursday, October 30, 2014.


I recently gave a lecture in which I tried to take a clever stab at the idea that one indeed can be a Catholic who disagrees with the Church’s teachings. I said something to the effect that I had realized, in my own life, that I couldn’t be “spiritual, but not religious.” I knew my spirituality would consist primarily of self-worship and accommodation, creating a God in my own image. I still think this is a clever argument, but one of the problems with being clever is that someone might ask you to explain what you mean. That’s what happened.  Continue reading “The Church I Disagree With”

Friendship: The Foundation of Reason

The following column was published in The Observer on Thursday, October 16, 2014.

“I will always consider the possibility that I might be wrong.” So states the commitment to humility in the Center for Social Concerns’ “Virtues of Discourse” pledge. As one of the seven “virtues” in the pledge, humility means, “When I realize that I have been wrong, I will readily acknowledge it.”

This might bring to mind the humble Socrates, who was confounded when the oracle at Delphi announced that none was wiser than he. Conscious that he was “not at all wise,” Socrates thereafter began a search to find a man of greater wisdom. In his search, he discovered that “those with the best reputations seemed … nearly the most deficient … while others with more paltry reputations seemed to be … more fit in regard to being wise.”  Continue reading “Friendship: The Foundation of Reason”