M. Cathleen Kaveny on 'The Daily Show'

Be sure to catch both parts of M. Cathleen Kaveny, professor of theology and law at Notre Dame, explaining Catholic morality, the role of the bishops and the development of the lay theologian, on "The Daily Show" last night. (Part II can be found here.) It was noteable for being a calm and lucid discussion of several hot topics.  Stewart seemed particularly interested in what Ms. Kaveny had to say.  Kaveny is also a blogger for DotCommonweal a frequent writer for America.  A list of her recent articles is here

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Beth Cioffoletti
6 years 2 months ago
Wow.  Thank you for introducing me to a fascinating theologian (if she can be called that).  At least a fascinating interpretor of Theology.  I look forward to reading many of her articles.

Richard Rohr says that the insights of "most church doctrines are invariably profound and correct, but they are still expressed in mechanical and literal language that everybody either adores, stumbles over, denies, or fights... " 

I think that we need more teachers like Cathleen Kaveny to help us creatively learn the language in which we can resonate with the truth that our Church holds for us.
Beth Cioffoletti
6 years 2 months ago
I want to try that last sentence one more time:

Teachers like Cathleen Kaveny help us learn the language we need to creatively resonate Catholic truth.
David Cruz-Uribe
6 years 2 months ago
TECHNICAL SUGGESTION:  could you  post a link to the second half of the interview?  I had to go hunting for it as it did not come up automatically at the end.

I found this to be a very thoughtful discussion and hopefully one that took the temperature down a few notches.  I think at the end, however, her argument was a little weaker because she cast it in terms of religious liberty for individuals or groups (such as churches and employers).  In other words, it sound to me as though these discussions of religious liberty took place in the context of the free and equal interaction between individuals and groups.  Such an analysis overlooks the fact that individuals and groups (e.g. employees and employers) do not have equal power in their relationships, and that everyone, groups and individuals, have very assymmetric relations with the government.  This does not invalidate her points, but it does suggest that a broader and more careful analysis is needed:  to what extent can the government enforce principles upheld by a majority at the expense of the religious liberty of others?

Three instances from our history suggest that this is complicated.  In the 19th century the Supreme Court upheld laws against polygamy, effectively preventing Mormons from practicing a central tenet of their faith.  In 1941, the Supreme Court ruled that the government may not force students to say the pledge of allegience, despite overwhelmingly popular support for mandatory pledges.  And finally, in the 1960s, the Civil Rights Act forced religious institutions (such as hospitals) to desegregate, even if the faith organization that ran them believed that segregation was scriptural.    This third case is perhaps the most apropo, since it involves the government forcing a religious institution to do something (provide insurance coverage for contraception/desgregate a public institution) that is against the religious beliefs of the organization.  While I am strongly suspicious of the HHS mandate, I have yet to see a convincing argument that allows me to separate these two cases.  In other words: on what principle can we object to the HHS mandate while supporting the desegration of religiously affiliated hospitals, etc. in the deep South?
Juan Lino
6 years 2 months ago
David - I second your suggestion - I just watched the first part and now I am going to hunt for the second part.  You'd think they's have it "right there" but no such luck.
Juan Lino
6 years 2 months ago
Ms Kaveny did a great job!  I especially love the line: "we try to be ___________ with everyone!!!!  Keep an ear out for it. 

6 years 2 months ago
Careful, Fr. Martin -she may be replacing you on comedy Central as the Catholic voice -just kidding.
J Cosgrove
6 years 2 months ago
I watched both segments.  The one thing that hit me about Ms. Kaveny was that she was a Catholic not for theological reasons but for social justice reasons.  She said so at the end of the second segment when she said that the reason she is still in Catholicism is because every human being matters.  So does she belong to a social organization whose objectives she likes.  Now that is a noble objective to want to be with an organization that cares about every human and it is one that I have observed within Catholicism since my earliest Catholic education but it was one not necessarily focused on what she appears to be focused on which appears to be social justice.

Social justice is great if it is truly practiced but that is not what I was taught about being a Catholic.  I was taught that Christ left a Church to help with the salvation of people and hopefully, no one on earth would fall through the cracks.  But it was not about making life here on earth as comfortable for everyone as possible or excusing any action that is not currently politically popular or accepting actions that are contrary to the objective of salvation just because they are popular.  Too often we never pursue all the ramifications of the actions or policies that seem on the surface reasonable and desirable but which may have unintended consequence for the salvation of souls or even a comfortable life here on earth.

