Tuesday, November 30, 2004

New One-Credit Medical Ethics Course

Last fall, the Center organized a one-day medical ethics course designed to give undergraduates considering a vocation in health care the opportunity to engage in conversation with physicians, philosophers and theologians familiar with medical ethics. Using the small-group discussion format of our Medical Ethics Conference, over ninety students looked at real case studies and real situations they might encounter in practicing medicine in the future, from physician malpractice to end-of-life issues. The course was also an opportunity for students to form an on-going mentoring relationship with practicing alumni physicians.

Four alumni physicians who regularly attend the Philip and Doris Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference and four other resource people gave their time and energy to make the course a huge success. Th e physicians were Dr. Paul Wright of Youngstown, Ohio, who initiated and generously funded the course, Dr. Paul McCauley, who runs a free clinic in Maryland, Dr. Mark Lindenmeyer, who currently practices law and works in an administrative capacity for three hospitals in the Cincinnati area, and Rev. Dr. Jim Foster, CSC, MD, who serves as an adviser to pre-med students at Notre Dame. In addition to these physicians, Prof. Rebecca Stangl of Notre Dame’s Philosophy Department, Prof. Kevin McDonnell, research fellow at the Center and professor of philosophy at St. Mary’s College, Prof. John Robinson of Notre Dame’s Law School and Center Director David Solomon served as resource people for the course.

The course, which took place on a Saturday, included a lunch at which Dr. Wright spoke about his experience as Blessed Mother Teresa’s personal physician. He encouraged the students to see Christ in their patients, and quoted Mother Teresa, who once told him that when working with patients, doctors must “remember Who it is they are touching.” The course filled to capacity within a matter of minutes during registration, and the students who signed up were not disappointed. “The course was amazing,” one student later wrote, “and … being surrounded by other pre-meds and by people who ‘made it’ was a huge boost for me.” Another student commented that “[the doctors’] sense of passion for medicine was easily noticed, as well as their faith. It was nice to bring past and present members of the Notre Dame family together.” One student even commented that it was “one of the most valuable classes [she had] taken at Notre Dame.”

We are grateful to all the resource people and physicians who attended, and especially to Dr. Wright for his generosity in funding the course. The Center hopes to make this course available every semester, starting this fall.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Epiphanies of Beauty: The Arts in a Post-Christian Culture

Since its inception, the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture has sought to include within its influence not only those working within the academy, but also those who do work in other areas important to culture. As there are few areas of culture more important than that of the arts, the Center devoted its fifth annual fall conference on November 18-20, 2004, to the theme: “Epiphanies of Beauty: The Arts in a Post-Christian Culture.”

The phrase “Epiphanies of Beauty” comes from an open letter to artists written in 1999 by Pope John Paul II. The Letter to Artists is dedicated “[t]o all those who are passionately dedicated to the search for new ‘epiphanies’ of beauty so that through their creative work as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world.” In the letter, John Paul II celebrates the arts as capable of generating epiphanies or manifestations of God’s glory. Indeed, the pope notes that part of what it means to be made in the image of God is to imitate God in being a craftsman of beauty. Of crucial moment to the Center’s mission and to the aims of the conference, the letter states, in a phrase the conference took as a kind of motto, that “[e]ven beyond its typically religious expressions, true art has a close affinity with the world of faith, so that, even in situations where culture and the Church are far apart, art remains a kind of bridge to religious experience.” To identify ways in which such a “bridge” ought best to be constructed was the central goal of “Epiphanies of Beauty.”

But why “The Arts in a Post-Christian Culture”? Not because Christianity in general, and Christian artists in particular, have ceased to maintain a voice in our culture. But rather because a secular outlook predominates in those areas — in business, politics, academia, the media, the entertainment industry — that exert the most infl uence upon culture. So the conference addressed itself to the issue of how the arts, and Christian artists most especially, can help build a bridge to religious experience in a predominantly secular world.

