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Christian Self-Mastery: How to Govern Your Thoughts, Discipline Your Will, and Achieve Balance in your Spiritual Life

 Fr. Basil W. Maturin
Sophia Institute Press, 240 pages

When the Lusitania was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland in 1915, one of the 1,198 souls who perished with it was Fr. Basil Maturin, who was returning home from a preaching tour of the United States. His book provides a blueprint for practicing self-denial, which begins with honest self-knowledge and continues through the forming of virtuous habits until one achieves the true freedom won through self-discipline of the mind, body, and will. “If any man would come after me,” Jesus said, “let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). Fr. Basil shows readers how.

Order: Amazon 

Central life issue deserves urgent priority

The U.S. Catholic Bishops state the following in their Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities, which is meant to give guidance to dioceses and parishes as they conduct their respect-life activities, not only in Respect Life Month (October) but throughout the year: 

“Among important issues involving the dignity of human life with which the Church is concerned, abortion necessarily plays a central role. Abortion, the direct killing of an innocent human being, is always gravely immoral (The Gospel of Life, no. 57); its victims are the most vulnerable and defenseless members of the human family. It is imperative that those who are called to serve the least among us give urgent attention and priority to this issue of justice. This focus and the Church’s commitment to a consistent ethic of life complement one another.”

Abortion seems to be about the only issue which, when we say we’re fighting it, we have to justify that we’re also fighting every other evil under the sun.

But there’s a difference between an “ethic,” that is, the moral stance that undergirds our attitude to all the issues, and a commitment to a specific mission. We have to be consistent in our ethic: we care about all human beings in every situation. But we have to be specific in our mission, and the mission of the pro-life movement is to end abortion and restore protection to children in the womb. And nobody needs to apologize for focusing on that.

The bishops make clear why. In the quote above they point out that there are no cases where abortion can be justified. There are, on the other hand, situations in which it can be justified to deny someone entry into our country, or to go to war to defend our country. Not all issues are the same.

Abortion, moreover, attacks the most vulnerable and defenseless among us. Pope Francis made this same point in The Joy of the Gospel, when he wrote:

“Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenseless and innocent among us.”

From the Gospel accounts of Jesus giving special attention to the most forgotten and least protected in his society, to the Church’s witness to the “preferential option for the poor,” it is clear that we go first to those who are last. And clearly, the “last” and the “least” among us are the children in still in their mother’s womb.

If they are not safe, none of us is safe, because no right is more fundamental than life. Mother Teresa made this point at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994. She said, “The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”

 Abortion is not just one among many issues. It strikes at the foundation of every issue, as the U.S. Catholic bishops again explained in their document Living the Gospel of Life. It is, in other words, not just an issue about policy, but about the principle that society must protect the innocent. That is not a principle that can be broken in just one place while preserving it everywhere else. Once you break it in one place – as Roe vs. Wade did for the children in the womb – you completely shatter it in every place. You undermine the very principle by which you are protected.

Indeed, let’s give urgent attention and priority to ending abortion!

FR. FRANK PAVONE is national director for Priests for Life – the largest ministry in the Catholic Church focused exclusively on ending abortion. Learn more at www.ProLifeCentral.com

Crisis in healthcare – a Catholic perspective on reform

The healthcare crisis in America Today is twofold: ethical and economic.

The ethical crisis is the denial of the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death that has resulted in the abortion of tens of millions of unborn Americans and the physician-mediated deaths of many seriously disabled and terminally ill patients by physician-assisted suicide in the nine jurisdictions where it is legal. 

Additionally, the constitutional right to religious liberty and freedom of conscience is denied those who refuse to comply with federal mandates to provide patients with contraceptive/abortifacient drugs. No proposal for healthcare reform can receive Catholic support if it does not uphold the universal and inalienable right to life and religious liberty.

The economic crisis arises from control of healthcare financing by third parties, (government, insurance industry, unions, and large employers). For the last 50 years this system has insulated patients from the actual costs of care and removed the normal economic incentive to shop based on price and value, thereby contributing to the astronomical rise in costs. Although healthcare outcomes have certainly improved for most people, the rising costs have led to problems of affordability and access for too many Americans. This system is unsustainable. 

