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Now that more than five decades have passed since Nostra Aetate initiated a new relationship between Jews and Catholics, it has become possible to identify certain basic principles—predicated on an appreciation of ongoing Jewish covenantal life—that are emerging in Catholic ecclesial statements. Such a “theology of shalom” seeks “right relationship” with the Jewish people and “wholeness” in terms of the church's own self-understanding. The article proposes three fundamental axioms. A theology of shalom (1) sees Jews and Christians as co-covenanting companions; (2) respects and reckons with Jewish self-understanding; and (3) focuses on final fulfillment in the future. It elaborates three subpoints for each principle to elucidate several implications and questions. The article concludes with the suggestion that the maturing Catholic-Jewish relationship may be moving into one of mutuality in which both communities can study and learn from their respective covenantal ways of walking with God.
The Black Lives Matter movement has received little scholarly attention from Catholic theologians and ethicists, despite the fact that it is the most conspicuous and publicly influential racial justice movement to be found in the US context in decades. The author argues on the basis of recent field research that this movement is most adequately understood from a theological ethics standpoint through a performativity lens, as a form of quasi-liturgical participation that constructs collective identity and sustains collective agency. The author draws upon ethnographic methods in order to demonstrate that the public moral critique of the movement is embedded in four interlocking narratives, and to interrogate the Catholic theological discipline itself as an object of this moral critique in light of its own performative habituation to whiteness.
The phenomenon of organizing a civic candlelight vigil in the face of violence and tragedy, while striking and powerful in addressing the moment, can be also religiously ambiguous in some circumstances, and insufficiently therapeutic in others. Keeping vigil in the Christian tradition is markedly different from its contemporary expressions. This article explores and evaluates—through the use of contemporary examples and the psychological and ritual analyses of Gotthard Booth and Victor Turner—the purpose and goals of vigils held in the public square with the nature and impact of keeping vigil in the Christian tradition, especially as celebrated in the Easter Vigil. This expository and diagnostic study suggests that a full expression of keeping vigil serves as an articulation of how believers are challenged to confront pain and suffering with a more profound theological and liturgical response that stands in stark contrast to contemporary cultural and social mechanisms.
Pregnancy loss (miscarriage, stillbirth, and abortion) is an age-old, and typically hidden, part of women's lives, yet only in recent years has it started to receive recognition to match its prevalence. Based on ethnographic research, this article analyzes liturgical and memorial practices developing within American Catholicism to acknowledge and commemorate pregnancy losses. Growing efforts have emerged as parishes, dioceses, and other Catholic organizations across the country have developed rites and memorials that provide formal ways to attend to grief that often accompanies experiences of miscarriage, stillbirth, and abortion. The memorials range from “miscarriage masses” to public monuments to postabortion ministry retreats. This article argues that these memorial practices seek to change how pregnancy-loss experiences are understood or “known” by ritual participants by reframing them within Catholic narratives of forgiveness and healing, thereby transforming situations of isolating loss into stories of grace, community, and shared sorrow.
Five hundred years after the start of the Protestant Reformation, what are the possibilities for individual and ecclesial ecumenism between Protestants and Catholics? What are the possibilities for common prayer, shared worship, preaching the gospel, church union, and dialogue with those who are religiously unaffiliated? Why should we commemorate or celebrate this anniversary?
When the young Augustinian friar, Martin Luther, affixed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church on October 31, 1517, calling for the reform of the church, he could hardly have anticipated the succession of events that would lead to the division of Western Christendom. Luther had no intention of creating a “Lutheran” Church, nor could he have foreseen that his initiative would give rise to an ecclesial divide that would persist for half a millennium. The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism, which acknowledged the need for continual reform and renewal in the church, created the conditions for the Catholic Church to enter in earnest into a dialogue “on equal footing” with other Christian communities. The Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity, as it is known today, was established in 1967 and was the first commission for official bilateral dialogue. Thus, as we commemorate five hundred years since the Reformation, we also mark with gratitude fifty years of official dialogue and growth in communion.
