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Human personhood should be understood as a gift from and to others as well as a permanent and unchanging attribute of what it means to be a human being, for this understanding of human personhood fits better within a contemporary systems-oriented approach to reality. Likewise, for Christians it can also be seen as derivative from a more contemporary process-oriented understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, namely, as co-constitutive members of a transcendent community or archetypal life-system. Finally, given the individualistic character of contemporary Western culture, an emphasis on the interdependence of entities on one another rather than on their independence from one another seems to be more needed at the present moment.
This article tries to construct an ethical framework to address the issue of infertility through a creative use of Thomas Aquinas’ thought. Involuntary childlessness is one of the forgotten issues among Christian communities in West and Central Africa. Starting with the scientific definition of infertility, the article shows the gender differences and biases in the perception of childlessness in that region. Although infertility equally affects men and women, the latter, most of the time, are blamed for it. Although Scripture contains some ambivalent elements concerning infertility, on the whole it offers valuable insights by presenting childlessness as a type of life also blessed by God. Likewise, the language of the church since Vatican II has done away with the hierarchical view of the ends of marriage (or the idea that procreation is the primary goal of marriage over and against the unity of the spouses). Aquinas teaches us about the true nature of marriage and the value of childlessness. In addition, Aquinas’ understanding of love helps articulate areas that could guide infertile individuals and childless couples, on the one hand, and Christian communities, on the other hand, who have to deal with childless members.
Christianity espouses the dignity of all humanity and professes welcome for all to the communion of saints. Yet people with disabilities, especially those with more severe or profound physical or psychological disabilities, are largely invisible inside our houses of worship. This article examines the meaning of dignity and inclusion through the lenses of Christian anthropology, disabilities liberation theology, and the lived experience of persons with disabilities. It concludes with some suggestions on how to begin inclusion.
The sweeping movement of student protest over racial discord on university campuses reflects intractable divisions in the public square. Catholic higher education is obligated by its mission to address this interpersonal situation with practices of healing as integral to its formational end. This article approaches Thomas Groome's shared Christian praxis as a “pedagogy of caritas” in light of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. The focusing activity and five movements of shared Christian praxis enact the dynamic structure of Bernard Lonergan's cognitional and existential interiority. Friendship praxis sets the conditions for the possibility of self-transcendence and healing for a commodified and increasingly diverse community of learners. A pedagogy of friendship is a promising integrative teaching strategy for a Catholic university in our divided time.
In April 2016 Pax Christi International and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace cosponsored the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference at the Vatican. The conference issued an Appeal calling on the Catholic Church to make nonviolence and just peace central to its purpose, while also urging it to cease teaching or using just war theory. This roundtable consists of four perspectives from Catholic moral theologians who offer just-war responses to this Appeal.
Gerald Schlabach wrote that a key test of progress for Catholicism in its dialogue with the historic peace churches on nonviolence and the use of force would be that the church's teaching on nonviolence would become “church wide and parish deep.” While modern Catholic social teaching has recognized nonviolence since the time of the Second Vatican Council, and Pope Saint John Paul II gave nonviolence strong, formal endorsement in his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, the church's teaching on nonviolence is hardly known in the pews. If they are familiar at all with Catholic teaching on peace and war, most Catholics would know the just-war tradition, especially through the US bishops’ 1983 pastoral letter, The Challenge of Peace. But the newer and still relatively slight teaching on nonviolence is hardly known at all. Only by rare exception do Catholic preachers address issues of peace and war.
The Appeal declares, “We believe that there is no ‘just war,’” because it has been “used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war,” and it “undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict.” In what follows, I offer a response to the latter part of the Appeal’s criticism, one that has been similarly made by the Protestant pacifist theologian Stanley Hauerwas and the Irish Catholic theological ethicist Linda Hogan—namely, that JWT prevents us from imagining alternatives to war. For Hauerwas and Hogan, “just war” has been a dangerous figment of our imagination since the time of Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine, and it has thereby impeded Catholics’ ability to imagine nonviolence as a faithful and practical way for addressing conflict. Similarly, the Appeal asks us to imagine a church without “just war” and, instead, with “just peace.” However, while I take both the Appeal’s criticism of just war and its call for nonviolence seriously, I think its portrayal of just war is a distortion and fails to acknowledge that just war theorists actually have imaginatively developed tools and capacities for addressing conflict that are directed toward protecting and building just peace. In the end, I will also suggest that the Appeal lacks consideration of the ethic behind just war, which actually provides a method for moral thinking about the use of all forms of force—not only war, but also nonviolent resistance, which is also a form of force—and, indeed, many other questions in applied ethics.
