Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Called to love, called to forgive

Last night I went to the last of the spring "Theology on Tap" nights for the archdiocese at Four Green Fields (I still want to call that place Four P's). The speaker, a local priest, talked about forgiveness in a way I hadn't thought about before: he emphasized that forgiveness is both a decision and a calling. I've heard many times that love is a decision, an act of will that can sustain even during emotional ebbs and flows (note this is especially important in marriage and with children!), but I hadn't thought that forgiveness can be the same act of will, even if one doesn't especially feel like forgiving.

Fr. Stack gave three types of forgiveness that we all need to exercise at times: First, 'forgiveness' of God, letting go of sometimes-crippling anger towards Him and having the humility to accept how we are made. Second, forgiveness of self -- Fr. Stack suggested that those who refuse to forgive themselves in spite of true repentance hold themselves in a higher position than God, who does show mercy and forgive. If God forgives us, we need to forgive ourselves as well, and also, particularly, seek the sacrament of penance and pray to the Holy Spirit for openness to his gifts to heal us. Finally, Fr. Stack said that forgiveness of others is of course one of the biggest components; forgiveness can free us from our anger, give us a starting place to heal and move on. Forgiveness doesn't mean we can't protect ourselves and doesn't mean we don't sometimes need to get away from hurtful or abusive people and situations for our own well-being. But forgiveness ensures that we will be set on the road to spiritual healing.

Christ commands us to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But he's also pretty specific -- and challenging -- about forgiveness: forgive seventy times seven times, as the Lord forgives us. I was struck by the thought that in both cases, if we seek to be faithful and obedient, we will realize that we should exercise our free will to choose love and avoid hardening of hearts -- in other words, choose God, ultimately -- even when feelings can be transient. I suppose it is also important to remember that God doesn't call us to do anything without it being for our own good, or without giving us the ability to do it. I appreciated the reminder.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Leading the way?

I forgot to share an anecdote from a few weeks ago that might be of interest to my Irish readers. Those who have been following the stir created by Fr. Jenkins's speeches this spring, about the Catholic character of Notre Dame and the proper understandings of academic freedom that the university should be committed to, know that many were heartened by the January speech and were less so with the April follow-up, at which point Fr. Jenkins appeared to back off from the bold statements he had made earlier. (For a few reactions, see here at First Things or here, an open letter from professor Fr. Miscamble, to go along with other letters published by John Cavadini, chairman of the theology department, and even the local bishop.) Fr. Jenkins spoke at the UND night for the DC Notre Dame Club a few weeks ago, and despite knowing that he has to shake hands with thousands of alums at all of these types of events, I couldn't miss the opportunity to bring up this subject with him. (He did solicit feedback, after all.) I first thanked him for the new strength he seems to be bringing to his office at the university, and I said that I appreciated his speech in January because it seemed that he really understood that doing the right thing and strengthening Notre Dame's Catholic character might be necessary -- but might also not meet with approval from the chattering classes (including quite a few faculty members at the school). In other words, the familiar saying that the right decisions aren't always popular -- though in this case, many, many people who care about the university would support him if he did take a stand. I then said, "However . . . " and Fr. Jenkins stopped me by supplying, "You were less than thrilled with the follow-up." Which I had to admit to being. Fr. Jenkins said that he can't lead without making sure people are going to follow, but he thinks that we (the concerned alumni, I take it) will be happy if we give it a bit more time. Specifically, he said, by next year he thinks the direction will be more apparent.

So there you have a partial response -- maybe Fr. Jenkins hasn't backed off of his intentions to strengthen the school's Catholicity, but he is taking a bit more time owing to some resistance on campus. I am happy to give him some benefit of the doubt (I appreciate his addressing it directly, at least) and I hope that we will see this real leadership over time.

As an aside, I was subsequently chided for neglecting to take the opportunity to thank Fr. Jenkins for one of his best decisions so far -- being influential in the hiring of Charlie Weis. But he got some applause for that one during his speech, so he has to know we're all happy about that!

Books to check out

Townhall columnist Mike Adams reviews Ramesh Ponnuru's Party of Death here today. I should have requested an advance copy of this book when I had the chance -- I like Ponnuru's writing generally, and this book has been receiving excellent reviews from all quarters. Well, not exactly all, since apparently no mainstream outlet has reviewed it yet, but the buzz is still great. And for those who are wondering (or haven't bothered to read the book before criticizing the title, like many of the commenters on Amazon), the title doesn't refer completely to the Democratic Party -- many planks of the Democratic platform and many members have evidenced themselves to take positions with the party of death, but members aren't limited to one side of the aisle.

I think this will end up being the first book I get out of the library here. It's silly that I hadn't actually gotten a library card since I moved here a year ago, until last weekend. This from someone whose earliest memories include the paper card catalogs and dusty books in the Cobb County, GA public library, and who spent inordinate amounts of time in the Columbus public libraries (some of the best in the country, on my understanding), all the way up until the end of law school. It's not an unconditional love for libraries -- I didn't spend much time there at all in college -- but generally, I make good use of them and was chagrined to realize that I just hadn't made it yet to check out Montgomery County's (so to speak). But it seems like a nice system and I am looking forward to seeing what they have. First, Party of Death . . .

