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The Tasks of Theology in the Proyecto Social of the University's Mission1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 March 2013

Bradford E. Hinze
Fordham University


It is a great pleasure and honor to offer this address at the end of my term as president of the College Theology Society. I wish to begin by paying tribute to Sister Vera Chester, a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph, a graduate of Marquette University, who served as the first woman president of the College Theology Society between 1980–1982. She died on April 22, 2012. I had the good for tune of having Vera Chester as one of my professors when I was an undergraduate student at the College of St. Thomas shortly after the Second Vatican Council. Although I was a philosophy major, I took quite a few classes in theology. In many of those philosophy and theology classes I witnessed my professors working through and acting out the postconciliar debates between the heirs of Neoscholastic Thomism and transcendental Thomism, and I learned a great deal in the process. I experienced a different kind of approach to theology in a course on spiritual autobiographies taught by Vera Chester at The College of St. Catherine. We were introduced to the writings of Augustine, John Henry Newman, Thomas Merton, and (if my memory is correct) Teresa of Avila and Thérèse of Lisieux. What strikes me about this course now is not only Vera's contagious joyful interest in her subject matter and her students, but also her awareness of the importance of introducing students to theology through the use of narratives, specifically autobiographies that describe spiritual life journeys.

College Theology Society Presidential Address
Copyright © The College Theology Society 2012

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2 Asztalos, Monikia, “The Faculty of Theology,” in Universities in the Middle Ages, ed. de Ridder-Symoens, Hilde (Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 409–41Google Scholar.

3 Farley, Edward, Theologia: The Fragmentation and Unity of Theological Education (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1983)Google Scholar.

4 For alternate readings of these developments, see O'Brien, David J., From the Heart of the American Church: Catholic Higher Education and American Culture (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1994)Google Scholar; Gleason, Philip, Contending with Modernity: Catholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995)Google Scholar; Buckley, Michael J., The Catholic University as Promise and Project: Reflections in a Jesuit Idiom (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1998)Google Scholar; Gallin, Alice, Negotiating Identity: Catholic Higher Education Since 1960 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000)Google Scholar.

5 Rachel Stern, Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL), at

6 Compact, Campus, “Deepening the Roots of Civic Engagement,” 2011 Annual Membership Survey, Executive Summary at Scholar.

7 Buckley explores some of these concerns in The Catholic University, 110–11.

8 University of Notre Dame, Mission Statement,

9 Ibid., 127–28; cf. also 111–12; I am not addressing here the questions raised by modern and postmodern critics of the humanist tradition. Buckley does not engage them in his text, but it seems fair to guess that once raised he would not avoid them. The defense of the mission of the university drawing on the humanist tradition must in fact be able to address the serious epistemological and historical questions raised about the emancipatory aspirations of this tradition and their failures.

10 Brackley, Dean, The University and Its Martyrs: Hope from Central America (San Salvador: Centro Monseñor Romero Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas,” 2004), 28Google Scholar.

12 Brackley, Dean, “Higher Standards for Higher Education: The Christian University and Solidarity,” address delivered at Creighton University (Omaha, NE), November 4, 1999, Scholar.

13 This trilogy was first formulated in Ellacuría's, essay “Hacia una Fundamentación del Metodo Teologico Latinamericana,” Estudios Centroamericanos (ECA), nos. 322/323 (San Salvador: Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas,” 1975)Google Scholar; in Escritos teólogicos I (San Salvador: UCA Editores, 2000), 187218Google Scholar, at 206–8; I am following the translation of Gandolfo, David Ignacius in “Human Essence, History and Liberation: Karl Mark and Ignaio Ellacuría on Being Human” (Ph.D diss., Loyola University Chicago, 2003), 223Google Scholar, n. 4; cf. Kevin Burke, who translates this passage as “realizing the weight of reality, shouldering the weight of reality, and taking charge of the weight of reality” (The Ground Beneath the Cross: The Theology of Ignacio Ellacuría [Georgetown University Press, 2000], 100–08Google Scholar; see also Lee, Michael E., Bearing the Weight of Salvation: The Soteriology of Ignacio Ellacuría (New York: Crossroad, 2009), 4250Google Scholar, at 48–49.