Political decisions made over the next 12 – 24 months will likely determine the foreseeable future of healthcare delivery in America. The current national debate focuses on two fundamental proposals: a government controlled, single-payer system vs. a patient-controlled, competitive free-market system.

Those promoting a government-controlled system of healthcare delivery insist upon universal access to contraception and abortion. Based upon experience with the Affordable Care Act, no one would be exempt from compliance with the mandates for care determined by the federal government (i.e., one-payer, one ethic). In contrast, in a patient-oriented, free market system, options would be available to avoid cooperation with evil (room for pro-life ethics).

No government-controlled health care program has proven capable of “bending the cost curve” downward to rein in unsustainable rising costs.

However, evidence from a landmark 1982 RAND study demonstrates that giving patients freedom and choice to control their health care, including financing reduces costs. Also, newer innovations for financing care including health savings accounts, employer-sponsored health reimbursement arrangements, direct primary care, and healthcare sharing ministries, all show promise for lowering costs and increasing access while maintaining high-quality care and enhancing the doctor-patient relationship.

As Catholic lay leaders we have a duty to uphold our faith in our work and in the public square. If we come together to address this crisis in healthcare, and if every Catholic employer offered one or more of the above patient-centered, market-driven innovative options in a faith-based health plan, we would begin the transformation of our healthcare delivery system, defending human dignity and religious liberty while restoring a culture of life in America.

STEVEN WHITE, M.D. has been in the private practice of pulmonary medicine for 35 years. He is a past-president of the Catholic Medical Association and currently serves as chair of the CMA Healthcare Policy Committee.

Matters of life or death

Awareness of Catholic moral principles can help us navigate difficult questions regarding appropriate medical treatment in long-term care and terminal illness.

CONSIDER THESE RECENT NEWS ITEMS:

Vincent Lambert, a 42-year old Frenchman who had been severely disabled, brain damaged, and minimally conscious for more than a decade after a motorcycle accident, was effectively euthanized by starvation in July after doctors removed his feeding tube following a protracted court battle involving family members and medical professionals.

In Ontario, Canada, 27-year old Idan Azrad suffered a traumatic head injury in August and was declared brain dead. Azrad’s family arrived from Israel and transported him to a long-term care facility back home, as Orthodox Jews believe death occurs only when the heart stops.

In British Columbia, 41-year old Sean Tagert, who required a ventilator full time due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), applied for and received a “medically-assisted death” in August, saying he could neither find nor afford the 24- hour nursing care he needed. “I’m just done, worn-out,” he wrote in a Facebook post announcing his request.

 These high-profile cases raise troubling ethical questions regarding treatment options for individuals with terminal illnesses or grave injuries with little or no hope of recovery. Many of the same questions also surface daily in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and hospice situations everywhere — and sometimes even within our own families. 

We know, of course, that “medically-assisted death” (also called assisted suicide, now legal in several U.S. states and in Canada) and euthanasia are never a moral option. But what medical interventions are we morally obligated to undertake in order to sustain life? Under what circumstances can artificial life support be refused or withdrawn? Who rightfully decides this? And what can we do to prepare for the possibility that we might face such difficult decisions in the future? 

Such questions likely would arise while we are forced to process a tremendous amount of information at a time of great emotional stress amid conflicting personal and professional opinions. Understanding Catholic moral principles can enable us to clear away much confusion so as to make prudent and informed decisions.

 Ordinary vs. extraordinary measures

In evaluating medical treatment options, moral theologians distinguish between “ordinary” measures and “extraordinary” measures — those that are morally obligatory and those that are morally optional. 

“The natural law and the Fifth Commandment require that all ordinary means be used to preserve life, such as food, water, exercise, and medical care,” writes Colin B. Donovan, vice president for theology at EWTN. “Since the Middle Ages, however, Catholic theologians have recognized that human beings are not morally obligated to undergo every possible medical treatment to save their lives” — under certain limited circumstances, “even very ordinary ones.”

