Showing posts with label catholic social teaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label catholic social teaching. Show all posts

Monday, September 22, 2008

RBCU Theology Professor Interviewed On The Economy

An ongoing "radio interview" series with the beleaguered Professor Ramon Tulio, professor of Catholic Social Teaching at RBCU. Other interviews found here.

IC: Good morning, all. We're here in the studio with Professor Ramon Tulio, a Theology professor at RBCU, to discuss the current state of the economy. Welcome, Professor Tulio.

RT: (bleakly) Always a ... pleasure, IC.

IC: So? What's the good word about the economy these days? It's morning in America, right?

RT: (Coughs) Excuse me, are you going to eat that donut?

IC: Huh? Well, you mean you want it? Here. (munching heard in the background)

RT: Thanks. (munching pause) See, my 403B fell through the cellar this weekend, and I'm a month away from defaulting on my house, so this hits close to home. Literally. So I've given up eating breakfast.

IC: As a penance, right? Cool.

RT: No, to save money. Although there ought to be a lot of penance going around, according to Catholic Social Teaching.

IC: Great segway, Professor! Which Catholic Social Teaching theme do you want to enlighten us about today?

RT: A couple are particularly relevant: The Call to Family, Community, and Participation, and the Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers.

IC: OK, Professor, let's get to the meat: the sound bite definitions?

RT: (sigh) Let's say the Call to Family and Participation recognizes that we are social beings, and that the most intimate and formative human group is the family. We have a right to participate and influence the social realm, to work together for the common good. The Dignity of Work and Workers' Rights...well, work is a means of sanctification, but the economy is made for man, not man for the economy. Humans deserve respect on the job, through just treatment, just wages, and appropriate time off for family and worship.

IC: OK. But that wasn't a soundbite. How about this: "Capitalism totally rocks!"

RT: Yes, well, except the Church doesn't take formal positions on economic just articulates the principles I briefly described. And capitalism without much regulation--as it has been practiced in the past handful of years--has clearly hurt many families and communities, and has played havoc with workers' rights. Wall Street just had a big mammon orgy and now we're all going to pay...and many have been "paying" for years, inside the United States and out.

IC: ...uh...are you saying you're a Marxist? (heard faintly in the sound booth: "I knew it!")

RT: No, I'm a Catholic. It means I want to see an economic system that honors human dignity through just wages for families, just treatment for respect, and just distribution of wealth for the common good of all God's children. Work is supposed to be part of life's purpose for most people. But for most, work gets in the way of life's purpose. That's not God's plan.

IC: Professor, does this all boil down to "do I like my job?"

RT: Well...not quite, but that is a decent place to start.

IC: Because see, I don't think you like your job. You seem kind of exasperated every time you come here. Maybe you need to become a professional blogger. Because we're a very peaceful, fun-loving group, I think. No controversies here, ever.

RT: (long silence, deep breathing heard) Well, I apologize if I have come off as exasperated. (pause) Back to your point, maybe the question we need to ask ourselves is whether our work in some way can point us to God, and if something gets in the way that orientation, to challenge that.

IC: Works for me! (chuckles) Thanks for visiting with us, Professor Tulio!

RT: You're welcome. Hey, are you going to drink that coffee?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Op-Ed: Sen. Obama, the Theologian's "Pay Grade" Isn't Hard to Make, Actually

To: Senator Obama
From: The Ironic Catholic

Rick Warren: "When does a baby in the womb receive full human rights?... "
Obama: "... whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity ... is above my pay grade."

First, Senator Obama, I am a theologian. And the first clue you didn't know what you were talking about on this particular question was the assumption that scientists and theologians are even on the same pay-grade chart. Seriously, I don't begrudge scientists getting paid fairly for difficult research through a few zillion dollars in soft grants. But when a theologian actually gets a grant from a funding agency to do research, we're so shocked we begin to do the happy dance to Schubert's Ave Maria, and hang the consequences. It's that unusual for theologians to make money. Indeed, some of our parents begged us to major in the big bucks disciplines, like studio art or anthropology or Russian lit. But I digress.

Since my theologian's pay grade (after you include the three months I'm not on contract but research anyway, the virtually unpaid work I do for dioceses and churches on the side, and lets not forget the thankless but utterly vital work of humor blogging) = diddly/squat, I think we can take that as a monetary baseline for having theological guts. You most certainly do make the pay grade to make a decision on when a conceived child gains human rights. That pay grade is the divine gift of your conscience and free will. Everyone makes that decision--how and when we value human life--through their actions, whether they make 10 cents an hour or a few million a year (ahem).