Pope Francis titled his recent World Day of Peace message “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace.” The use of the word “style” is unusual but important. It reveals the significance of the way we talk about the questions of violence and peace—our rhetoric, in other words. It has been suggested that talking about “just war theory” can, in fact, obstruct the development and use of nonviolent techniques for the resolution of conflict. My contribution to this roundtable will examine the extent to which that is the case.
This final section focuses less on theory, theology, and ethics and more on the practical implications if the church were to abandon JWT. After such sustained critique, it is crucial to reiterate the points made earlier regarding how many just-war thinkers, like ourselves, affirm what is in the Appeal. We agree with and support most of what it says. Where we part company with the Appeal is over the two sentences and one bullet point (forty-five words) outlined above.
The concept of “dissent” is of recent coinage and narrow use in Catholic theology. However, since rereadings of Catholic tradition through the lens of cultural studies have revealed its constitutive plurality, we are faced with a profound tension between a critical description of ecclesial polyphony and the normative ideals of unity and consensus. This interdisciplinary reappraisal of tradition raises far-reaching theological questions: Do we necessarily have to refer to inner-ecclesial polyphony as “dissent”? Does “dissent” silently rely on (and thus reinforce) established hierarchies of authority in the church? What could be counterhegemonic frameworks that resist entrenched power/knowledge regimes in the church? In which ways could “dissent” be reconceived to allow for a constructive approach to inner-ecclesial plurality? Once we raise questions such as these, we begin to see that Catholic theology lacks adequate models for a reflection of ecclesial polyphony in its full complexity. This roundtable addresses this lacuna: it offers critical case studies of historical and contemporary forms of “dissent” within the church, and it engages the theological and ecclesiological issues at stake.
Our roundtable wishes to explore the need for the church today to move beyond what we might call the orthodoxy/dissent binary, that is, the assumption of one narrowly construed orthodox position, over against which all other construals of the Christian faith are presented as heretical or at least dissenting positions. This binary presents, for many scholars today, insuperable difficulties. To begin with, it emphasizes doctrinal unity over theological diversity. It privileges office over charism, magisterium over the sense of the faithful, authoritative pronouncement over communal discovery. The dominance of the orthodoxy/dissent binary depends in turn on an account of doctrinal teaching authority still indebted to Pope Pius XII and his claim that when the ordinary papal magisterium has pronounced on a matter, it is no longer subject to open debate. The solution, in the minds of some, lies in dispelling dangerous notions of orthodoxy, heresy, and dissent as intrinsically hegemonic terms that mask politically oriented power regimes. I am not inclined to dismiss entirely, however, claims to doctrinal normativity, even as I acknowledge the real danger of abuse.
Modern-day Guatemalan history is marked by the thirty-six-year-long civil war that ravaged the nation. The 1954 CIA-backed military coup of President Jacobo Arbenz led to an extended period of violence and armed conflict, the longest in Central American history. The civil war began in 1960. Military strategies included kidnappings, torture, disappearances, and death lists. More than 245,000 civilians were disappeared or killed and over 400 villages destroyed. In addition, over 1 million people were displaced from their homes. The armed conflict thus damaged the people, the environment, and the very psyche of Guatemala, creating a culture of corruption, fear, and silence. The civil war ended in late 1996 with the signing of the Peace Accords. However some scholars and activists argue that while the Accords were signed, peace has yet to be established in present-day Guatemala.
In Washington, DC, at the top of the long hill up Wisconsin Avenue where Massachusetts Avenue crosses Thirty-Fourth Street, there has been for a long time a fixture on the landscape. An old man, life scarred and perhaps homeless, perhaps schizophrenic, holds a big homemade sign that reads “Vatican Protects Pedophiles Worldwide.”