Generally speaking, an extraordinary measure is a medical procedure that offers little hope of benefit and is excessively burdensome to the patient. “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of ‘over-zealous’ treatment,” states the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Here one does not will to cause death: one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted.” (#2278)

We don’t have to sustain life at all costs, because ultimately death is inevitable; we were created not just for this life, but for eternal life. At the same time, we cannot cause or intend death; we can only allow the natural process of death to continue. 

“When a person has an underlying terminal disease, or their heart, or some other organ, cannot work without mechanical assistance, or a therapy being proposed is dangerous, or has little chance of success, then not using that machine or that therapy results in the person dying from the disease or organ failure they already have,” Donovan explained. “The omission allows nature to takes its course. It does not directly kill the person, even though it may contribute to the person dying earlier than if aggressive treatment had been done.” 

Nutrition and hydration

 Sometimes the suggestion is made to allow a patient to die by removing a gastric feeding tube, their only source of food and water.

 In 2004, Pope John Paul II said that “the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act.” In principle, he went on, it should be considered ordinary and proportionate care “and as such morally obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering.”

 The last part of the pope’s statement is key. The purpose of food and water is to provide nutrition and to reduce pain. Although in principle morally obligatory, nutrition and hydration can be discontinued if they no longer fulfill these purposes. 

Donovan describes a situation where withdrawing food and water could be permissible: “In the last hours, even days, of a cancer patient’s life, or if a sick person’s body is no longer able to process food and water, there is no obligation to provide nutrition and hydration. The patient will die of their disease or their organ failure before starvation or dehydration could kill them.”

The distinction remains between intentionally killing the patient through lack of nutrition or allowing the person to die of the disease, he noted.

Palliative Care

In long-term care and in terminal cases, it is important to ease the suffering of the patient through palliative care. Complicating this endeavor is that some pain medications have sedative effects and, in some instances, can speed up the dying process. 

The U.S. bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERD), which provides moral guidance for medical professionals, states that terminal patients should be kept free of pain so that they can die in comfort and with dignity. However, it cautions that in order to allow the patient to properly prepare for death, the patient “should not be deprived of consciousness without a compelling reason.”

 That primarily means spiritual preparation — the opportunity to receive the sacraments of the Church and to reconcile with loved ones.

The prudent use of pain-management medications remains licit “even if this therapy may indirectly shorten the person’s life so long as the intent it not to hasten death,” the ERD says. 

Brain Death

Theologically, death is the separation of body and soul, but how can we know when that happens?

Death is certain when heartbeat and respiration cease and the patient cannot be revived. More controversial is the declaration of death through neurological criteria. The American Medical Association defines brain death bluntly: “An individual with irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem, is dead.”

According to the National Catholic Bioethics Center, the Catholic Church accepts this definition of death. “The complete and irreversible loss of all brain function may be taken as a reasonable indicator that the rational soul is no longer present,” says a statement by NCBC ethicists.

 That’s not to be confused with “persistent vegetative state” (PVS). “PVS often involves brain damage, but never death of the whole brain,” explains Father Tad Pacholczyk, NCBC’s director of education. “Genuinely brain-dead individuals never ‘wake up.’ Patients in a PVS occasionally do.”

PVS patients “are not dead,” he stressed.

 Accurate determination of brain death can only be made after a thorough battery of tests repeated at intervals and confirmed by other studies such as an EEG. A brain-dead patient who is kept on a ventilator might seem alive but cannot breathe on his or her own, he noted. Even with a ventilator, the patient’s organs will normally begin failing within a few days. 

Advance Directives

Treatment decisions ideally should be made by the patient, if competent, or “by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected,” the Catechism explains.

An individual might establish advance medical directives to govern end-of-life care. These legal documents come in three main types: a living will, a POLST or “Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment,” or the appointment of a health care agent or proxy.

In a living will, the individual lists treatment options to be accepted or rejected under particular circumstances. NCBC ethicists, however, discourage their use. “No matter how well-crafted, such a document can never predict all the possible problems that may occur at a later time or anticipate all future treatment options,” they say in a statement. “A living will can be misinterpreted by medical providers who might not understand the patient’s wishes.”