But let me give you some credit. I think what you meant is that question is a highly sophisticated one and you're a pragmatist (although since pragmatism is as typically American as apple pie, I don't see how that is "change you can believe in"). Well, fine. I tend to agree these right to life questions can become very complex quickly. But there is something about all this that is, at root, simple: when you call us to have compassion on the poor, to create economic policies that support families, to offer a just wage... even when you call for us to end a war quickly for the sake of all lives involved... that speaks to a regard for human life. And that human life began at conception: all the DNA zipped into place immediately and it keeps growing until it dies a natural death, or it is stopped by an outside force. And even if you find that beginning point of human life hard to accept (and honestly, I don't think most people do), wouldn't it just be prudent to accept this point and refrain from policies that end these lives? Your own state, Illinois, declared a moratorium on executions the question was debated whether their human rights were being violated. How did everyone else merit the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable? (By the way, that's a good theological teaching. Look it up on Google. That's free knowledge, you know. Helpful for the whole formation of conscience thing.)

I have words for your opponent as well on other policies, but that's another day. In any case, you have an opportunity here to promote policies that defend all human life. And let me tell you, searching your conscience and acting in truth doesn't cost you a dime. I'll bet my pay grade on that.

Monday, March 03, 2008

RBCU Professor Interviewed On "Care for God's Creation"

Prof. Ramon Tulio, RBCU professor of Catholic Social Teaching and a man of marked fortitude and patience, has returned upon request to The Ironic Catholic offices for an exclusive interview on a prime teaching within the Catholic Social Teaching tradition: Care for God's Creation.

(Previous interviews with Prof. Tulio can be found on
The Preferential Option for the Poor and Solidarity as well.)

IC: Good morning, Prof. Tulio. Welcome back to The Ironic Catholic!

(He offers weak smile, nods.)

I'm curious to hear more about this "Care for God's Creation" idea.

RT: This is a good thing, because as a teaching it tends to be less emphasized.

IC: Well, I think I know why.

RT: (twitches slightly) Um, yes?

IC: I have to question whether God's creation is worth caring about. I mean, I'm in Minnesota here, we're having our 27th blizzard of the season, and frankly, I want to focus on the spiritual side of things. All this snow is good for is frostbite. And jellyfish. I defy someone to tell me why I should care for jellyfish.

RT: Creation is good because it comes from God. It's called a mutable good.

IC: Huh? I can turn down the volume? It's just cold snow, not loud snow.

RT: Mutable, not mute-able. Created. Changeable. Has a beginning and end. Not God, but created good.

IC: See, that's why I want to focus on the spiritual stuff. No end. Awesomely good. No frostbite involved.

RT: Care for God's Creation doesn't say that one shouldn't focus on the spiritual. It simply reminds us that we were called at our own creation for responsibility over creation, a stewardship. That we should love and respect what God has created. Indeed, you could call it a human vocation. If we don't heed God's call to responsibility for others and the world, we tend to fall into childish selfishness. You want spiritual?...that's spiritually horrendous.

IC: Hmmm. OK, so why do you think that care for God's creation is less emphasized than other Catholic Social Teaching doctrines?

RT: People say--and it's true--that the life and dignity of the human being roots Catholic Social Teaching. But they don't see how part of our dignity, and quality of life, comes from the call to care rightly for God's creation.

IC: But I just want to avoid frostbite.

RT: Maybe you should stop throwing snowballs at your kids with your bare hands.

IC: --and getting bit by jellyfish. I don't know what the heck God was thinking when He created those things.

RT: Ironic Catholic, have you ever thought that this actually isn't about you? And that the teaching on the call to care for God's creation helps make that point?

IC: But Jesus loves me!

RT: ...and created you to love God and neighbor.

IC: Geez, I never knew you were one of those university radicals, Professor! Always food for thought, though. I'll consider this reciprocal love thing. See you next time!

RT: (leaves muttering prayers to St. Jude)


(St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes, has a passing acquaintance with

Thursday, January 10, 2008

RBCU Professor Interviewed on "Solidarity"

Prof. Ramon Tulio of the Theology department at RBCU* graciously visited The Ironic Catholic offices at her request, to enlighten the world on some of the finer points of Catholic social ethics, more commonly called Catholic Social Teaching. Today's topic: solidarity.

