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Who are today's martyrs? Many Salvadorans call Archbishop Romero and the Jesuits and the two women killed at Central American University martyrs. Should they be numbered among the martyrs of the church? The author contends that it would be fitting for the Catholic Church to do so, based on the contemporary church teaching on martyrdom. Tracing the origin and development of the notion of Christian martyrdom from the New Testament to the present day, the author shows how Thomas Aquinas, the Second Vatican Council, Karl Rahner, and Pope John Paul II have contributed to the enlargement of the concept of the Christian martyr that fittingly describes the Salvadoran witnesses. Moved by love of God and neighbor, the martyr courageously endures death for bearing witness to the Christian faith that includes speaking the truth and doing justice.
A sense of place is critical to human identity. The Eucharist is a ritual practice that “places” us within a narrative wider than our individual and exclusive stories. The Eucharist breaks open private identities to embrace the oikumenē of all times, places and people. This article explores ways in which the Eucharist may be thought of as “the practice of Catholic place.” It does this by integrating sacramental and ethical perspectives. The eucharistic narrative in a radical way makes a place for stories of suffering and exclusion that demand redress. It is a place of reconciliation that makes space for memories that refuse to remain silent. The Eucharist draws believers into the all-embracing catholicity of God. It thus engages a power beyond the ritual enactments themselves that makes an entry point for “the other,” not least for the oppressed, the marginalized and the excluded.
Pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty articulates a view of the human person that is deeply at odds with a central assertion of Christianity: that human persons are deeply but not finally vulnerable to the conditions of their existence, and thus not wholly contingent beings. Because key elements of a Christian view of the human person, including a sharp appreciation of human vulnerability and the concept of freedom, as well as grounds for an overriding commitment to the well-being of all human persons are at stake, the author stresses the importance of addressing Rorty's pragmatist views. The author's argument is that Rorty's presentation of solidarity as the public response to human contingency fails on pragmatic grounds and she suggests an alternative view of contingency that can account for the creation of solidarity.
The environmental crisis has transformed the debate over the appropriate size of the human population, presenting humans with a choice of reducing population, redistributing resource use, and restraining consumption or inflicting severe, perhaps fatal, damage to the earth's capacity to sustain life. Having surveyed gross evidence supporting this choice, this article argues that Christianity must reinterpret its tradition, resymbolizing respect for life from an exclusive focus on birth and fertility toward the sustaining of life and life's habitat, earth.
Throughout much of the history of Catholic social teaching, the question of wage-earner justice has been of central import. In response to the condition of workers who do not receive sufficient compensation to maintain a decent livelihood for themselves and their families, a theory of just wage has evolved. There is wisdom to be gleaned from the tradition that can enrich the contemporary debate on just wage. The challenge lies in discerning what is normative from that which is socially and culturally biased. It will be informative to explore the meaning of just wage from a wide spectrum of perspectives, including the sometimes forgotten voice of women. This article examines the contributions of several levels of the Catholic faith community and retrieves essential insights that can contribute to a revitalized just wage discourse.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a pioneer in integrating modern science and Christian theology. He was also a mystic who throughout his life and writings attempted to share the ways in which the divine was the source, power and goal of all creation and to point out how spirit glowed within all of matter. Teilhard's vision of the earth can be most helpful today as we attempt to restore and sustain our environment. In this article I will explore Teilhard's deep reverence for the cosmos and humanity, as well as his views on how God's power works through Christ and the church. Along the way I will suggest how this vision might be linked to our contemporary concerns for our environment. I will close with some recommendations for updating Teilhard's vision so that it might better serve our present day needs.
Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jew who died at Auschwitz at the age of twenty-nine, left behind a diary and letters written during the last two years of her life. In An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbork, Hillesum tells a deeply moving story of religious experience, evil and suffering, spiritual growth, and interior and exterior moral transformation. While current scholarship on Hillesum focuses almost entirely on her personal life and religious journey, this essay examines the moral vision that emerges in her writings. Hillesum's diaries and letters present an engaging vision of the moral life—one that points with clarity to the importance of love of God and love of neighbor. This essay proposes that a love ethic is at the center of Hillesum's worldview and examines major influences on her religious and moral thought.