A POLST provides medical orders allowing health care providers to make these end-of life decisions. These documents vary from state to state, and state Catholic conferences thus have varied opinions on them. For example, whereas the California Catholic Conference calls POLST “a valuable tool,” the Minnesota Catholic Conference says the POLST paradigm “cannot be fully reconciled with a Catholic framework for end-of-life decisions.”

The NCBC highly recommends the third type of advance directive, called a “power of attorney for health care” or a “health care proxy,” and suggests Catholics appoint a trusted individual who understands the moral issues to make treatment decisions for them in the event they are unable to do so themselves.

“In choosing an agent or proxy, a person can declare in writing that all treatment and care decisions made on their behalf must be consistent with and not contradict the moral teachings of the Catholic Church,” said the NCBC statement.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer

 

CATHOLIC RESOURCES ON LIFECARE

Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (USCCB):

Palliative and Hospice Care: Caring Even When We Cannot Cure (Catholic Health Association):

Killing the Pain, Not the Patient: Palliative Care vs. Assisted Suicide (USCCB):

  •  http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/killingthe-pain.cfm Guide to State-by-State Resources: https://www.catholicendoflife.org/resources/

After Suicide: There’s Still Hope for Them and You

Fr.Chris Alar, MIC
Marian Press, 280 pages

 

Tragically, many have been touched in some way by the suicide of a loved one or acquaintance, and some believe killing oneself automatically condemns one to hell. Some believe that’s what the Catholic Church says. Not so, says Fr. Alar, whose own grandmother committed suicide. In fact, the teaching of the Church offers great hope for the salvation of suicide victims. This necessary book explains this hope, provides solace for those who grieve, and encourages us in interceding for the salvation of those lost to suicide through our prayers, sacrifices, and trust in God’s mercy.

 

Order: Amazon 

Houma-Thibodaux chaplain heads bishops’ committee against racism

BISHOP FABRE SEES ERADICATING SIN OF PREJUDICE AS A LIFE ISSUE

Bishop Shelton Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana grew up as the fifth of six children. When he and his siblings had disagreements, his parents had a simple rule.

“My mother would say, ‘Unless there’s blood or the police involved, figure it out yourselves,’” Bishop Fabre said with a laugh while recalling his childhood in New Roads, Louisiana.

Now 57, Bishop Fabre recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of his priestly ordination. He has been the bishop of Houma-Thibodaux since October 2013, and is the chaplain of Legatus’ Houma-Thibodaux Chapter.

More recently, in his position as chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, Bishop Fabre has overseen the implementation of “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love — A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved at their November 2018 general meeting in Baltimore.

When did you first believe you were called to be a priest?

My call came from a priest. I was an altar server, around six or seven years, when the priest said, “You know, you should be a priest.” He said that to all the altar servers. But with me, it kind of stuck and it stayed with me from that point forward.

When did you enter seminary?

That is quite a story. I actually went to a high school seminary. I stayed three days, absolutely hated it and left. I said, “Okay Lord, I gave you a shot. I’m done.” I then went to a local Catholic high school. In my senior year, one of my brothers died of leukemia. That kind of event will have even a young person reflecting on life and suffering. So, I thought that maybe I wanted to be a priest after all. I went back to the seminary in college, and here I am today.

What was it about the high school seminary that you found off-putting?

I think I was just too young to leave my family. It was mostly homesickness. I just wanted to go home.

What was it like growing up as the fifth of six children?

There was always great activity in the house. Being one of six children, I think you learn to share everything you have, including a bedroom. The only person in our house who had her own room was my sister because she was the only girl. All the boys were shoved into one bedroom. You had your side of the bed and your area, but we learned to share what we had.

What lessons did your parents teach you?

My father was often asked which child he loved the most. My father had a response that always stuck with me. He always said, “The one who needed it most at the time.” I think that’s a great insight into both love and being loved.

What have been your impressions of Legatus since becoming a chapter chaplain?

I find that the people in Legatus are very faith-filled people who want to do the right thing. They are people who want to learn more, all that they can, about their faith. They are people who really do want to bring to their businesses, the Catholic faith. They are trying to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and bring that relationship to every aspect of their lives.

As chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad-Hoc Committee Against Racism, what makes this the right time for the Church to address racism?

I think that racism is an evil and a sin that we need to constantly be on guard against, rooting out of our lives and rooting out of society. I think this is another time when the bishops, and we all, need to be on-guard with regard to respecting the human dignity of each and every person. And that is what is at the very heart of “Open Wide Our Hearts.” The bishops make it very clear that racism is a life issue.

The rosary – food for life of the soul

Praying the rosary is a staple for Catholic family spirituality. The late Fr. Patrick Peyton (aka “The Rosary Priest”) said “the family that prays together, stays together.” Unfortunately, we’ve replaced family prayer with soccer, dance, and every form of technology that doesn’t bring us closer to God, or to each other.

As a priest, I should know the power of praying the rosary. I have an advanced degree in Mariology from the Pontifical Marianum Institute in Rome. My family prayed the rosary regularly, and I remember getting quizzed on knowing the mysteries in the proper order — each child tasked to lead a decade. As a seminarian and priest, the rosary has filled my travels, my personal time, and especially my difficult days with an assurance of God our Father and loving heavenly Mother.

But somedays it’s tough to pray the rosary, especially when you’re tired.

Regular meditation of the rosary isn’t a “law,” but an act of devotion to help me through challenging and tiring days.

One day, as a young priest, I had such a tough day I consciously chose NOT to pray my rosary before going to sleep. I was awakened by an emergency call to anoint a man who was “dying.” The caller was a defensive-sounding woman, dramatically telling me that she was a fallen-away Catholic, but calling for her dying dad, who’d been sick for a while. In my mind, I asked, “Why couldn’t she have called earlier?!?” I went dutifully, but begrudgingly

Since it was a 20-minute drive, I could have prayed the rosary. But now I was irritated. I thought, Mary wouldn’t want to listen to me while I’m in a sour mood. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

When I arrived, I discovered the man wasn’t actually dying. The daughter confused a coughing fit with dying. In fact, the elderly father went to the bathroom — on his own — when I arrived. He was far from dying, but I felt like I was.

I put on my best pastoral face and proceeded to offer the prayers of anointing. I politely asked this man’s name. He said, “My name is Rosario, just like my favorite prayer,” as he held out his rosary.

What a wake-up call! I realized that I was called out of sleep to pray that rosary — not just for myself, but for the dying, the dramatic daughter, and for myself when I’m weary and tired.

On the way home, I prayed my rosary. I went to sleep peacefully, knowing that Mary’s prayers always help.

LEO E. PATALINGHUG IVDEI, priest, author, speaker, TV and radio host, founder of Plating Grace and The Table Foundation. Learn more at FatherLeoFeeds.com

 

Smoked Salmon Wrap • yields 4 tortillas

Here’s a simple recipe to help us remember our Blessed Mother’s prayers and our pro-life mission as Catholics. While it’s Lent-friendly, this dish (and especially the sauce) is a crowd pleaser all year long. You can also watch my video as I prepare this meal with a message.

Ingredients:
Smoked Salmon
(2 sliced per tortilla)
4 Tortillas
Bib Lettuce, 4 leaves
1 Roma Tomato, diced
1 jalapeño, de-seeded, minced
1/4 Red Onion, 2 Tbs, minced
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Cumin
1/4 cup Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Sour Cream
1 Lime, juiced
1 Avocado, seed removed, and sliced (yielding 8 slices)
Cilantro, 4-8 small stems
1/2 tsp Salt and 1/2 tsp Pepper

Directions 

Make sauce/cream by adding the tomato, jalapeño, onion, garlic powder, cumin, mayo, sour cream, and lime juice in a bowl and stir all together.

Open 1 avocado and fan out.

Separate the smoked salmon slices.

To assemble the tortilla wrap, lay flat one tortilla and add and spread sauce/cream over the tortilla, place one bib lettuce leaf, add sliced avocado, add 1-2 slices of the smoked salmon, then a few sprigs of cilantro. Roll tortilla closed and serve with a side of the cream.

