By ROBERT WHITCOMB
‘Father Hoffman mixed personal opinion and church teaching in a way that offended everyone present, causing great harm,” said Prout School Principal David Carradini a couple of weeks ago. He was profusely apologizing for having the Rev. Rocky Hoffman, a host of Relevant Radio, a Catholic radio network, speak to the students of the Catholic high school, in South Kingstown, R.I. Father Hoffman, a member of the conservative Catholic society Opus Dei, spoke against homosexuality and divorce.
His views would have been considered standard Catholic fare only a few years ago, and are still held by many Catholics, and others.
Now, I’m not Catholic. Still, I salute the Church for much of its work, especially for the poor, and, yes, for the quality of Catholic schools. Anyway, we’re in a bad way in America if high-school students are to be prevented from hearing someone else’s views on morality. Where, exactly, is the “harm”? If these kids are seen as imperiled by listening to some priest, then how will they survive in the big, bad world? And how does Mr. Carradini know that the talk “offended everyone present”? (And so what if it actually did?)
Are our kids (and some of their complaining parents) really such lambkins that they can’t take the expression of strong opinions without collapsing in a heap? What’s there to apologize for, Mr. Carradini? Why doesn’t he just bring in some Catholic luminary with more “up-to-date” views as an offset? As they say, the cure for unsettling free speech is more free speech disputing it. And give all the kids debate lessons that nurture the capacity to understand and tolerate other views, including Father Hoffman’s traditionalist views.
Meanwhile, I’d suggest that if you don’t like Catholic beliefs, then don’t be a Catholic. Free will is an important part of the Church’s theology, at least for people from confirmation age on.
In other academic silliness, the student senate at the University of California at Santa Barbara (that cool, rich place) has passed a resolution requiring faculty to issue “trigger warnings.”
As Maria LaMagna reported in Bloomberg View: “Professors would write notes on their syllabi to alert students on which occasions a course’s material will be, say, sexually graphic. Students could then excuse themselves from class without being punished academically.”
Well, I think today’s college students are pretty familiar with sex, graphic or otherwise. They can handle such images. More to the point is that many courses that provide such material are devoid of academic rigor and a waste of time and money, sort of like Brown University’s long joked-about and nonexistent Prof. Josiah Carberry and his discipline of “psycho-ceramics”.
Northern Maine is poor, with lots of smokers and obesity, and yet their health-treatment outcomes metrics rank higher than much of the country (especially when compared with the South).
The reasons, summarized by Noam Levy in the Los Angeles Times, include:
•A strong safety net, which provides, among other benefits, more recommended screenings and medical treatments.
•An emphasis on preventive care, aided by Maine’s high number of primary-care physicians.
•Highly coordinated and data-driven care.
•Highly advanced data systems.
•Close collaboration between two competing hospital groups.
•A strong sense of civic obligation, including strong leadership by the public and private sectors.
The glue that keeps this all together is a vibrant sense of community, a sense missing in much of sprawling suburban America, with its subdivisions, gated communities and ever wider divisions of wealth. Mr. Levy quotes Dr. Jack Wennberg, founder of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, as saying, “We used to joke that everyone gets along in northern New England because every hospital is separated by a mountain and the winters are long, so we’re happy to see someone.”
Or maybe Robert Frost’s related phrase will do: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.” New Englanders may not be the friendliest people in the nation, but, especially like Upper Midwesterners (who are friendlier), they have a strong sense of obligation, both in what their governments should do and what they should do individually.
The first words of T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Wasteland” are too often dragged out now. “April is the cruellest month ... ” (breeding tax bills out of ... ) Instead, how about the cheery first few lines, in Middle English, of the prologue of Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales”? We had to memorize the prologue’s first 18 lines in school and I’m glad we did, especially after this long winter.
Whan that Aprille
with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March
hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne
in swich licóur
Of which vertú engendred
is the flour;
Or, more realistically, for New Englanders, Hemingway’s line from “A Moveable Feast”: “When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”
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