To assess the present state and future possibilities of personal and ecclesial ecumenism between Protestant and Catholic Christians is a difficult task. On the one hand, the diversity among Protestants is so great few generalities hold for all of them. The challenges involved in Catholic relations with the Church of England are quite different than those involved in relations with the Southern Baptist Convention, and different in yet other ways from those involved in relations with a Pentecostal church in South Africa. In a broad sense, one can think of a spectrum of Protestant churches, some with whom Catholic relations might be close, and then a series of churches at a greater distance from Catholicism with whom relations would be more limited. That picture is only partially true, however. On many social issues, Catholics can work more closely with Evangelicals, with whom there are deep differences over sacraments and ecclesiology, than they can with more socially liberal representatives of, say, the Lutheran or Anglican traditions. In this brief reflection, I will be concerned with the Protestant communities with whom the greatest possibilities of a wide spectrum of closer relations seem to exist, such as the Anglican, Lutheran, and Reformed churches.
“Today's challenges are no longer defined by local or national borders. They are glocal, both global and local. Borders are no longer what they used to be. That should not scare us. Because at the center of Christianity, there is a God crossing the most dramatic border of all: the one between divine and human. Transgression of borders always entails ‘Berührungsangst,’ the anxiety of touching and being touched by what is different, strange, other. As people of faith, we can live with these anxieties, remaining centered in the Gospel of the incarnated Christ and open, very much open, to the world. And so, united in prayer for God's creation and the church of Jesus Christ, we say with confidence: Veni Creator Spiritus, Come Creator Spirit.”
I am honored to participate in this theological roundtable on the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. I do so as a lay Lutheran church historian. In spite of the editors’ “prompts,” the topic reminds me of that apocryphal final exam question: “Give a history of the universe with a couple of examples.” “What do we think are the possibilities for individual and ecclesial ecumenism between Protestants and Catholics? What are the possibilities for common prayer, shared worship, preaching the gospel, church union, and dialogue with those who are religiously unaffiliated? Why should we commemorate or celebrate this anniversary?” Each “prompt” warrants a few bookshelves of response. The “Protestant Reformation” itself is multivalent. The term “Protestant” derives from the 1529 Diet of Speyer where the evangelical estates responded to the imperial mandate to enforce the Edict of Worms outlawing them. Their response, Protestatio, “testified” or “witnessed to” (pro testari) the evangelical estates’ commitment to the gospel in the face of political coercion (see Acts 5:29). It was not a protest against the Roman Catholic Church and its doctrine. Unfortunately, “Protestant” quickly became a pejorative name and then facilitated an elastic “enemies list.” “Reformation,” traditionally associated with Luther's “Ninety-Five Theses” (1517, hence the five-hundredth anniversary), also encompasses many historical and theological interpretations. Perhaps the Roundtable title reflects the effort in From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017 (2013) to distinguish Luther's reformational concern from the long historical Reformation (Protestantism), so that this anniversary may be both “celebrated” and self-critically “commemorated.”
Your faces bring back memories of thirty-six previous CTS convention banquets. The first was in 1979. It was held at Trinity College in Washington. I was a graduate student. Bill Cenkner was president. I'm here tonight, warts and all, where Bill stood in 1979. I think of Gerry Sloyan, Vera Chester, Dolores Greeley, Mary Lea Schneider, and the rest. To a much younger me they loomed larger than life. Tonight I want to thank you for the honor of serving briefly with them in the long line of our society's presidents. And a special thanks to my family, who made the trip to Newport to be here with us tonight.
How did we arrive at “the systematically anti-Christian, indeed anti-religious, world-view which most opinion formers of the Western Establishment now profess” (6)? Several major studies in recent years have challenged the default position that this is simply the inevitable result of the progress of science, and have instead argued for the importance of contingent historical factors that could have gone otherwise. Notably, Brad Gregory's The Unintended Reformation argues that the Reformation and the doctrinal “hyperpluralism” and religio-political conflicts to which it gave rise ultimately led to modern Western secularism, moral subjectivism, and consumer capitalism. John Rist's Augustine Deformed now joins the ranks of those studies. Rist, professor emeritus of classics and philosophy at the University of Toronto, expresses much agreement with Gregory but faults him for failing to reach back to the early medieval period—in fact, to Augustine—for the causes of our present “intellectual, moral and cultural nihilism” (4).