This fall, we were again honored by the presence of many distinguished speakers at the conference. The conference keynote, delivered as usual on the first evening of the conference, Thursday, November 18, was given by Gregory Wolfe, founder, publisher and editor of IMAGE, a journal of the arts and religion. Prof. Wolfe is also director of the Center for Religious Humanism in Seattle, as well as writer in residence and director of the MFA program in creative writing at Seattle Pacific University. Prof. Wolfe’s address was entitled “Shouts or Whispers? Faith and Doubt in Contemporary American Literature.”

His remarks depicted a contrast between, on the one hand, those writers who made up what has come to be called the Catholic literary revival in the mid-20th century (such as Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor), and on the other hand, present-day Christian writers who wish to explore questions of faith in the midst of an increasingly fragmented, postmodern world. The earlier set of writers, Wolfe argued, chose to create characters who make what Wolfe called “the grand gesture” as a response to drastic secularization — such as the martyrdom of the whisky priest in Greene’s The Power and the Glory. But given “the form and pressure” of the present age, Wolfe contended, it is more suitable for writers interested in exploring questions of faith to prefer “the quiet gesture.” For in our fragmented world, the intimate is the only place where communication can occur. The writers Wolfe discussed portray “grapplers,” characters either not perfectly situated in faith, or who live it out in fear and trembling.

Among the other invited speakers was Barbara Nicolosi, founder and executive director of Act One, a non-profit organization located in Hollywood, Calif., founded to train people of faith for careers in mainstream fi lm and television. Her talk, entitled, “Isolation, Community and the Artistic Life,” was an attempt to delineate a spirituality of the artist’s life, specifically in regard to its essential loneliness and consequent need for a supporting community.

Leo Linbeck III, president and CEO of Linbeck Construction in Houston, Tex., delivered a provocative and very humorous talk called “First, Kill All the Lawyers: Intellectual Property and the Re-Feudalization of Culture.” David Lyle Jeffrey, provost of Baylor University, spoke on “Epiphanies, Beauty and a Father’s Love,” and H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. of Rice University reflected on beauty and liturgy. The Center’s Senior Research Fellow Alasdair MacIntyre gave a lecture on the question “What Makes a Painting a Religious Painting?”, in which he compared and contrasted the work of El Greco and Mark Rothko. The conference also featured talks on architecture from Notre Dame architecture professors Philip Bess, Thomas Gordon Smith and Duncan Stroik, and a panel on fi lm with Thomas Hibbs of Baylor University and Jorge Garcia, professor of philosophy
at Boston College.

Yet one of the chief aims of the conference was not just to present academic discussions of the arts, but to put academics into conversation with working artists who would be present to showcase and discuss their work. And indeed throughout the weekend approximately 25 artists displayed their works around the conference venue, Notre Dame’s McKenna Hall, for all to enjoy between sessions. This goal also inspired a wonderful session in which Notre Dame alumnus and artist William Schickel, whose painting “Spring Morning” was used as the conference logo, talked about hisown work and the influence of his background in T omist philosophy. He was joined in the session by Gregory Wolfe, who had written a biography of Schickel and who helped to elucidate further his artistic style and influences.

As usual, the conference culminated on Saturday evening with a festive banquet in McKenna Hall, with Center Director David Solomon providing the after-dinner remarks.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

St. Augustine, Harry Potter, and the Confrontation with Evil

This fall, on November 3, 2004, Prof. Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago, delivered a talk entitled “St. Augustine, Harry Potter and the Confrontation with Evil.” She began by speaking about St. Augustine’s notion of evil as the absence of good. Evil, according to Augustine, is not an active principle; rather, it is parasitic, feeding off of good. Only goodness can have depth, whereas evil is shallow, flattening out the world and making it ever more one-dimensional. Evil-doing is not glamorous but hollow, and it prevents a person from achieving his potential, making him like a shell of himself.

Elshtain then compared this Augustinian notion of evil and that presented in J.K. Rowling’s popular Harry Potter books. Elshtain explained that she was introduced to these books through her young grandson, and despite the controversy they have created in many Christian communities, she believes that they are eminently suitable for children. The Harry Potter books, Elsthain contended, present a serious picture of a moral universe where bad things really do happen, but one is never left without the tools to fight evil. This is important in a children’s story, because if stories present an overly sanitized world, then there is no contrast by which to understand good and evil and the struggle between the two that children will confront in real life.