Traditionally, works that have formed part of the history of Christian spirituality have been produced by authors engaged in and committed to their subject matter. How can this 2000 year-old characteristic of Christian spirituality be incorporated into the contemporary identity of the discipline in a manner congruent with critical scholarly methodology and in a manner that can be communicated to scholars in other disciplines?
Theologians and philosophers of religion have argued for the importance of participatory knowledge for full understanding of the transcendent and of the rituals and practices of religions that claim to have a transformative effect upon the life of persons. Based on these arguments, this essay suggests that scholars' engagement in the practice of spirituality is an important source of knowledge and that it is a source of knowledge that can contribute to critical reflection.
While unfamiliar to many today, the Song of Songs was once one of the most frequently interpreted books of the Bible. This article seeks to counter the current lack of familiarity by highlighting the significance for the classroom of pre-modern exegesis of the Song. As course content, it provides a starting point from which to examine Christian thought and practice over the last two millennia. In particular, it supplies evidence that Christians (and Jews) have expressed some of their most profound insights into spirituality in terms of the erotic poetry of the Song. This essay concludes with an examination of method. How can pre-modern exegesis contribute to contemporary debates about interpretation, particularly of biblical texts?
As we so often hear, Christians of every new generation, or in any new cultural context, have to answer for themselves the question Jesus posed for the first generation of disciples: “Who do you say I am?” (Mk 8:27) This is a question that can be answered only in the light of other questions—that is, the personal, social, political, scientific questions we find ourselves grappling with in our own age and experience. The meaning of Jesus “becomes flesh” again in the meaning and direction we struggle for in our own times.
Among the questions that most stir the minds and feelings of Christians today, perhaps one of the most rankling and challenging is that of other religions traditions and other religious believers—the issue of religious pluralism. To answer the question “Who do you say I am?”, we have to connect it to the question “Who do you say they are?” How do we understand Jesus—his person and his work—in view of so many other religious persons and their words and works of wisdom? As Roger Haight has perceptively pointed out, the reality of other religions is not a question we take up after we have worked out our Christology. It enters into, and directs and determines, how we do our Christology from the very start.
If I can try to formulate how “Who do you say I am?” translates into the context of religious pluralism, it might be something like: “How can I be truly committed to Christ and at the same time be truly open to other religions?” That, I think, captures the questions and the struggles many Christians are feeling as they try to understand themselves as Christians in a world of many religions.
Can the Catholic Church be fundamentalist? Contemporary scholarship has shown that fundamentalism can take other forms than scriptural literalism. It consists in a rationalizing of traditional certainties in the face of pluralism and change. Its Catholic form could be described as “morphological,” residing in the structures of authority and power. Protestant reactions to Dominus Iesus missed the fundamentalist logic implicit in its synthesis of christology and ecclesiology. They praised the reaffirmation of Christocentrism but were dismayed that Methodists and Muslims were portrayed as inferior for essentially the same reasons. The document not only fails to reflect Vatican II's program for decentralizing authority but also overlooks the implications of Nostra Aetate 4 for interfaith dialogue. Its assertion of soteriological and theological superiority raises ethical questions. Dialogue is a religious act of welcoming the Stranger. Its refusal contains a potential for violence.
The Synod of Bishops for Asia which was held in Rome in April 1998 aroused much interest. The long awaited Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Asia (EA), was finally released in November 1999. Its reception is the topic of the present article. At issue is the tension between the proclamation of Christ and interreligious dialogue in Asia. The Asian bishops are unanimous in upholding the importance of evangelization but have different understandings of how that should be carried out. Rome insists on the “one and only” way it knows. The present article looks at this dialogue between Rome and Asia.