Center for Ethics and Leadership

Friday, April 24, 2009

Married Priests?

America magazine has just come forward with a proposal for a married priesthood.

Bravo, America! A courageous statement that has been long in coming. A married priesthood is no panacea for the priest shortage, as many of us know. The clerical career is a demanding one. Nonetheless, America brought forward excellent reasons from canon law, a theology of priestly ministry, and the reality of married priests (former Anglicans and Lutherans) already serving in the church.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pressure on Alligator Bayou!

A year ago, I returned from a short visit to Baton Rouge and wrote about a swamp I had visited. Here is what I wrote:

Environmental Ethics and Entrepreneurial Leadership

When in Louisiana last week, my family and I went on a swamp tour given by Alligator Bayou. The owners, Frank Bonifay and Jim Ragland, were apparently quite successful in real estate and construction as young men. They then sold their business to purchase 1500 acres of the Alligator Bayou swamp in 1993. The swamp had been scheduled for clear cutting by a timber company. Bonifay and Ragland moved 901 acres into permanent preservation by creating the nonprofit Bluff Swamp Wildlife Refuge and Botanical Gardens. They have been working to improve their enterprise as an ecological education organization since. They give a wonderfully informative and entertaining tour. We need more capable leaders like them to put first things first, and to preserve national treasures rather than leaving them to indiscriminate development.

Now Alligator Bayou is in a legal fight with another ecologist who represents land owners in the same area. These men want to open the floodgate that would reduce water levels in the swamp and also, they claim, reduce flooding on their land. Scott Nesbit represents clients who own 6,300 acres in the Spanish Lake area (where Alligator Bayou is located). Frank Bonifay, co-owner of Alligator Bayou, says the draining will put his partner and him out of business. Nesbit says they have no right to artificially flood his clients' land.

It gets much more complicated with disputes over what is actually causing the flooding and which solution is the more ecologically sound. That the dispute crosses two parishes, Iberville and Ascension, in southern Louisiana further tangles things.

Nesbit's clients apparently want to swap land development credits (mitigation credits). These involve payment to restore wetlands for a developer who wants to fill wetlands elsewhere in the same watershed. You can keep up with the story at ://www.2theadvocate.com/news/suburban/42648442.html or Google any of the names and places in this post.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Cultural Change in American Life?

Ayn Rand has been a significant figure in American popular culture and ethics. Her position of rational self-interest is well known as is the caustic nature of her remarks about those whom she judges not to have met her definition of the heroic person. Her close circle of associates in Manhattan in the 60s and 70s included long-time Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who used his position to see if Rand's theories worked in practice. They did not, as Greenspan remorsefully told Congress last fall.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union and its clear proof that communism did not work, there has been a timidity in American intellectual life to criticize the laissez-faire capitalism for which Rand stood and which Greenspan implemented. It is good to have him admit that the philosophy had a "flaw."

A promising young Mennonite philosopher, Darrin W. Snyder Belousek, has explained "Greenspan's Folly" in a recent issue of America. Belousek looks to Catholic social teaching and its idea of the common good as an antidote to Rand's "Virtue of Selfishness."

Perhaps one good that will come from this severe economic recession is a rethinking of the meaning of the word freedom in the concept of a free market.

It Seems I Have Found A Cause -- Newspapers

Randy Siegel, the publisher of Parade magazine, has a very interesting op-ed in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. Briefly put, rumors of the death of newspapers are greatly exaggerated. Siegel has done the kind of work journalists should do. Time magazine published at Time.com a list of this country's ten most endangered newspapers. But, discovered Siegel, Time's affiliate 24/7 Wall St. created the list. 24/7 also runs a website designed to give traders daily tips on hot stocks. Siegel sniffed out an agenda. He also went on to criticize a few other apparently objective media analysts who actually shill for new media. As Siegel writes, newspapers are in trouble. But beware the analysts for whom their demise will be lucrative.

(And I am aware of the irony of my defending newspapers in the very new media that threaten them, a blog.)

Cardinal George's Firm but Diplomatic Stand

I saw the YouTube video of Cardinal George's address at DePaul University, where he took up the matter of Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama. The cardinal redirected the requests of those Catholics who are angry about the invitation to the university. To those asking him what he intended to do about it, he replied, "What are you doing about it?" He went on to say, "The Bishops don't control the University of Notre Dame." He also said that whatever one Catholic organization does affects all of Catholicism since the church is one. Those concerned should contact Notre Dame.

He expressed his deep regard for President Obama and offered that they agreed on many issues, but profoundly disagreed on the very important issue of abortion. His eminence is known for his forthright stand on issues, and this is the second time recently that I have seen him speak publicly (once in person) in which he has been diplomatic but firm. His manner is a contrast to the most angry Catholic attacks that have been launched and which have prompted Fr. John Kavanaugh to write in the upcoming April 13 issue of America, "We Catholics, we Christians, are in danger of becoming known not by how we love but by how we hate."