Elshtain’s talk was well-attended by the Schmitt fellows and many in the Notre Dame community, and we were honored by the presence of several members of the board of the Schmitt Foundation.

Saturday, October 9, 2004

The Disturbing Light of Reality: Sin and Redemption in the Writing of Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh

Every fall since 2002, the Center has sponsored a week of evening lectures for undergraduates by experts on various aspects of the lives and works of particular Catholic writers. In the past two years, this series has spotlighted G.K. Chesterton, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy. This fall, the Center’s undergraduate assistants, Kate Wilson and Chas Tyler, put together a set of lectures entitled “The Disturbing Light of Reality: Sin and Redemption in the Writing of Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh.” These lectures, which took place from October 4-8 in DeBartolo Hall, examined the frailty of the human condition and the depths of God’s mercy in relieving us from that condition, as portrayed in the works of British Catholic authors Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh.

In planning the conference it seemed natural to pair Greene and Waugh, since both are British Catholic writers of the same era who were friends as well as admirers of each other’s work. In fact, the title of the series is taken from Greene’s remark in a 1978 interview with Th e New York Times Magazine that he wanted to make his prose as clear and plain as Waugh’s, in order better to let the “disturbing light of reality” shine through. The series opened with a lecture by Fr. Ian Ker, a member of the theology faculty at Oxford University. Fr. Ker’s most recent book, The Catholic Revival in English Literature, 1845-1961, was published by University of Notre Dame Press in 2003 to great critical acclaim. He offered the audience an introduction to Evelyn Waugh entitled “Evelyn Waugh: The Priest as Craftsman.” His lecture highlighted the role of professional work, particularly craftsmanship, in Waugh’s novels, noting that Waugh believed that “where there is a craft well done, there is order and serenity, which were very important in Waugh’s world.” Waugh saw the work of the priest as a craft, in which the ritual of the sacraments is of central importance, regardless of who the priest is or who is present to witness it. Consequently, the priests in Waugh’s novels tend to be unintrusive, simple men who arrive on the scene to perform the rituals of the sacraments and then leave, having done their job.

The following evening, Ralph McInerny of the Philosophy Department at the University of Notre Dame gave a lecture entitled, “It Should Rhyme with ‘Laugh’: Humor in Waugh.” Prof. McInerny remarked that “humor, one sometimes thinks, is the best medium for seriousness. [In reading Waugh], the reader finds, as the laughter dies, a residue of usually unstated or understated gravitas.” Thus, Waugh’s humor does not merely entertain, but in fact changes the reader’s perspective on reality. Prof. McInerny also remarked on Greene’s dark sense of humor, recalling that Greene once said, “Whenever I hear people speak of the brotherhood of
man, I think of Cain and Abel.”

On Wednesday evening, the Center arranged a screening of the film The Third Man, a dramatization of the novel by Graham Greene. Th is classic film noir, directed by Carol Reed, stars Orson Welles in one of his most memorable roles as Harry Lime, whose mysterious death prompts his friend Holly Martins, played by Joseph Cotten, to begin an investigation of Lime’s sordid life that takes viewers on wild chases through the dark streets of Vienna. The next night, Thomas Hibbs, dean of the Honors Program at Baylor University, lectured on “Graham Greene and Film Noir,” discussing some of the themes of Th e Third Man and other
films written by Greene. Hibbs observed that Greene’s literary work and his fi lm scripts are well-suited to the genre of film noir, as they tend to be dark, featuring unsavory characters in sleazy settings. Th is darkness, Hibbs argued, is not amoral, but rather requires that the audience distinguish good and evil in order to appreciate the gray areas explored in the film.

