In an era that has brought us Fox News, MSNBC and Wikipedia, what is the current state of the renowned Catholic intellectual tradition today? Perhaps more importantly, what can we do to ensure the tradition remains healthy and vibrant for generations to come?
To answer these and other pressing questions, more than 100 academics, scholars, journalists, bloggers and educators gathered on the campus of the University of Dayton in late September for In the Logos of Love conference, jointly conceived and presented by the Institute and the University of Dayton
Designed to showcase divergent perspectives and areas of thought and expertise as well as foster dialogue among participants around the many significant issues raised, the conference sought to address what Institute President Fr. James Heft, S.M. called “the promise and predicament of Catholic intellectual life.”
“The challenges and changes are evident across academia, particularly as articulated by the Second Vatican Council,” Fr. Heft explained. “The promise lies in the potential gift to the Church and the world of reasoned reflection and careful research rooted in the Catholic tradition, and the predicament lies in the challenges to this effort in and out of the academy, as well as in and out of the Church.
“While the contemporary academy is much more open than it was 50 years ago to supporting and fostering the study of religious traditions, it’s not clear what this change may mean for intellectuals within the Catholic tradition,” he continues. “We believe that the best way to safeguard these traditions and pass them on to new generations is to gather the best minds together to meet these challenges.
Panelists and presenters, including Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California; Paul Griffiths, Warren Professor of Catholic Theology, Duke Divinity School; Miguel Diaz, University of Dayton professor of Faith and Culture and former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See; and Scott Appleby, Professor of History and John M. Regan Jr. Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame presented papers on sex and gender roles in the modern Catholic Church, what it means to be a contemporary Catholic intellectual, the changing face of U.S. Catholicism and Catholics’ relationship to “the Other,” and the benefits and pitfalls facing Catholic intellectuals in a secular educational setting.
Prof. Appleby opened the conference with an apt and compelling discussion on the challenge of helping to identify and cultivate young Catholic intellectuals, primarily with regard to bringing them into the Academy. Prof. Diaz followed with a passionate argument on the importance of embracing those of other cultures and even other faiths to the life and growth of Catholic intellectualism.
Professors Leslie Tentler (professor of History, The Catholic University of America) and Nancy Dallavalle (Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Fairfield University) explored ideas – both contemporary and historical – around Catholic tradition, sexual morality, marriage and gender and the impact these have had and will continue to have on the laity – particularly women, who are leaving the Church in record numbers, according to Dallavalle.
Paul Griffiths outlined his views on how Catholic academics and intellectuals can prosper in what a secular institutional environment, and Amelia J. Uelmen, Visiting Lecturer, Georgetown Law School and former director of the Institute on Religion, Law & Lawyer’s Work at Fordham University, took on the topic of “personal and professional unity” among Catholic intellectuals. “I think it’s safe to say that the influence of Catholic intellectual life has not been even across the distinct areas of higher education,” she asserted. “The historical development of the professional schools indicates a large gap in its capacity to integrate Catholic intellectual life.”
This came at least in part as a result of “aspirations toward upward mobility” among American Catholics, which drove these institutions to focus on areas such as accreditation standard rather than conveying Catholic culture,” Uelmen explained.
Professors Vincent Miller (Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture, University of Dayton) and Diane Winston (Knight Chair in Media and Religion, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California) examined the impact of modern technology and modern journalism on perceptions of the Church among Catholic laity and the general public.
Each presentation was followed by a lively – and sometimes heated – discussion of the issues and ideas put forth, which participants agreed helped broaden understanding of both the challenges and the solutions proposed. Less formal roundtable conversations closed out the day’s exchanges as participants gathered to go over the subject matter raised in greater detail or add their experience and perspectives to the mix.
In order to capture the ideas and innovations inspired by In the Logos of Love, the organizers plan to gather the papers presented and publish them as a collection sometime in 2014.
If you were unable to attend In the Logos of Love or would like to view the presentations, we will be hosting them on this site over the next few weeks. Click here to access the videos.