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Kansas City Chiefs player Harrison ButkerEWTN/YouTube

(LifeSiteNews) – A recent America essay warned of the “danger” of views shared by Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker during a recent graduation speech.

On May 11, Butker, a devout Catholic, gave the graduation speech at the Catholic college in Atchison, Kansas.

In just 20 minutes, the married father of two touched on a wide but related range of topics, including masculinity, femininity, abortion, COVID lockdowns, and Church leadership.

But my old friend from Loyola University, Zac Davis, took issue with some of Butker’s statements. (No one from our Catholic Studies program 10 years ago would be surprised that Davis ended up at the Jesuit publication and I ended up at LifeSiteNews).

Davis criticized the “danger” of Catholic “dead traditionalism.”

He took that second phrase from comments by Pope Francis about “dead traditions.”

Thankfully, the essay was not as harsh as comments from one host of “The View,” who called a love for the Latin Mass “cult-like” and “extreme.”

But there is at least three ways Davis was mistaken in his criticism.

First, he misunderstands Butker’s criticism of the antisemitism bill pending in Congress. The legislation relies on a definition of antisemitism that includes “claims of Jews killing Jesus.”

Davis wrote, “The Catholic Church teaches that the Jews are not responsible for killing Jesus.”

It is true, as he notes, that Nostra Aetate dismisses the idea that all Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus.

But it is also true that the bill’s definition, because of intentionality or sloppy wording, includes any reference to the role of some Jews in killing Jesus. Daily Wire commentator and Orthodox Jew Ben Shapiro opposes the legislation, including for the reason that the Gospels do teach that some Jews put Jesus to death.

Nostra Aetate states, correctly: “True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ … still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.”

Second, Davis is concerned about Butker’s apparent problems with Natural Family Planning (NFP).

“Heterodox ideas abound even within Catholic circles, but let’s be honest, there is nothing good about playing God with having children, whether that be your ideal number or the perfect time to conceive,” Butker said. “No matter how you spin it, there is nothing natural about Catholic birth control.”

It is true the Catholic Church teaches that spacing out child births, using a woman’s natural cycles, is morally permissible.

Butker’s comments that “there is nothing good about playing God with having children,” aiming for an “ideal number” or waiting for “the perfect time to conceive,” does not necessarily undermine this. Rather, he appears to be offering his opinion that NFP is being abused.

There is some reason to be concerned about the way NFP is being taught.

At least one course offered as part of marriage prep by a prominent NFP group includes a married couple who discerned for six years that it was right to avoid having any kids.

This was not about a family with four young kids attempting to space out the fifth kid for concerns about finance or health. Unless something was omitted from the video, this couple had *no children* – it logically impossible to space something out that has no point A.

Fr. Shenan Boquet touched on how some NFP teachers can focus too much on how it can be used to avoid pregnancy. (Read more here).

If Butker is saying it is a mortal sin to use NFP, he would be wrong. If he is saying NFP can be misunderstood or mistaught as just a great way to avoid kids, then he has a point.

Third, the essay also takes issue with Butker’s speech touching on a variety of topics. Davis wrote the kicker’s “speech sounds less like the result of experience than an all-encompassing ideology. There is no other reason that gender roles, Covid-19 policies, liturgical preferences and abortion should all fall under the same coherent theme of a commencement address.”

Speeches can touch on a variety of topics that may be of interest to the audience.

Graduates of the class of 2024 not only lived through the COVID lockdowns, where Masses and other sacraments were limited, but also likely had their 2020 high school graduation canceled.

They’ve lived through the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the growth of transgender identification, and restrictions on the Latin Mass. Insofar as a graduation speech is supposed to inspire graduates to join the fight for a better society, all of these topics could be of concern for the audience at Benedictine.

Davis then straw-mans Butker’s speech. “For my money, if the church has any chance of growth in our culture, it will need to come from attraction — from beautiful liturgies, yes, but also from our humble service to the vulnerable and prophetic calls for a more just society,” the America magazine editor writes.

I must have missed the part of the speech where Butker said to not provide “humble service” to those most in need.

Davis knows this, but the “vulnerable” also includes the preborn babies who are being targeted for abortion. “Justice,” which I know Davis understands, means people getting what they are due, including access to the sacraments. Justice also includes telling the truth that sex is immutable.

Butker’s love of the Latin Mass does not preclude him from supporting the most vulnerable; just as one example, in addition to his advocacy for the preborn, he also is supporting an effort to integrate ex-prisoners back into society.

Catholics of good will can have different liturgical preferences. There are plenty of holy people who attend the Novus Ordo Mass and unholy people who attend the Latin Mass.

What I believe Davis is saying is that Catholics should not lose sight of the need to work for a just society. If so, I agree with him, and I would assume Butker does, too, since that is what his speech was about.

A just society includes protections for preborn babies, telling people the truth about sex, and supporting women in their natural vocation to be wives and mothers.

That is something Catholics of all stripes should be able to support.

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