The series was again well-attended this year. The Center is grateful to Clarence and Frieda Bayer for their generous support of the Catholic Culture Series.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Fifth Anniversary

On September 28, 2004, the Center celebrated its fifth anniversary with a lecture and panel discussion. The lecture, given by Cardinal Avery Dulles of Fordham University, focused on “Some Challenges of Contemporary Culture to the Catholic Church.” Before an auditorium packed with undergraduates and others in the university community, Cardinal Dulles reflected on some of the cultural values in contemporary American society that at times confl ict with Christ’s teachings in the Gospel. He cautioned that overemphasis on liberty and equality can distort these values. Th e popular conception of “liberty” often sets God as an enemy from whom one must escape in order to do whatever one feels. Th e Cardinal reiterated that “the Church has a mission to explain how "the truth and grace of Jesus Christ serve to set us free.”

He also remarked on recent technological advances which have led to new ethical issues, not only in areas such as biology and medicine, but also in the way we view everyday life. American emphasis on utility and pragmatism contributes to the desire for profits, pleasure, health and convenience, leaving no place for suff ering, whereas for Christians, suffering is valuable and redemptive when united to the suffering of Christ. He then called on Christians to educate themselves about new technologies and make use of them where appropriate, particularly in the media and entertainment industries which reach a wide audience. Catholics, he said, could be a positive force in making media outlets less concerned with their bottom line and more concerned with serving others, especially the poor.

Later that evening, the celebration continued with a panel discussion considering the day’s theme: “Looking Back, Looking Forward: Ethical Refl ection in a Changing Cultural Landscape.” Th e panel featured Cardinal Dulles, Prof. Ralph McInerny of Notre Dame’s philosophy department, and Dr. Edmund Pellegrino, MD, professor emeritus of medicine and medical ethics at Georgetown University. Prof. McInerny began the discussion by speaking about the family. He observed that though the cultural landscape is always changing, it is important to recognize that it is shared with others, rather than being defined relative to each individual. Therefore, he highlighted the importance of building up families, since “the way to a civic common good passes through the family.” Dr. Pellegrino picked up on this point in his remarks, criticizing the overemphasis on autonomy in modern American culture. He focused mainly on bioethics, noting that it is a place where our culture often must make decisions and distinctions about its own values. Th e language used in bioethics is often indicative of a larger problem; for instance, people talk about “confl ict resolution” rather than “moral analysis” of a problem. Dr. Pellegrino closed by urging Catholics in universities to devote their resources to research in the biological sciences, particularly in such areas as adult stem-cell research that could help off set the need for morally compromised embryonic stem-cell research. When he had concluded, Dr. Pellegrino and the other two panelists fi elded questions from the audience for about half an hour. It was a fruitful and festive day, and we thank the speakers and all who attended for coming out to mark the Center’s anniversary.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Schmitt Lecture: "There is Nothing He Cannot Ask: Milton, Liberalism, and Terrorism"

On April 29, Stanley Fish, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, delivered the fifth semi-annual Schmitt Lecture. The talk, entitled "There is Nothing He Cannot Ask: Milton, Liberalism, and Terrorism," discussed the comparison between Samson of John Milton s play, Samson Agonistes, and the terrorists involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001. In Milton s view, Fish claims, the criterion for moral judgment is the intention of the agent, and therefore any act is justified if the agent believes that he is acting in obedience to God. One difficulty with this view, however, is that internalizing the standard for moral action constitutes a rejection of any external signs that might indicate God's will for the agent. Fish was careful to clarify that he found this conclusion through his critical reading of Milton's
works, but he himself does not espouse this view, despite the claims of his critics.

The lecture and subsequent dinner party were well attended by the Schmitt fellows (graduate students in the colleges of science and engineering), along with a number of students from other disciplines, professors and members of the local community. We were also honored by the presence of several members of the Schmitt Board, as it is in honor of the Schmitt Foundation that the Center hosts the lecture series in the interest of engaging the moral, political and religious aspects of science and technology.

Friday, April 2, 2004

Breaking Bread with Fr. Bill Miscamble, C.S.C.

