Who says theology doesn't pay?
Luke McNamara, a graduate theology student at St. Catherine's Divinity School in Palo Alto, found a way to do good and earn his rent: summarizing recent papal encyclicals in one to three pithy sentences.
"It came to me when I was standing in line, waiting to donate plasma through those blood machines so I can buy more rice and beans...maybe I could make enough money to eat a square meal if I did this. I pretty much have to do it for class anyway, although with a little less attitude. It was worth a try."
McNamara contacted Spark Notes, a popular study aid for the classics in Literature, and proposed "'Divine' Spark Notelets" on encyclicals, dogmatic constitutions, and other "dry as sand in the Sahara" theological documents coming out of the Vatican and regional bishops' conferences. The company gave him the go-ahead and a contract, and off he went. The notelets are available online at the company website for fifty cents a notelet.
"And you know, I don't feel at all guilty about this," McNamara, a future teacher, offered without prodding. "I'm just giving people a good start in their continued in-depth study of the document. That's what Spark Notes says anyway, and I'm sticking to it. And they're selling like hotcakes--I've also gotten to eat meat once or twice a week since I made this deal, and that has been a welcome change of pace."
The company has been very quiet about examples of the notelets, but agreed to release three as "a taste of how this aid can help readers better understand the main points of a text in a timely and testable fashion," said Spark Notes representative Amy St. John.
So here they are. And let's be theologically careful out there.
Evangelium Vitae (John Paul II, 1995): All life comes from God and therefore has dignity that can't be given, sold, acted, or taken away. So don't just say it, act like that's true, dang it. Even if you are a politician.
Pacem in Terris (John XXIII, 1963): Yo, Khrushchev and Kennedy! For the love of God, BACK AWAY from the red buttons. Take a deep breath and say it with me: Nuclear warfare is WRONG.
Rerum Novarum (Leo XIII, 1891): The industrial revolution really, really, really stinks bad. Human rights are coming soon; unions too. Just remember you high-handed secularists: you heard it here first.