Here is a photo from Boston College’s Sesquicentennial celebration Mass at Fenway Park on Saturday September 15, 2012. See if you recognize any of the concelebrants in this photo (clue: he’s a young Franciscan).
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In the most recent issue of America magazine, Boston College theologian Richard Gaillardetz (visit his personal website) writes about some of the themes and dispositions present in the context of the Second Vatican Council, particularly highlighting the roles of dialogue and deliberation with a spirit of openness and collegiality during the conciliar discussions. There is much we can learn from the way the Second Vatican Council unfolded and has (or has not) been received in subsequent years. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of this historic event in the life of the Church and world, take a look at this article. Here’s a brief excerpt:
Every ecumenical council manifests or puts on display, to some extent, what the church really is. What happens at ecumenical councils is more than the writing, debate, revision and approval of documents. At an ecumenical council, saints and sinners, the learned and the ignorant gather together. They share their faith, voice their concerns, pray, argue, gossip, forge alliances and compromises, enter into political intrigue, rise above that intrigue to discern the movements of the Spirit, worry about preserving the great tradition in which their identity is rooted, seek to understand the demands of the present moment and hope for a better future.
That those who gather at a council carry lofty titles (pope, patriarch, cardinal, archbishop, bishop, religious superior, theologian) and wear somewhat unusual garb should not distract us from the fact that, at heart, they are brothers and sisters (women did play their part, however circumscribed it may have been) in the faith to all other Catholic Christians. Their deliberations represent, in a dramatic form, what the church is called to be.
To read the rest, go here: “Conversation Starters: Dialogue and Deliberation During Vatican II.”
Ok, so this is not your typical Stephen King or Mary Higgins Clark, but it is what I happen to be taking in while I spend a little time on the sands of the Atlantic while in town for a talk. It’s nice that, given my schedule these next few weeks in August, I have a little time to relax and read what I want to read. While there is always work to be done, and in my line of work that often involves reading books for review or research, I like the opportunity to read something just because that’s what I want to do. Such is the case with the latest book by Boston College philosopher Richard Kearney titled, Anatheism: Returning to God After God (Columbia University Press, 2010).
This book has been out for a few months, but I haven’t had a chance to read it until now. It is great. I have been largely influenced by one of Kearney’s primary interlocutors in the realm of postmodern continental thought — John D. Caputo — and I really appreciate the work that Kearney is doing as well. Until now I’ve only read a few essays of Kearney’s, but the setting and description of this latest project just compelled me to check it out.
This is a very creative project, drawing on sources and exemplars that at first seem disparate, but in the end come together the illustrate the philosophical enterprise at hand — what Kearney frequently refers to as his “wager.” The undergirding theme is the idea that there is something of a vorgriff-like or a priori condition for an encounter with the divine that precedes (or perhaps stands apart from) the typically binary “theist” and “atheist” dichotomy.
On that note, I wonder why some of the modern transcendental theologians (e.g., Karl Rahner) aren’t engaged as dialogue partners in this text. It would seem that their advocation of an unthematic or pre-thematic human-divine encounter would connect well with Kearney’s project. Then again, Kearney makes clear in his introduction that he sees this book as a philosophical exploration and not a theological one, perhaps that’s why the Rahners and Lonergans of history are not invoked.
Despite the seemingly a-theological character of such a project, rooted as it is in an explicit philosophical agenda, there are many intersections with the theological, particularly from the noticeable reflections on the Catholic imagination with this book’s overt Sacramental fixation. The use of figures like Dorothy Day and Jean Vanier also evoke a catholicity that, while not magisterial or dogmatic in the sense that some of the self-proclaimed “Catholic police” of the blogosphere would like, certainly reveals a latent, but influential, strain of thought.
I definitely recommend this book, particularly for those who are interested in what some folks are doing with the post-structuralist canon in light of ostensibly theological endeavors. I wonder if Kearney deliberately shirks the theological description of his project because of the critical reception of his friend and colleague, Caputo’s effort to “do theology.” At least that’s perhaps the biggest critique I’ve heard about Caputo’s work from theologians, that some feel as though he is still very much a continental philosopher masquerading as a theologian. Meanwhile, I should say, I do believe that Caputo’s work offers theologians much by way of resource and heuristic focus, as does Kearney’s, therefore I don’t know that one needs to dwell on whether or not Caputo can “rightly pass as a theologian.” Nevertheless, Kearney’s avoidance of that pitfall altogether will spare him that criticism I suppose.
All this to say that I won’t proclaim Richard Kearney as a “theologian that rocks,” because he’d likely not welcome that distinction. But one thing is for sure, he certainly rocks! Check out this book!
Suggesting that Christians stand at another “Gamaliel moment,” drawing on the comment spoken by the First-Century Rabbi in the Acts of the Apostles, Catholic Moral Theologian Tim Muldoon of Boston College offers an interesting insight about how Christians — Catholics more specifically — should approach the political discussions of the legalization of same-sex marriage. The title of the article is: “Gay Marriage and the Gamaliel Moment.“ This is particularly timely given the New York State Legislature’s focus on this issue in recent weeks.
Gamaliel was a first-century rabbi mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Speaking about Jesus’ apostles, who were preaching about Jesus against the strict orders of the local judges, Gamaliel advised leaving them alone rather than prosecuting them:
. . . if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God (Acts 5:38-39).
Gamaliel’s insight was that new ideas that are not rooted in God eventually fade away, but new ideas that are rooted in God are here to stay. He further understood public sympathy for those who take courageous stands in the face of persecution: the public is likely to take the side of the underdog against the people in power, regardless of whether they are right or wrong. His exhortation to avoid legal proceedings was predicated on the belief that the movement would eventually fail to draw people’s interest.