Exemplary priestly celibacy models Godly fatherhood

Venerable Fulton Sheen once wrote that “Sex has become one of the most discussed subjects of modern times. The Victorians pretended it did not exist; the moderns pretend that nothing else exists.”

Our cultural fixation on sex, like other neurotic obsessions, has all the markings of a split personality. On one hand, sex is idolized as the ultimate good, an imperative for everyone, a necessary component of a successful and happy life. On the other hand, sex is trivialized as a recreational pastime, something as casual, fun, and meaningless as a video game.

 Holding this contradiction together has been the overarching aim of the sexual revolution, and with deadly effect. The euphoria over free love that swept through the Western world in the 60s and 70s ushered in new technological and legal demands, including ready access to effective contraception – so that sex could be enjoyed without consequences – and legal abortion, to make problematic embryos go away when contraception fails or isn’t used.

 If we wish to promote a culture of life, then, our remedy must go deeper than the legal protection of human beings who happen to still be in their mother’s womb. Our remedy will also address that split personality, both the idolization and the trivialization of sex. And believe it or not, priestly celibacy has an important role to play in the effort.

A celibate priest is, first of all, a living refutation of the idolization of sex. Do you ever wonder why so many non-Catholics are intensely interested in the question of priestly celibacy? It is not because they lay awake worrying about the sexual well-being of priests. Rather, it is because they know, deep down, that celibacy is an existential threat to the central dogma of the sexual revolution: that unfettered sex is an imperative of any healthy and happy life. When priests live their celibacy well, with joy, peace, and fidelity – as it is in the vast majority of cases – then the notion that sex is a human necessity is simply and emphatically debunked.

 Celibacy also refutes the opposite error of the sexual revolution, the trivialization of sex. In a book that I recently wrote entitled Why Celibacy? Reclaiming the Fatherhood of the Priest (Emmaus Road Publishing), I argue that celibacy is not primarily about being unmarried, but about loving in a radical and life-giving way, with a heart wide open in the exercise of spiritual fatherhood. In fact, celibacy is a living reminder that all men, including natural fathers, are called to spiritual fatherhood since their chief duty is to help their children get to heaven. Fathers are to raise not just children but future saints.

Celibacy, then, is a reminder that sex is anything but trivial. The beauty of human love between a husband and a wife is found in their breathtaking capacity to give life to immortal beings, something completely beyond their ordinary human capacities. Through their love, parents are made co-creators with God. This is why we do not say that human beings reproduce but rather procreate. They usher into the world children destined for heaven, whose souls are nourished, guided, and protected by their own parents and also, in a powerful and unique way, by the ministry of celibate priests, true spiritual fathers in the order of grace.

Protecting life means, fundamentally, protecting the human love that brings life into the world. The sexual revolution has left behind a devastating trail of human wreckage – broken hearts, broken bodies, and broken families. We need to begin the healing, recovering our sanity about sex which is neither an idol nor a plaything but rather a beautiful cooperation in the creative love of God. However paradoxical it might seem, priestly celibacy, well-lived, can help lead the way.

FATHER CARTER GRIFFIN is a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. Raised Presbyterian, he converted to Catholicism while attending Princeton University. After serving as a line officer in the United States Navy, he entered the seminary and was ordained in 2004. He is the Rector of St. John Paul II Seminary in Washington, DC.

How youth handle dating, relationships affects maturity into “adulting”

BOSTON COLLEGE PHILOSOPHY PROF ASSIGNS DATING TO HER STUDENTS

Most college professors may give extra credit for completing optional projects or for participating in class.

Kerry Cronin, a philosophy professor at Boston College, will give her students extra credit for asking someone out on a date.

“Most of the students I give this assignment to are excited, but they’re also terrified because many of them have never asked someone out on a date,” said Cronin, who has become a sort of expert on how young adults today view dating, relationships and sexuality, and how all that has been impacted by technology and lax social mores on most residential college campuses.

Cronin, the associate director of the Lonergan Institute at Boston College and a faculty fellow in BC’s Center for Student Formation, will be sharing her insights into how young people today navigate sex and relationships as a speaker at the 2020 Legatus Summit. She recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

What will you be talking about at the Summit?