Of course if everyone is saved automatically as some here say or no one is punished then who cares who does what to whom or for themselves.  It makes no difference.  That is not what I believe because it is basically a nilihistic philosophy that leads to a hell on earth.  But just what are the standards we have to live up to and who imposes the standards.  I was taught what they were in my Catholic education.  Are they still doing so?  Are we still standing up for them?  I think the answer to the last two questions are not much and that is one reason why nobody sees any particular reason to be a Catholic.

The contraception issue is a red herring introduced for political reasons only. There is no need to include it in any health insurance plan and if someone wants to work at another place where it is covered, then they are welcome to do so.  People choose their place of work for various reasons and this could be one of them.  Supplementary insurance is available to anyone.  People on medicare get gap insurance all the time and the extent of it varies depending on what they are willing to pay. 
Beth Cioffoletti
6 years 2 months ago
JR - I am a Catholic too, was probably raised and formed with the same teachings that you were.  I am still Catholic. But I had to grow with it.  At about 15 years old I began to get very annoyed with the rules and platitudes - it felt like mind control.  I mean, how can you tell someone that they are in a state of mortal sin because they missed Mass on Sunday?  Fortunately I was sent to Catholic colleges where I was required to take theology and philosophy classes.  I had teachers who encouraged me to read more, question more, explore more.  I can't say that I am a great scholar, but I did find writers who have explained Catholicism in ways that deeply enriches my sense of wonder and my place in this mystery.  Raissa Maritain, Merton, Henri Nouwen, Dorothy Day, among others.  My primary reading material, since leaving college, are books by spiritual writers.

And though I feel free to explore other religious traditions, there is nothing quite like Catholicism for me.  Sometimes I am frustrated with the structure and hierarchy of the Catholic Church, but I got over being hung up on the "rules" back when I was 18 years old when I realized that Catholicism was so much bigger than that.  Catholicism is not a club with membership rules, it is a way of living the profoundly Christian insight of the Incarnation.

Pedro Arrupe SJ says that Christian justice is part of Christian love. To give and love like Christ means we just don’t give what we have, but we give what we are. We give ourselves. Arrupe believed that love compels us give more than we can afford by limiting and even renouncing our own needs and interests in order to give to others. This is self-emptying love. This is Christ-centered love. And it is through this kind of love that hope shines through the darkness of the world and lights a way for justice to prevail.

This is the standard that my Catholic education asks me to live up to.  What are your standards?
6 years 2 months ago
Bravo, Beth.  I especially appreciate your mentioning Fr. Arrupe's concept of Christian justice as part of Christian love.  Very often people define giving to mean giving material things.  Giving of oneself to me includes making eye contact and making conversations with the homeless, the marginalized, the ''dregs'' of society and treating them just like ''regular'' people, with respect and kindness, and dignity.  Perhaps this is the best gift we can give them.  Many of them probably believe and feel that they are absolutely worthless and don't deserve to live, because they find no meaning or purpose in life. They must feel so ashamed for being so lacking.  Surely, this intense feeling of shame must be so excruciating that they have difficulty making eye contact with anyone.   So if we make the first move, we might just awaken in them their dignity and  self respect.
Amy Ho-Ohn
6 years 2 months ago
I thought Professor Kaveny was terrific. That kind of lucid, coherent, unpretentious explanation of Catholic teaching is exactly what TV audiences need to hear and almost never do. Mindlessly repeating Vatican talking points is just no substitute. I also thought she walked very adeptly through the awfully dangerous minefield that Catholic commentary has become. Probably some people would have preferred different answers to some questions, but nobody can accuse her of saying anything she shouldn't have.

I was also impressed with Jon Stewart, whom I have always considered rather a mediocre comedian. He gave a good interview, let her make her points, seemed to understand what she said, followed up well.

Gabriel Marcella
6 years 2 months ago
Splendid meditation. Thanks for sharing.
Jim McCrea
6 years 2 months ago
Beth C for Pope Joan II !
Beth Cioffoletti
6 years 2 months ago
no way, Jim.
Bill Mazzella
6 years 2 months ago
She said so at the end of the second segment when she said that the reason she is still in Catholicism is because every human being matters. 

Sounds like Matthew 25:36-41. Unless you are a selective Catholic.
David Pasinski
6 years 2 months ago
I've seen many clips from The Daily Show, but never the whole show. Nevertheless, this seemed to be the most straighforward of interviews from Jon Stewart with just the right flavoring of humor. His respect seemd real as did his questions.  This was far better than some of the "Theology on Tap" that I've heard for the "younger crowd"

 Professor Kaveny, you did a fine job - even if a bit painfully intense at times.  I think you accomplished a difficult dance and got in key talking points about social justice that transcend some of the particulars of this discussion.  Hope you'd do it again!


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