This spring, in an effort to encourage faith-based discussion and reflection among Notre Dame students and faculty, the Center sponsored a dinner event called Breaking Bread. The event consisted of dinner and discussion in the press box of Notre Dame Stadium for ninety students and fifteen Notre Dame professors from a variety of disciplines. This initiative was led by Jennie Bradley, the Center s undergraduate assistant, who drew the inspiration for the event from a Scripture passage in Acts of the Apostles: "Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people." (Acts 2:46-47a) As indicated in this passage, from the earliest days of the Christian Church, sharing a meal has been associated with fellowship and faithsharing.Rather than simply host a lecture or seminar, the Center decided to make a meal the forum for a discussion of faith. And of course, the name breaking bread is suggestive of the Eucharist, whose aspects of fellowship and of coming together in faith to share a meal with Jesus at the center were exactly what this project sought to capture.

The theme of this spring's Breaking Bread was "Do not be afraid!" one of the most repeated lines in Scripture, and the dinner discussion focused on what it means to live without fear. Small groups of students and one professor were seated at each table, and as they ate, they listened to a brief reflection on the theme of Fear and the Christian Life by Rev. Wilson Miscamble, CSC. Fr. Miscamble examined some fears commonly held among Notre Dame students fear of failure, of rejection, of doing something different with their lives and observed that the only lasting way to overcome fear is a strong faith in Christ and his triumphant resurrection. He quoted from the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross, which read, "There is no failure the Lord's love cannot reverse, no humiliation he cannot dissolve, no routine he cannot transfigure. All is swallowed up in victory. He has nothing but gifts to offer." Fr. Miscamble's words served as a springboard for discussion for the small groups, with the faculty member at each table guiding the conversation and offering his or her insights.

The evening was a huge success, and the students and faculty left the stadium with new bonds and new considerations about their faith, along with a complimentary copy of Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship by Anglican theologian and Scripture scholar N.T. Wright. Students raved about the evening. One commented that it was great to have a serious discussion with classmates interested in doing so. Another participant remarked, "I really enjoyed my time and I thought it was a great experience to meet some new people and have a good philosophical chat!" Students also appreciated being able to engage in deep discussion outside of class. According to one, "I thoroughly enjoyed the entire evening: the setting, the speakers, the company. Though we all must take theology and philosophy classes in order to graduate, I feel that this was a unique and more personal outlet for a faith-based discussion." The Center gratefully acknowledges Mr. Fr an McGowen of Malvern, Penn., a Notre Dame alumnus who generously funded and contributed ideas for Breaking Bread.

Monday, March 22, 2004

19th Annual Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference

The 19th Annual Philip and Doris Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference, which from its inception has been directed by Center Director David Solomon, was held March 19-21, 2004 at Notre Dame's Center for Continuing Education. Bringing together a prestigious line-up of philosophers, theologians and legal scholars with a core group of Notre Dame students and alumni working in the field of health care, the conference explored a variety of issues ranging from the Terri Schindler Schiavo feeding-tube case in Florida to the complexities of recent attempts at Medicare reform.

Among the conference highlights was the annual J. Philip Clarke Family Lecture on Medical Ethics, delivered on Friday afternoon by Ruiping Fan, BM, PhD, professor of philosophy at the City University of Hong Kong. Fan's lecture was entitled, Beyond Liberty and Equality: Some Confucian Reflections on the Place of the Family in Healthcare. In his lecture, Fan looked to expose certain limitations in liberal notions of individual autonomy and equality of opportunity as a prelude to a defense of a Confucian notion of the autonomy of the family. The most important moral values, Fan argued, are not individual liberty as self determination or equality of opportunity, but rather the virtues for preserving and promoting bonds for human flourishing, especially in the family.

On Saturday afternoon, Mark Rust, Notre Dame alumnus and a member of the Chicago office of Barnes & Thornburg LLP, delivered another plenary address, taking the conference audience with remarkable clarity through the difficulties and implications of the Medicare reform bill passed in the fall of 2003.

The core of the conference, as always, consisted in small-group discussion of case studies, studies provided by members of the conference audience. This year's discussions focused on various topics of current concern to health care practitioners. The Terri Schindler Schiavo case, taken up on Friday afternoon, raised the thorny issue of the morality of withdrawing artificial means of providing nutrition and hydration. The results of the small-group discussions were then highlighted in plenary discussion with a panel consisting of Fr. James Bresnahan, Joseph Incandela and Gilbert Meilander.