What I will probably be sharing for the Legatus audience, since I doubt they need dating advice, is an overview of what I see happening with romance, dating, and relationships among their sons, daughters, and grandkids. I’ll be talking a little bit about how we as older adults can help young adults navigate this strange new relationship landscape.

In what ways has the dating landscape changed?

Starting in the 80s, and continuing through the 90s and early 2000s, there was a loss of a lot of important and helpful social scripts. That loss came along with a time of jettisoning in American culture the social scripts that were seen as limiting and restricting. Well, we ended up throwing out the baby with the bathwater, and leaving young adults without a lot of signposts and cultural milestones for “adulting.” And with the Internet and technologies waiting in the wings to take over our lives, that all became problematic, really fast.

What is the “hookup culture” that has often been written about?

I would define a hookup as any kind of physical or sexual interaction with no intended emotional contact, and no perceived intention of a followup. I would say most students assume that any dating relationship pretty much has to start with a hookup. The attitude is, “Hooking up with somebody is no big deal.” It’s become the dominant social script, and most people are kind of situating themselves relative to this culture.

How do students respond to your dating assignment?

They’re excited, but they wonder, “Why?” Because it’s just not even on their radar. They know it’s something that sounds simple, but they hate feeling vulnerable. And these are good-looking, highly successful, achievement-oriented people, so of course I used that to my advantage. I’ll say, “This is part of adulting. You should be able to do this.”

How do dating apps factor into all this?

Young people will often tell me, “Asking someone out in person is really weird. People think you’re weird when you do that.” They have a certain attitude of, “If I’m on a dating app and I swipe right [meaning you find that person attractive], I’ll find out if that person is also swiping right on me.” But you never find out if that person swiped left on you, as in rejecting you. An app like Tinder will only give you positive feedback, no negative feedback. Standing behind the veil of technology helps you to avoid vulnerability

What lessons do you hope your students will take from the dating assignment?

In all areas of your life — work, studies, most of your friendships — the more effort you put in, the more successful you are. But in the case of romantic relationships, that calculus doesn’t always necessarily work. So students tend to be more terrified of “the ask” than the actual date. But, almost to a person, they’re glad they did it, even if in most cases it doesn’t lead to any big romance.

WHAT TO SEE: When an innocent is falsely maligned

Brian Banks
Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepherd, Tiffany Dupont
Run time: 99 min • PG

JAMES ALLEN’S 1903 collection of essays, As a Man Thinketh, exhorts readers to take control of their lives through positive thinking and tireless focus on ideals and purpose. It’s why Allen is rightly counted among the pioneers of the modern self-help movement.

The book figures in the new film Brian Banks, true story of a high school football star and USC recruit falsely accused of rape. After receiving abysmal legal advice to accept a plea deal that doesn’t go as promised, Banks spends five years behind bars and several more on parole as a registered sex offender as he struggles to clear his name and reassemble the pieces of his shattered life – and perhaps realize his dream, once seemingly assured, of an NFL career.

Amid today’s heightened attention to sexual assault, Brian Banks portrays a real-life case in which an accuser’s mixed motives led to fabricated allegations, and a flawed judicial system punished the innocent.

Under harsh prison conditions, young Banks descends into palpable despair until a kindly counselor gifts him with Allen’s book and offers sage wisdom: you can’t always control what life throws your way, but you can control how you respond.

Resolving to change his perspective and embrace his challenges, Banks eventually emerges from prison a better man, but his criminal record limits his opportunities. Finally convincing the California Innocence Project to take up his cause, he doggedly perseveres against significant adversity as he seeks exoneration.

There’s virtue in how Banks practices Allen’s thesis despite many setbacks, battling frustrations and maintaining hope even after his accuser’s taped recantation is deemed inadmissible. His understated Christian faith also provides strength.

There’s no fairy-tale epilogue: Banks finally got his shot at the NFL in his late 20s but was too out of condition to survive preseason cuts. It’s a thought-provoking, bittersweet story about a young man who mustered the fortitude to rise above what life threw his way.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.