A Catholic Bible ‘summit’ in challenging times

The Catechetical Office of the Archdiocese of NY has put on some big conferences the past few years for people who want to dig deeper into their Catholic faith.

But they really seem to have come up with something special this year on June 26.

The New York Catholic Bible Summit will take place from 8:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at Fordham U’s Lincoln Center Campus.

The theme is “Living the Word of God in Challenging Times.”

The keynote address in English will be given by Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete (that’s him), an internationally known and high regarded theologian and writer  from Yonkers who has a good sense of humor and is a fine story-teller.

The keynote in Spanish will be delivered by Rev. Virgilio P. Elizondo, professor of pastoral and Hispanic theology at Notre Dame.

Ticket info, directions, presenter bios — and whatever else you want to know — can be found HERE. The conference is being sponsored by the Catechetical Office, Fordham and the American Bible Society.

Here is a line-up of workshop presenters:

Rev. Dempsey Rosales Acosta, Ph.D., St. Agnes Church, New York City, En Espanol
Sr. Dianne Bergant, CSA, Ph.D., Catholic Theological Union, Chicago
Rev. Lawrence Boadt, CSP, Ph.D., Washington Theological Union, Washington, DC
Rev. Claudio M. Burgaleta, SJ, Ph.D, Fordham Univeristy, Bronx, En Espanol
Eleana Salas Caceres, FMA, Peruvian Epsicopal Conference, Lima, Peru, En Espanol
James Campbell, Ph.D., Loyola Press, Chicago
Rev. Virgilio P. Elizondo, Ph.D, Notre Dame University, South Bend, En Espanol
Bro. Ricardo Grzona, FRP, Ph.D., United Bible Societies of the Americas, En Espanol
ValLimar Jansen, OCP Publications, Portland, Oregon
Liana Lupas, Ph.D., American Bible Society, New York City
Rev. James Martin, SJ, America Magazine, New York City
Sr. Margaret Palliser, OP, Ph.D., Living with Christ, New London, CT
John Pilch, Ph.D., Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Rev. Timothy Scannell, Ph.D., St. Joseph Seminary, Yonkers

‘We ask not about the reason for evil and its purpose…’

“We believe God is near to the Haitian people who have endured such terrible loss and devastation.”

This line comes from a new statement about Haiti from the Faith and Public Policy Roundtable, a group of “non-fundamentalist” Catholic, Protestant and Jewish leaders. I got the statement from Fordham, since Father Patrick Ryan, Fordham’s Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society, is on the Roundtable steering committee.

The statement, predictably, repudiates claims from some religious readers — i.e., Pat Robertson — that the quake was “divine
punishment of the Haitian people” and a call for “repentance for some aggravating sin.”

The Roundtable, instead, focuses on the goodness of God and humankind’s responsibility for healing and justice:


Human temptation finds the judgment of a vicious God in natural disaster. Contrary to that impulse, people of faith put their hope in a God who loves and worries for humanity. It is up to us: men and women of flesh and blood created in the Divine image, holding in our hands the redemptive power of our human responsibility, to provide direction in reaching for God’s nearness. As Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik wrote regarding the worst of human suffering, ultimately “We ask not about the reason for evil and its purpose, but rather about its rectification and uplifting.”


But what about when people do ask about the reason for the evil — and the earthquake. People do ask.

As I’ve written in the past, when I was working on my book, “Can God Intervene: How Religion Explains Natural Disasters,” I tried to get dozens of religious authorities to address the question of where was God in the tsunami. Not after the tsunami, but during the period when innocent people were drowning or being smashed against the objects of daily life.

It’s among the most difficult of questions, of course.

But it seems that Christopher Hitchens and other non-believers are the only ones who want to try to answer it (other than Pat Robertson).

Does the Roundtable’s statement even begin to address the question of where God was when the tectonic plates began to slip beneath Haiti? Here’s the statement:



Statement on the Crisis in Haiti
January 26, 2010

The earthquake in Haiti has not merely hurled the people of Haiti into
profound pain and loss. It has placed in bold relief the unrelenting plight
endured by the people of this poverty-stricken nation. Such disaster begs a
question of the gravest sort: where is God in Haiti’s desolation and grief?

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Dolan to lead Mass in Rockland for earthquake victims — then head for Haiti

Archbishop Dolan will be at St. Joseph’s Church in Spring Valley tonight (Thursday, Jan. 21) at 7:30 to preside over a Mass for the victims of the earthquake.

St. Joseph’s has many Haitian parishioners.

The church is located 333 Sneden Place West. The Mass will be celebrated in Creole.

UPDATE: It was just announced that Dolan will leave for Port-au-Prince to attend a funeral Mass on Saturday for Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, who died in the quake.

Dolan is chair of the Board of Catholic Relief Services.