This contribution to the roundtable will compare two forms of protest in the church—one that is radical and challenges the church from the outside, and the other that is institutional and challenges the church from the inside. For case studies, I will compare Católicos Por La Raza (CPLR), a group of Chicano students that employed dramatic demonstrations in its protest of the Catholic Church, and PADRES, an organization of Catholic priests that utilized the tools at its disposal to challenge racism from within the hierarchy. I will outline the ecclesiologies of CPLR and PADRES, the ways in which these visions led to differing means of dissent, and the successes and failures of each group.
This contribution will examine several theological methods used to understand morally egregious examples of historical dissent in the Catholic Church. From the 1600s to the late 1800s, large numbers of Catholics in the young United States dissented from the Holy See in one particularly egregious manner: their support for and defense of chattel slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. While chattel slavery is universally declared horrific and immoral, its vestiges have not been erased from church history, nor has its influence been eradicated in the modern experience of Christians in the United States today. After naming the contemporary problem caused by this historical example of dissent and analyzing theological approaches to ameliorate this problem, I will propose a theological-historical approach that may offer better solutions in the future.
The contributions to this roundtable weave a rich tapestry of dissent in the Roman Catholic Church. Together, they expose some of the divergent voices within the church—voices that resist easy reconciliation and unification. Dissent, this roundtable shows, takes many forms; it can be directed ad intra (Willard) or ad extra (Gonzalez Maldonado), it can be geared toward the justification of hegemonic structures (Slattery) or aim at their subversion (Steidl). Moreover, these contributions do not just highlight the multiplicity of voices within the church. Indeed, each of them points to conflict and contestation between the diverse Catholicisms they discuss: each of these sometimes-contradictory Catholicisms claims to be authentically and normatively Catholic. This indicates that a discourse about plurality within the church is at the same time a discourse about the struggle for sovereignty of interpretation over the church. Further, the contributions also show that these contestations over the right to define orthodoxy take place under asymmetrical relations of authority and power. The struggle over right belief and right practice is first and foremost a struggle over who has a voice to define Catholic orthodoxy in the first place—who can participate, from which position, in this struggle? Ultimately, therefore, this roundtable demonstrates that questions of normativity by no means become arbitrary or sidelined once we reveal the silent and silenced voices underneath the established master narrative of the church about itself as one and stable. Yet, at the same time, it also becomes obvious that established theological approaches to this inner-ecclesial plurality no longer hold. The dominant theological readings of Catholic tradition have always reckoned with a history of plural, deviant Catholicisms, but they have subjected this inner-ecclesial plurality to the theological ideal and a historical construction of unity and consensus. However, as Gaillardetz and Slattery point out, this narrative of unity has lost both its innocence and its self-evidence as the only legitimate framework for organizing the “raw material” of Catholic tradition. Rereadings of church history through the lens of power-critical studies make visible that Catholic tradition, too, is a power/knowledge regime. They reveal that orthodoxy is, in a literal sense, “heresy”: it takes its shape through epistemopolitical choices (αἵρεσις); it is forged through the exclusion of alternative theological narratives. Where do we stand after this destabilization of tradition, after this loss of innocence? Once stability and consensus have been problematized as the normative organizing principles of Catholic tradition, how else should we think of the church? Can we develop alternative models that take conflict and contestation into account as constitutive moments in our understanding of the church, rather than an afterthought to be eradicated?
Sr. Prudence Allen's extensive work on the concept of woman finds its culmination in this massive book, the third in a trilogy that began with a first volume on the Aristotelian revolution (up to 1250) and a second that traced developments from 1250 to 1500. In this exhaustively and meticulously researched book, Allen argues for an “integral complementarity” between man and woman that she argues is “proven” through its ability to cohere with John Henry Newman's criteria for doctrinal development, set out in his Essay on the Development of Doctrine (10–11). Through a detailed survey of both men and women thinkers since 1500, including some of the most prominent—Leonardo da Vinci, René Descartes, Immanuel Kant—as well as some lesser known—Elena Tarabotti and Moderata Fonte—Allen argues that only a conception of complementarity based in a revised Aristotelian hylomorphism can adequately account for what it means to be a woman as well as be in accord with Roman Catholic teaching.