(Previous interview may be found here.)

IC: Good morning, Prof. Tulio, and welcome back. I am looking forward to our conversation about solidarity.

Tulio: Thank you. It's good to be here. Solidarity is a beautiful traditional teaching of our relationship with each other as brothers and sisters.

IC: Righto. OK, first thing. When do we get to kick out the heretics?

Tulio: Excuse me?

IC: You know, in the pants. Out of Holy Mother Church.

Tulio: I don't quite follow.

IC: Well, solidarity is the virtue that doctrine needs to be solid and certain, and I think there are a bunch of folks not measuring up.

Tulio: Uh. No...solidarity is the teaching that we are bound in love to each other as one human family in Christ, and that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers.

IC: I'm a keeper?

Tulio: In a sense.

IC: Oh. (long pause) So I can still "keep" my heretic brothers out, right?

Tulio: Look, this doesn't have to do with doctrinal heresy. Let me read here: John Paul II defined solidarity in Solicitudo Rei Socialis as "a Christian virtue. It seeks to go beyond itself to total gratuity, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It leads to a new vision of the unity of humankind, a reflection of God's triune intimate life...."

IC: So we--you and me--are in solidarity with each other? (a weak nod) How does that work?

Tulio: It means that we need to recognize each other's dignity as a child of God through concrete acts of love, through prayer, charity, and work for justice, and that we are one Body in Christ.

IC: OK, but love doesn't seem very "solid" to me. I know 'cause I got dumped a couple of times.

Tulio: Eros isn't very solid, you're right. But God's love is more solid than anything on earth.

IC: Whoa, that's deep. And very orthodox! Thanks for coming by--I'm happy to be solid with you, Professor Tulio!

Tulio: Thanks, I think.
(sheds a tear, walks quickly back to ivory tower)


(Solidarity is the rule at

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

RBCU Professor Interviewed on "Preferential Option for the Poor"

Prof. Ramon Tulio of the Theology department at RBCU* graciously visited The Ironic Catholic offices at her request, to enlighten the world on some of the finer points of Catholic social ethics, more commonly called Catholic Social Teaching. Today's topic: the preferential option for the poor.

IC: Welcome, Professor Tulio. I'm personally really excited to be talking to you about this topic. I've been moved for years that the Catholic tradition calls us in this direction.

Tulio: I'm glad to be here and glad to hear that. It's a topic that causes some controversy, especially in the Western world.

IC: I can't imagine why. Perhaps we can start with a definition: what is the preferential option for the poor?

Tulio: Basically, it's a phrase used by Catholic social ethicists to say that when push comes to shove, the poor need attention first. It is a way to express Christ's love for the most vulnerable. Option refers to "choice"--we are called to choose to embrace the needs of the poor.

IC: Um. (long pause) Really? I thought that the Church was offering us a choice to be poor. You know, "what do you prefer? Poor or rich?" Then you decide.

Tulio: Well, some people do choose to take vows of poverty, but the preferential option refers to caring for those who do not choose poverty, for whom poverty is essentially a slow form of death.

IC: But see, I prefer to be rich. I thought that was the option the Church was giving me. Or, if not rich exactly, I prefer to not be poor.

Tulio: That isn't quite what it's about. The phrase refers to opting for care of the poor. John Paul II advocated the alternative phrase "preferential love for the poor". Perhaps that helps.

IC: I guess it does; I'd sure love to be rich.

Tulio: No, you're supposed to love the poor people, as Christ did.

IC: So...I can't love rich people? Like my Mom? That doesn't seem right.

Tulio: Of course you can, and should. Everyone is your neighbor and you are bound to them by the Great Commandment to love. But the poor are in greater need, and we are called to help and assist them, like a mother cares for her sickest child out of need as well as love. That's why other people prefer the word "option"; it connotes action better.

IC: Then I'm trying to prefer "option" vs. "love"?

Tulio: No, no, no! They mean the same thing: the loving and real, active care for the poor.

IC: Hmm. Well, this has been enlightening, Prof. Tulio. I'm glad to know I have options and preferences. Will you come back to our studio to discuss another Catholic Social Teaching topic: the life and dignity of the human being?

Tulio: I'd prefer (long pause) ...I mean, yes, if God wills it.

IC: Thanks! I just know God willed this interview. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tulio: (muttering) Ivory tower...must get back to ivory tower....

*Really Big Catholic University