Christians are at a Gamaliel moment with gay marriage, meaning that we must relinquish the legal battle in order to refocus on the moral one. I believe the main reason why people perceive it to be an issue of equal rights is because most Americans enter discussions about law through a door marked “freedom,” and they perceive a failure among states to recognize the freedom of gay people to enter into marriage.
He goes on to carefully explain his approach in light of the disconnect that activists protesting same-sex marriage from a religious standpoint fail to acknowledge: their arguments are simply not admissible in the legal discussion. Instead of focusing so much on fighting a legal war, perhaps Christians concerned about a “biblical notion of marriage” need to look at their own lives and the ways in which they do or do not model this example of Christian living in the world. Muldoon keenly lists a number of problems related to marriage in a similar way that do not evoke the same sort of zealous protest: “And instead of targeting gays, we must turn the focus on ourselves and ask why our impoverished understanding of marriage has led to widespread non-marital sex, divorce, cohabitation, adultery, and general misery—especially for children, teens, and young adults.”
He goes on:
The Gamaliel moment means that we have to be realistic about how common that “freedom” door is. It’s an inadequate door to enter the discussion about marriage, but it’s the one most people use these days. My concern is that overemphasis on the legal question of gay marriage may, in fact, distract us from a more robust public witness, a more persuasive model of sexuality that is deeply rooted in a faithful discernment of God’s project. American law is a square hole into which we are trying to force a round peg that is a biblical model of marriage. And in an increasingly pluralistic nation, it becomes easy to target the proponents of the biblical model of unfairly imposing their will on everyone else.
My suggestion is let go of the power game, and instead preach the gospel…My thesis is that Christians ought to let go of the legal argument about what states should call “marriage,” and simply model the radical call of Jesus to live “what God has joined together.”
I think that Tim Muldoon is on to something here, something that people of good will should seriously consider. The manner in which self-described Christians treat their gay or lesbian sisters and brothers in Christ is appalling. Muldoon’s point is well put: if one is really concerned about sexual issues in culture and society, then perhaps it’s time to start living in a way that shows an alternative to the problems one seeks to protest instead of trying to fight political and legal battles that will not and cannot be won.
Photo: Catholic Advocate
The latest installment of “theologians that rock” features a small group of young women theologians.
Recently, stumbling upon an update by a Facebook friend from the days when the graduate student club “Future American Theologians” was still active, I came across a collaborative blog that I feel is definitely worth a “shout out.” The blog, WIT: Women in Theology is the collective internet publication of several women graduate students in theology programs at the University of Notre Dame, Boston College and Marquette University. They explain in their blog description that the motivation to form this joint effort stems from the absence of substantive women’s voices in theology online. “The original concept was developed in response to the realization that feminist issues in religion constitute something of a void on the Internet. We hope to contribute to filling this void.”
This is something that I have become keenly aware of in recent years. While there are increasing numbers of women studying for ministry degrees and serving the people of God in a variety of wonderful capacities (thanks to Vatican II), there remains a noticeable vacuum of female theological perspective “from above.” This is something I noticed first-hand while working on my M.A. in systematic theology. Thanks to several brilliant feminist theologians under whom I studied as an undergrad (people like Susan Abraham at Harvard University and Erin Runions at Pomona College) I was often times more sensitive to themes related to feminist, womanist, mujerista, postcolonial and other contextual theologies than several of my professors and even many of the self-described “feminist theologians” among my female peers. Even recently, while writing this blog, I have been hard-pressed to find voices of women theologians given equal footing online and elsewhere.
This is in large part why Julia, Elizabeth, Bridget, Megan, Erin, Katie and Beth are this week’s “theologians that rock.” Their collective voice provides a much-needed source of theological reflection, which, as they themselves explain is the most striking feature of their project. “Our feminist and theological commitments vary, and we hope that our collaboration here will create a space for our individual voices to emerge.”
The women of WIT are also to be commended for their stellar “rules of engagement” outlined for their blog. More web-based fora for theological and religious conversation should follow this example of establishing ground rules for healthy discourse.
At WIT, we believe that robust theological reflection is characterized by collaboration and dialogue. We’re committed to creating a safe space for discussions that are open, challenging and respectful.
Disagreement is a necessary and fruitful part of this process. It is most productive when all parties agree to assume good faith. People who post on this blog, and people who comment on it, do so in order to seek greater understanding and contribute positively to Christian feminist reflection. Each party will assume that any response to her work has this positive goal in mind, even if it takes the form of a negative critique. In order to preserve the possibility of this assumption, any negative critiques should be directed to particular claims and, where possible, cite directly from the text in question. No ad hominem arguments will be accepted.
The authors of this blog are particularly aware of and sensitive to a tendency to critique theologians as inadequately Christian and/or Catholic. We reject this way of speaking as it obscures the substance of any argument and breaks Christian charity. No comments will be made that accuse any member of not holding to the faith which they themselves claim. The ambiguity of the phrase “good faith” is helpful here. In this second way also, assume good faith.
According to the first posting, this blog was inspired by a conversation between the graduate students at ND and J. Kameron Carter who visited from Duke University to give a lecture. It is still a new effort on the part of these seven women and a project certainly worth watching. The handful of posts, the first of what I hope will be many, many more, are very good. Some are rather lengthy (a temptation that this man in theology can relate to — theologians like to use lots of words), but they are all substantive and insightful.
Support these voices of women in theology and encourage others to do likewise. Within the theological community we need to support one another and this next generation of women theologians will (are) shaping the academic discourse today. Check their blog out!