According to a release: “While in Haiti, the Archbishop will also take the opportunity to offer support to CRS workers already working in Haiti and assess the progress of relief efforts being undertaken by CRS so as to help determine how the Church in the United States can best respond.  He is scheduled to return to New York sometime late in the evening of Sunday, January 24.”

Dolan is going on a private jet provided by a benefactor.


Additionally, Fordham U’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs will hold a panel discussion on the situation in Haiti at 1 p.m. today at its Rose Hill campus in the Bronx.

Panelists will be: Kevin M. Cahill, M.D., director of the Fordham University Institute
of International Humanitarian Affairs (moderator); Paul Browne, New York City Police Department’s deputy commissioner of public information and deputy director of the International Police Monitors in Haiti, where he helped establish an interim police force during the United States-led “Operation Restore Democracy” in
1994-1995; Rev. Ken Gavin, S.J., national director of the Jesuit Refugee
Service, U.S.A.; Robert Nickelsberg, American photojournalist whose work often appears in Time magazine, and who was embedded with the First Marine Division
in the Iraq War in 2003; and Ed Tsui, former longtime director of the New York office of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Archbishop Dolan, JTS’s Eisen to talk Catholic-Jewish stuff

Archbishop Dolan will share the stage with a prominent Jewish leader next month to speak about an always interesting subject (and one that’s surprisingly sensitive at the moment): the state of Catholic-Jewish relations.

He’ll discuss the subject with Arnold Eisen, chancellor of the (Conservative) Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC, on Nov. 5. The occasion will be the seventeenth annual Nostra Aetate Dialogue at Fordham U.

tjndc5-5qxce77ojdg11ntdqa9f_layoutThe event will take place at the McNally Amphitheatre at Fordham University Law School, 140 West 62nd Street.

Edward Bristow, professor of History at Fordham University, will moderate.

Catholic-Jewish relations have generally been bright in recent years, improving by the decade since Vatican II. But there has been some…strain…the past few years.

Mel Gibson’s movie made a lot of people uncomfortable a while back.

Then Pope B16 urged wider use of the Latin Mass, raising concerns about a once-a-year Good Friday prayer urging conversion of the Jews.

Early this year, B16 lifted the excommunication of a traditionalist bishop who happened to be a Holocaust-denier.

tjndc5-5bqpzs3t3fts6xgf2g9_layoutAnd most recently, Jewish leaders have been peeved about a legalistic statement from the Catholic bishops of the U.S. that said that even though the Catholic Church recognizes the covenant between God and the Jewish people, Catholics must affirm their belief that Jesus Christ “fulfills God’s revelation begun with Abraham.”

The statement includes:


With St. Paul, we acknowledge that God does not regret, repent of, or change his mind about the “gifts and the call” that he has given to the Jewish people (Rom 11:29). At the same time, we also believe that the fulfillment of the covenants, indeed, of all God’s promises to Israel, is found only in Jesus Christ. By God’s grace, the right to hear this Good News belongs to every generation.


When one considers the near-miraculous improvements in Catholic-Jewish relations over the past 40 years — and we’re talking about a deep and meaningful relationship — one could make the case that the events of recent years are minor and somewhat inevitable, given the real differences between the religions.

Still, it will be quite interesting to see how Dolan and Eisen, two personable and articulate men, frame these issues and concerns.

Eisen (that’s him, below), who came to JTS in 2007, has expressed a great interest in interreligious work. This is a good opportunity for him to make a significant contribution on issues of interest to many people.

Archbishops of New York are remembered, in part, by how well they get along with New York’s large and influential Jewish community. Cardinal O’Connor, of course, was the Archbishop of Catholic-Jewish Relations, beloved by New York’s Jewish community.

Cardinal Egan got along well with the JC, but he was more reticent (as he was with all things).

Dolan got rave reviews from Milwaukee’s Jewish community, and got off to a good start here, as well.

You have to figure that when he gets to Fordham, he’ll be well-versed on the issues and concerns out there and ready to soothe them.

Another ‘mistake’ for Fordham?

Obama wasn’t the only pro-choice pol to be honored by a Catholic university this past weekend.

Fordham gave an honorary degree to Mayor Bloomberg.

And Sen. Schumer apparently spoke, unannounced, at Fordham Law’s graduation.

The NYPost reports that Archbishop Dolan didn’t know about Bloomberg’s honor. He probably couldn’t have known about Schumer, who tends to show up at graduations around NYS and nab a few moments at the podium.

Last fall, Cardinal Egan slammed Fordham Law for giving an award to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, saying that the decision was a “mistake.”

A statement from the archdiocese at the time said that Egan addressed the matter with Fordham and that “As a result of these discussions, the Cardinal is confident that a mistake of this sort will not happen again.”