The conference banquet on Saturday evening was a festive affair, with the customary entertainment provided by the Notre Dame Glee Club. The conference concluded with a final session on Sunday morning, where a potpourri of issues were taken up in open discussion by the conference audience, in conjunction with a panel consisting of John Robinson, Margaret Monahan Hogan, Jorge Garcia, Mark Siegler, David Solomon and Tris Engelhardt.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Twentieth Annual Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference

This spring, the Center and Notre Dame Alumni Continuing Education once again held our annual Philip and Doris Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference, but this year, in honor of the conference’s twentieth anniversary, we departed from our usual South Bend locale and convened in London, England. The conference dates were March 5-13, 2004, with the academic portion held on March 10-12, while the preceding five days gave participants the opportunity to enjoy one another’s company while touring the United Kingdom.

With all the good that has come out of this conference, its twentieth anniversary was indeed an occasion to celebrate. Over the past twenty years, hundreds of physicians, students and scholars have taken a weekend to consider and reconsider ethical issues relevant to medical practice. This conference has helped many find their vocations in medicine, fostered many friendships, and given alumni yet another reason to return to their beloved Notre Dame.

This year’s location proved to be a draw for many of our regular conference attendees as well as a number of new participants, with an approximate total of fifty physicians, students and others interested in health-care ethics attending from the United States, Europe and even Australia.

The physicians and resource people, along with their family members in attendance, enjoyed everything London had to offer: they took in theatre and symphony performances; traveled to Stonehenge, Greenwich and Canterbury; toured museums of art and history; and took walking tours of the city. And even while the physicians and students attended the academic part of the conference, their spouses and children were treated to a delightful tour of Oxford University, led by David Solomon’s wife Mary Lou Solomon. The academic part of the conference was held at Notre Dame’s beautiful London Centre, located just off Trafalgar Square. Participants found that the conference was enhanced by the overseas setting, which lent itself to fruitful and enlightening conversation about the differences between American and European approaches to health care.

The Philip and Doris Clarke Family Lecture, given by Prof. John Haldane, reflected upon differences in the philosophies of Americans and Europeans, which form the basis of their differing approaches to health-care ethics. To help clarify his point, he highlighted the issue of euthanasia, which is a common practice in some European countries but has been much more contested in North America.

This year’s conference format allowed for a period of explication by a panel of experts in ethics, followed by small-group break-out sessions, and then another plenary session to talk about the ideas and issues that came up in the small-group discussions.

It was a rewarding experience for all involved, and we look forward to seeing more fruits of the many connections and friendships made at this conference in years to come. The Center is grateful to all who attended the conference and in particular to the staff of the Notre Dame London Centre for their gracious hospitality to all the conference participants, and of course to Doris Clarke and her family for their generous support of the conference.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Visit from Rev. Robert J. Spitzer, SJ

On March 1, 2004, the Center, along with several other institutions on campus, hosted a visit by the president of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, the Rev. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J, Ph.D. Besides being president of Gonzaga, Fr. Spitzer is an accomplished philosopher and much sought-after speaker, as well as co-founder of the University Faculty for Life and the Center for Life Principles in Redmond, Washington. He is one of our nation s most compelling defenders of the pro-life cause.

On the evening of March 1, after speaking to the Holy Cross seminarians at Moreau Seminary the night before and to the pro-life student group in Notre Dame's law school that afternoon, Fr. Spitzer gave a third talk in the Hesburgh Center auditorium, entitled "Restoring the Culture: Life and the Pursuit of Happiness." The aim of the talk was to show how the healing of our cultural maladies can be achieved only by way of a fundamental critique of common misconceptions regarding human happiness. The talk was well received by a crowd of mainly Notre Dame undergraduates and members of the local community. A reception honoring Fr. Spitzer was held in the Hesburgh Center after his talk. The Center would especially like to thank Bill Schmitt of Notre Dame s Kellogg Institute for International Studies for spearheading the effort to bring Fr. Spitzer to Notre Dame.