The big Catholic story

I should have mentioned this before now, but…

Fordham U’s Lincoln Center campus is hosting a very interesting and timely forum TONIGHT called “Becoming Latino: The Transformation of U.S. Catholicism.”

We all know that the Catholic Church in the U.S. is quickly becoming an Hispanic church, but how much attention has been given to what this really means?

When I attended a catechetical convention put on by the Archdiocese of NY last year at the Westchester County Center, it was immediately apparent that most of the catechists there were Hispanic.

But there seems to be an unwitting quasi-segregation in much of the church. You have largely white parishes and largely Hispanic parishes. Many parishes have English-speaking Masses and separate Spanish-language Masses for Hispanics.

People still think of the Catholic Church in New York as an Irish church, but it really isn’t anymore.

When Archbishop Dolan got to New York, he said several times that there is a perception that the Catholic Church faces a “Hispanic problem” or “Hispanic challenge.” He refuted this notion, of course.

Here’s the line-up for tonight: Luis Lugo, director, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life; Claudio Burgaleta, S.J., coordinator, Latino studies program, Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, Fordham University; Arturo J. Bañuelas, pastor, St. Pius X Church, El Paso, Texas; and Maria Odom, executive director, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Washington, D.C.

The moderator will be Allan Figueroa Deck, S.J., executive director, Office for Cultural Diversity in the Church, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It’s 6-8 p.m. The Lincoln Center campus is at 113 West 60th Street.

Bang!: When moral beliefs and public policy collide

Sounds like a real timely program at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus this Tuesday (April 28) at 6 p.m.:

Matters of Conscience: When Moral Precepts Collide with Public Policy

Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture describes the forum like this:


What happens when individuals or institutions are called upon to cooperate with actions that they consider gravely immoral but that the law and public policy allow?

Recent legislative and judicial developments touching on life, death, sexuality, and family have stirred deep conflicts about traditional moral and religious norms.  Abortion has deeply divided American society, so have physician-assisted suicide and same-sex marriage.  Sometime these developments are said to pose a threat to individuals or institutions asked to participate in actions that they consider immoral. In some circumstances exemptions have been created for those holding conscientious objections of a religious or moral nature—most notably in the case of abortion. In turn, these exemptions have been criticized as threats to social or individual rights and needs.

Should “conscience clauses” or other safeguards protect individuals or institutions from being compelled—by licensing laws, prohibitions against discrimination, or withdrawal of public funding or tax exemption—to cooperate with conduct that violates religious or moral principles? Can protection for conscience be balanced against the rights of those seeking morally controversial but lawful and possibly momentous services?


Here’s the line-up:


Moderator: Russell Pearce holds the Bellet Chair in Legal Ethics, Morality, and Religion, Fordham University School of Law.


Nadine Strossen, professor of law at New York Law School, was president of the American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008). She has written, lectured, and practiced extensively in the areas of constitutional law, civil liberties, and international human rights. She is author of Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex and the Fight for Women’s Rights and Speaking of Race, Speaking of Sex: Hate Speech, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

Marc D. Stern, now acting co-executive director of the American Jewish Congress, has long served as a leading expert on church-state issues.  As the Congress’s general counsel, he litigated, prepared amicus curiae briefs, drafted legislation and gave public testimony on religious freedom questions for three decades.  He is the author of Religion and the Public Schools: A Summary of the Law, co-author of Your Right to Religious Liberty: A Basic Guide to Religious Rights, and contributor to the book Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty.

Douglas Kmiec is professor of constitutional law and Caruso Family Chair in Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University. He also served as dean and St. Thomas More Professor of Law at The Catholic University of America and on the law faculty at the University of Notre Dame. He is co-author of three books on the Constitution — The American Constitutional Order; Individual Rights and the American Constitution and The History, Structure and Philosophy of the American Constitution.

Robert Vischer, associate professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School, has written extensively on law, religion, and public policy, focusing in particular on the religious and moral dimensions of professional identity.  His forthcoming book, Conscience and the Common Good: Reclaiming the Space Between Person and State, addresses the communal dimensions in which the dictates of conscience are shaped, articulated and lived out.

Cardinal Avery Dulles dead at 90

Cardinal Avery Dulles, the famed son of John Foster Dulles who converted to Catholicism and became one of his church’s most influential modern-day theologians, died this morning at 90.

He had been deteriorating for some time from post-polio syndrome. In recent years, he continued to write lectures, but had other people deliver them.

He was unable to speak when Pope Benedict XVI visited with him at St. Joseph’s Seminary in April.

Dulles was a central figure at Fordham for a long time. He served as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society there for 20 years before stepping down this year.

Dulles was an unassuming, yet magisterial figure, if that makes any sense. I had the opportunity to interview him twice, once in the days before he flew to Rome to be made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001.

“I don’t think it will fully sink in until I get zapped,” he told me then. “Until then, I am still just a humble priest, a simple priest.”

Dulles was a brilliant fellow, completely committed to his theological pursuits. In the days ahead, many will comment on his gradual move to the right. Some loved him for it, others not. But everyone who cares about Catholicism and theology admired his intellect, I think.