14 Brackley, Dean, “The Jesuit University in a Broken World,” Loyola Marymount University, (January 25, 2005), Scholar.

15 Brackley, Dean, “Higher Standards for Higher Education: The Christian University and Solidarity” (November 4, 1999), Scholar. See also idem, “Justice and Jesuit Higher Education,”

16 Brackley, , The University and Its Martyrs, 3334Google Scholar.

19 JustFaith Ministries is sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, Bread for the World, Maryknoll Congregation of Priests and Brothers, Pax Christi, and the Campaign for Human Development. For further information, see

20 See JustFaith program for college students,

25 On developments in practical theology, see The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Practical Theology, ed. Miller-McLemore, Bonnie J. (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012)Google Scholar; Ganzevoort, R. Ruard, “Forks in the Road When Tracing the Sacred: Practical Theology as Hermeneutics of Lived Religion,” Scholar; Cahalan, Kathleen A., “Locating Practical Theology in Catholic Theological Discourse and Practice,” International Journal of Practical Theology, 15, 1 (2011): 121CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

26 Buckley, , The Catholic University as Promise and Project, 118, 123Google Scholar.

27 Ibid., 123. Buckley sees this triadic strategy in this statement by Alfred North Whitehead: “First there is a cultivation of sensitivity and interest, of wonder and the heady excitement, which attends wonder, of experience and the growing appreciation which wonder evokes. From this ‘romance’ with the subject matter, another desire grows: to explore it more in detail, to master its internal structures and particular facts, to analyze what has been the object of immediate experience and appreciation. Finally, from this stage of precision, one moves to that of generalization, such a grasp of the fundamental ideas and of the basic premises that one can apply them to many more fields and to subjects other than those whose original excitement and subsequent analysis have brought the student to this point. Romance, precision, and generation are a single cycle of human evolution; they are the dialectical moments inherent in any and all human development ….” (ibid., 124–25).

28 See Dominic Doyle, “Transposing Richard McKeon's Philosophic Pluralism into a Theological Key,” (manuscript for a forthcoming Festschrift for Michael Buckley); under the influence of Buckley, also see Doyle's, The Promise of Christian Humanism: Thomas Aquinas on Hope (New York: Crossroad, 2012)Google Scholar.

29 From “Hacia una fundamentacíon,” translated by Burke, Kevin in The Ground Beneath the Cross, 106Google Scholar.

30 Ibid. Ellacuría introduces four conditions of a liberationist theological method: (1) human activities engage the reality of God's self-communication in history in terms of concrete issues; (2) social interest, forces, and agendas are involved; (3) a particular social-historical approach to hermeneutics is required; (4) theology entails an analysis of what language uncovers or covers over by means of the use of social sciences in theology. The triadic ways of approach to reality and the fourfold conditions yield the foundations and operations of theological method that have as their aim the historicization of concepts, the concrete loci of historicization in terms of salvation and liberation, and the historicization that incorporates the dialectic of theory and praxis. Burke delineates these aspects in The Ground Beneath the Cross, 111, 121–50; cf. Lee, , Bearing the Weight of Salvation, 4072Google Scholar.

31 This see-judge-act model has a longer ancestry reaching back to the promotion of study circles by the French lay Catholic democratic movement known as Le Sillon (the furrow) and as far back as lay Catholic movements associated with Frédrick Ozanam and Felicité de Lamennais. Joe Holland reports on the Louvain dissertation research of Stefan Gignacz on the roots of Cardign's see-judge-act model in “Introduction: Roots of the Pastoral Circle in Personal Experiences and Catholic Social Tradition,” in The Pastoral Circle Revisited: A Critical Quest for Truth and Transformation, eds. Wijsen, Frans, Henriot, Peter, and Mejía, Rodrigo (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2005), 910Google Scholar; also see Bidegain, Ana Maria, “From Catholic Action to Liberation Theology: The Historical Process of the Laity in the Twentieth Century,” Working Paper no. 48, (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, The Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, 1985)Google Scholar.

