This past week was the first week of class at Saint Leo, so most of my reading was class prep. But there were a few things I enjoyed/felt challenged by, so I share them here.
“For Roger Mahony, Clergy Abuse Cases Were a Threat to Agenda“
This investigative essay is from 12/1/13, and it has been sitting in my browser tabs since then, waiting for a moment when I had the time to really sit and read it. The story of Mahony, the former Archbishop of Los Angeles, ends up being a tragic one (in several senses). The obvious tragedy is that of the clergy sex abuse scandal and the efforts by church leaders to cover it up/hide it/ignore it/protect the reputation over the vulnerable. The tragedy this article focuses on, and quite perceptively, is the loss of moral authority that these cover-ups led to.
Mahony was an advocate for nuclear disarmament, for opposing the death penalty, for immigration reform that actually cared about immigrants, and for peaceful resolution to the 1992 LA riots. And, in many of these areas, he seemed to be doing good work – he was good at making connections, he was someone people in LA (and not only Catholics) seemed to trust, and he largely used his moral authority in positive, productive ways.
He was also (arguably) better than others in conference of bishops at paying attention to abuse. Nonetheless, he obstructed police investigations, did anything possible to avoid the scandal becoming public, and refused to turn over his meticulous personnel files on suspected/accused abusers. In addition to the pain caused by the abuse itself and the ensuing cover-up, these actions undermined whatever moral authority Mahony previously held. Mahony represents a microcosm of the experience of the larger church in this matter.
“In the Name of Love“
When I was in high school/college, the advice I got from my parents was along the lines of “do what you’re passionate about, but make sure you can pay the bills.” It wasn’t as naked a form of “Do What You Love” as the one this article looks at, but it was close. And the truth is, I am incredibly blessed and privileged to do what I love. I have a job that is personally and vocationally satisfying while also paying me sufficiently to live a comfortable existence. And I probably would not have gotten to hear without listening to that mantra somewhat.
The article makes an insightful and often overlooked point about “DWYL” – that those who are able to do so are more than likely the benefits of class privilege, whether that’s access to real wealth or even just a basic parental safety net. In addition to the question of privilege, it also highlights the potential narcissism of this view – it’s all about me and what I want to do, because I’m a delicate snowflake, unique in every way.
I’d be interested in seeing someone more grounded in the sphere of Catholic social ethics respond to this – the article gestures toward the CST tenet of “dignity of work and the rights of workers” by emphasizing that many people perform work that is not apparently lovable but is necessary for the functioning of society. One summer, while I was home from college (privilege privilege privilege), I worked maintenance at a local school cleaning boilers, filling ditches with gravel, etc. I did not love the work, and I doubt many people who do that for their livelihood (and not their summer spending money) love it either. Yet we also believe that there is (or should be) dignity in such work, that there is something virtuous in honest labor, and that the dignity of those workers ought to be respected. I don’t think work needs to be “lovable” in order to have “dignity.” Perhaps by selling labor primarily in terms of a privileged sense of personal satisfaction is an overlooked challenge to this tenet of CST.
“Deaf Seahawks fullback stars in commercial that will give you chills“
I was not familiar with Derrick Coleman before I saw this, but it’s a great commercial and a great story. The real payoff in the commercial is during his voiceover when he says
They gave up on me. Told me I should just quit. They didn’t call my name. Told me it was over. But I’ve been deaf since I was three. So I didn’t listen.
And now this weekend he’s playing in the NFC Championship game for the Seattle Seahawks. Definitely an inspiring story. I’m rooting for the Broncos to win the SuperBowl this time around (you had a great year, Colts), but this story can get me to pull for the Seahawks this weekend.
Also, I think this provides an interesting juxtaposition with the article immediately above – Coleman has clearly overcome resistance and rejection in order to do what he loves – would he have been successful without (likely) being encouraged to “do what you love”? Can that mantra, if used more carefully, really be a way of fueling one’s pursuits?
“15 Technologies That Were Supposed to Change Education Forever“
Hat tip to my friend Gabe Rosenberg on this one. A nice review of previous claims about how technological innovation would fundamentally change education, with some excellent pictures/drawings/advertisements. Some have made a difference (yeah sometimes I show videos in class, and everybody loves a search engine), but others just come from an overly optimistic sense of techno-solutionism. So maybe we don’t need to hype every new device/program/app/digital ecosystem as the savior of education from boring lectures and seminars.
My university is really trying to be on the forefront of technologically innovative education. We have no floating schools (or centers, in Saint Leo’s parlance) as of yet, but we do have everything from smartboards and tablets to online courses to video-conferencing. Tomorrow I’ll actually be teaching my first video-conference class, so we’ll see how that goes. The fear in all of this, and one I don’t think we’ve fallen prey to here, is to let the technology replace sound education.