Fordham’s Avery Dulles page is here.

A collection of Dulles’ writings for America magazine is here.

Cardinal Egan: Fordham award to Justice Breyer ‘a mistake’

Cardinal Egan is calling Fordham University’s decision to honor U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer “a mistake.”

A statement from the Archdiocese of New York says that Egan has spoken to the Fordham leadership on the matter.

breyer_stephen_g_justice.jpgI wrote a couple of weeks ago about growing Catholic criticism of Fordham Law School’s awarding of the 2008 Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize to Breyer, who wrote the majority decision in 2000 on a case striking down state laws that banned “partial-birth abortion.” Breyer will accept the prize in NYC on Oct. 29.

Here is the archdiocese’s statement in full:

“Cardinal Egan was surprised to learn that Justice Stephen Breyer would be the recipient of this year’s Fordham-Stein Ethics Prize from Fordham University’s Stein Center for Law and Ethics.  He has spoken to the leadership of Fordham University about this matter.  As a result of these discussions, the Cardinal is confident that a mistake of this sort will not happen again.”

The Cardinal Newman Society, which leads the charge in calling for Catholic colleges to be more Catholic, says that 1,100 Fordham alumni have signed a petition opposing the award for Breyer.

Learning to prepare for the worst

350px-fordham_university_keating_hall.JPGOn June 20, students from 20 Jesuit colleges and universities will gather at Fordham in the Bronx to learn how to take part in global humanitarian efforts.

According to the Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network:

The global need for expertise in humanitarian relief has never been greater, including crises in Myanmar (Burma), China, Somalia, and Sudan, and domestic emergencies in the Midwestern United States. The conference, Engaging Students in Humanitarian Action, aims to broaden participants’ knowledge and understanding of global humanitarian initiatives, create awareness of the need for humanitarian expertise, and build the capacity for humanitarian training among AJCU member institutions.

Sessions will include disaster management, organizing a response, dealing with infectious diseases, legal issues, shelter management, and reaching vulnerable populations.

Cardinal Dulles’ farewell lecture

I mentioned last week that Cardinal Avery Dulles would give his final lecture this past Tuesday as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham.

Dulles, who is almost 90, is retiring at the end of the academic year.

tjndc5-5b5fg0cx1h3vp5buezi_layout1.jpgHe has been in very poor health in recent years, and some of his major speeches have been read by others. This was the case on Tuesday, when Dulles’ farewell address by read by Father Joe O’Hare, a former president of Fordham. Dulles sat nearby. (The picture is at St. Joseph’s Seminary in 2005, when he looked a bit better.)

Dulles’ words wrapped things up like this:

When in these lectures I affirm that Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross, or that he makes himself substantially present in the Eucharist, or that the gate to salvation is a narrow one, or that priestly ordination is reserved to men, or that capital punishment is sometimes warranted, in each case I am willingly adhering to the testimony of Scripture and perennial Catholic tradition.

Several times in the past year or two, I’ve heard rumors that Dulles might be gravely ill. The word has been spreading again the past few days, probably because Dulles did not give his lecture.

In his speech, Dulles wrote that a Polio infection from 1945 (while he was serving in the Navy) had left him unable to teach. I’ve heard that while Dulles has difficulty speaking and walking, he is still writing…

A ‘model theologian’ prepares to step aside

Cardinal Avery Dulles has this to say about being made a cardinal in St. Peter’s Square in 2001:

I enjoyed it, but that’s not really what counts. I prefer to spend my time reading, thinking, writing, teaching. I’m not particularly made for ceremonies.

tjndc5-5b5eubsc5×1qd2q5ezi_layout.jpgDulles is profiled in the current issue of the Fordham alumni magazine. Dulles, who will turn 90 in August, is retiring at the end of the academic year as the Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society at Fordham.

He will deliver his 39th and final McGinley lecture at Fordham’s Bronx campus on Tuesday. It is billed as his farewell address.

His story is legendary among people who follow these things. The son of John Foster Dulles, secretary of state under Eisenhower and a prominent Presbyterian, Avery Dulles made quite a splash when he converted to Catholicism and was ordained a priest in 1956.

Dulles has written 25 books and published hundreds of articles. He is considered one of Catholicism’s keenest American minds. He is often described as having taken the usual journey from moderation to conservativism, but it’s more complicated than that, of course.

He has said that it is the theologian’s job to “show why the church is teaching what she is.”

I’ve had the opportunity to interview Dulles twice. He was gracious, humble and chose his words carefully. I don’t think he’s too smitten with the secular media.

I asked him in 2001, weeks before he was made a cardinal, why theology should matter to Catholics in the pews. He answered:

When one believes, you should want to know more about what and why. What are the implications of belief? If you understand marriage as a sacrament, for instance, like the marriage between Christ and the church, you may have a better marriage than those who do not. Theology has real relevance.

He told me in 2005 that he had no plans to write a memoir. That’s too bad.