32 Holland, Joe and Henriot, Peter, Social Analysis: Linking Faith and Justice, rev. ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1983)Google Scholar.

33 Cf. The Pastoral Circle Revisited.

35 On February 28, 29, March 1, 2008, at Fordham University. See Scharer, Matthias and Hilberath, Bernd Jochen, The Practice of Communicative Theology: An Introduction to a New Theological Culture (New York: Crossroad, 2008)Google Scholar.

36 This assignment takes its original inspiration from a worksheet devised by Sandra Lobo, the director of Fordham's Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice.

37 Weil, Simone, “The Love of God and Affliction,” Waiting for God, trans. Craufurd, Emma (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1951), 111–36Google Scholar; Young, Iris Marion, “Abjection and Oppression: Dynamics of Unconscious Racism, Sexism and Homophobia,” in The Crisis in Continental Philosophy, Selected Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, ed. Dallery, Arlene and Scott, Charles (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1990), 201–14Google Scholar; idem, Justice and the Politics of Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 122–55; Butler, Judith, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (London/Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2004)Google Scholar, idem., Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (London/Brooklyn, NY: Verso, 2009); Saul Alinksy required that people seeking to promote grassroots democracy set up one-on-one meetings and small group meetings with people in the neighborhood to determine their self-interests and their griefs; see “Interview with Saul Alinsky,” part eight of thirteen parts, “Success Versus Co-optation,” Playboy Magazine, March 1972, at The Progressive Report: Empower People, Not Elites,

38 The original inspiration for my own version of this project is again based on an assignment developed by the Dorothy Day Center, Fordham University.

39 Brackley, , The University and Its Martyrs, 3738Google Scholar.

40 Young, “Abjection and Oppression.”

41 Miller, Vincent J., “Saving Subsidiarity: Why it is not about Small Government,” America Magazine, July 30–August 6, 2012, 1316, Scholar.

42 Jacobsen, Dennis A., Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001)Google Scholar.

43 Bretherton, Luke, Christianity and Contemporary Politics (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 1126CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

44 Wood, Richard L., Faith in Action: Religion, Race, and Democratic Organizing in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002)Google Scholar, Jeffrey Stout, Blessed are the Organized: Grassroots Democracy in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010)Google Scholar; also valuable is Warren, Mark R., Dry Bones Rattling: Community Building to Revitalize American Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

45 Groody, Daniel G., Globalization, Spirituality, and Justice: Navigating the Path to Peace (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2007)Google Scholar; Globalization and Catholic Social Thought: Present Crisis, Future Hope, ed. Coleman, John A. and Ryan, William F. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2005)Google Scholar.

47 David Hollenbach points out that promoting concern for justice at Catholic universities in keeping with Michael Buckley's articulation of the humanistic aims of the university will inevitably surface conflicts at the universities themselves pertaining to the socio-economic location of the administrators, faculty, board of directors, staff, and students and the concerns for poor and marginalized communities, including the stakeholders in the community with which faculty and students are forming partnerships. He analyzes the escalating cost of tuition as one clear example. See his “The Catholic University Under the Sign of the Cross” Christian Humanismin a Broken World,” in Finding God in All Things: Essays in Honor of Michael J. Buckley, S.J., ed. Himes, Michael J. and Pope, Stephen J. (New York: Crossroad Herder, 1996), 279–98Google Scholar, at 279–88. Also see Beyer, Gerald J., “Admission Impossible: Preferential Option for the Poor at Catholic Colleges,” U.S. Catholic 77, no. 2 (February 2012), 3235Google Scholar.