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lawyers of diversity

My bar newspaper this week gives several above-the-fold reports on the recent state Diversity Symposium, quoting panelists and bar leaders, giving statistics, and generally showing that our bar cares. (Commence eye-rolling.) One partner at a large law firm insisted "corporate clients not only want to see the firm's diversity statistics, 'they want to see our diverse attorneys actually working on their files.'" Another partner agreed with this, saying "it is not just a matter of hiring a firm that has diversity within it, but they want people of diversity working on their matters." That partner went on to spell it out, in case you are getting confused by the "diverse" euphemism: "[I]t is not enough that you have a few African Americans or Hispanics or disabled people, or people of different sexual orientation within your firm; you've got to have some of them working on your matter." This is a moral issue, apparently; it's "the right thing to do." There was one acknowledgement that if companies are fighting a takeover, "they could care less about diversity," but diversity could be "the deciding factor" when hiring firms for other reasons.

Really? Apparently some companies do feel this way, but I have to think most of them are just looking for competent representation. When they solicit RFP's, are they really looking for a carefully selected assortment of lawyers that look like the standard college recruitment brochures? One black person, one Asian, one Hispanic (visibly so, of course, not the European-looking types; Spanish surname helps if listed), and not too many white men, there. One guy in a wheelchair might help, too, and it's probably okay if he's white. Everybody smile! (I'm not sure how you're supposed to advertise that a couple of people listed on your RFP are gay.) Anyway, I hope it sounds absurd when I write that, because it sounds absurd when I read about it from the Diversity Symposium. I'm working hard to become a good lawyer, full stop. I'm not a "person of diversity." If someone needs to count me as a "diverse" person for statistical purposes, they're welcome to do it (I actually do get a kick out of it since I'm not usually who people mean when they talk "diversity," though I do count) -- but the whole enterprise verges on frivolity. I think the bar does a disservice to individual people when it sees them as members of racial or similar groups and treats them differently (as opposed to people forming their own self-selected associations). When a partner says, "We are monitoring all of our diverse attorneys in their early years to make sure their hours are the same as everybody else's" (i.e., the "non-diverse" ones, who apparently don't need special help), how is that not borderline insulting? Beats me.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A nice touch

"The West Wing" stopped being appointment TV for me after its second or third year, but I'm watching the rerun of last night's finale and I can't help but appreciate the last appearance of a Notre Dame sweatshirt in the Oval Office :) After I wrote an article on the show in college, I received a written letter from Martin Sheen with a signed picture of him on-set wearing a similar monogram ND shirt, and I still have it (the letter) framed in my apartment. Well, even on this favorite show of the Clintons, there was always something I could like too!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

White men can't dance

That seems to be the gist of this video I've been asked to link to of a Notre Dame MBA tailgate from a few years ago. It is embarrassing (still so much hope in Ty Willingham . . . nooo!) yet oddly entertaining. Especially the poem. Hehe.


(Language warnings if you follow the link.)

GOP getting it?

The Post reports that the president and the House Republicans "agreed yesterday on a $70 billion package of tax-cut extensions that they hope will help halt the deterioration of their political fortunes." I don't know if this an accurate spin on both parties' motivations, but if it is, it's kind of dumb. They should have agreed on tax-cut extensions simply because that's a big reason why people voted for them so tax-cutting should just be part of the promised agenda. Whatever -- I'll take it either way if it can get passed:

The package would extend the 2003 cuts to the tax rates on dividends and capital gains, continue tax breaks for small-business investment and the overseas operations of financial service companies, and slow the expansion of the alternative minimum tax, a parallel income tax system that was enacted to target the rich but is increasingly snaring the middle class.

That last is just as important as extending the tax cuts, as the AMT is set to affect many more people than it should starting next year. So, overall a good move for the GOP? If it passes, it will be. On the other hand, it's still irritating to note the personal tax cuts expire in a few years and the AMT problem only gets fixed for one more year. What's stopping the people elected to cut taxes from being serious about cutting taxes? Of course, if they stopped the runaway spending that might help too. Hmph.

David Limbaugh addresses Democratic objections to tax cuts in general here.

Not dead yet

I feel that I should write one of those posts that all bloggers, it seems, eventually write: the explanation of why I'm not blogging so much anymore. Partly it's that work hasn't been as conducive to writing as law school was, which isn't so surprising. But it's mainly blogging fatigue born of my particular style of writing -- the style that takes a seriously inordinate amount of time to write just a few paragraphs. I constantly come across things to blog during the day (and usually compose the posts in my head), but by the time I get home at night I don't want to take lots of time to write them (plus, I usually have to keep working). I suppose the solutions could be to give up blogging, which I really don't want to do (besides, I still have a few loyal readers left who I don't want to abandon!), or learn how to write shorter posts as a regular style. So perhaps I'll try that and see how it goes...