Sunday, November 20, 2005

New Center Tailgaters

In order to spend more time with our friends in a relaxed and festive setting, the Center this Fall inaugurated a series of “tailgaters,” which were held before three Notre Dame home football games: vs. Michigan St. (September 17), vs. Tennessee (November 5), and vs. Syracuse (November 19). These tailgaters took place in the Center’s conference room on the 10th floor of Flanner Hall. With plenty of fine food and cold adult beverages, Center director David Solomon, associate director Daniel McInerny, and assistant director Elizabeth Kirk, mixed and mingled with friends and benefactors, including some of our friends from campus and the South Bend area.

Each one of the three tailgaters featured at least one “special guest star.” For the Michigan St. tailgater the special guest star was renowned Catholic scholar Michael Novak, in town not only for the lecture he delivered at the Mendoza School of Business the afternoon before, but also to enjoy the football weekend with his son and daughter-in-law and their family. For the Tennessee tailgater our special guest stars were Gerry Bradley, associate professor at the Notre Dame Law School, and Philip Bess, professor in Notre Dame’s School of Architecture. A trio of special guests were featured at the Syracuse tailgater: Notre Dame’s Ralph McInerny, Grace Professor of Medieval Studies and professor in the philosophy department, Rev. Wilson Miscamble, CSC, of the history department, and Rev. Mike Heintz, rector of St. Matthew’s Cathedral here in South Bend.

These tailgaters were a lot of fun, and have inspired us to make them a Center tradition.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Speaking Truthfully about Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning

There is at present no issue in biomedical ethics more fraught with misconceptions and exaggerated expectations than the field of stem cell research, especially research involving human embryos. To help us separate the facts from the fiction, the Center called upon Carter Snead, associate professor at the Notre Dame Law School, to deliver our semi-annual Schmitt Lecture, which was entitled: “Speaking Truthfully About Stem Cell Research and Human Cloning.” Professor Snead’s lecture was delivered on Wednesday afternoon, November 16, 2005, to a large crowd in the main auditorium of McKenna Hall at Notre Dame.

Professor Snead is uniquely qualified to discuss the moral, scientific and legal ramifications of stem cell research and human cloning. Before joining Notre Dame’s law faculty this year, Professor Snead was general counsel for President Bush’s Council on Bioethics. While serving on the Council, Professor Snead advised its members on the legal and public policy dimensions of numerous ethical questions arising from advances in biomedical science and biotechnology. He was the principal drafter of the Council’s 2004 report, “Reproduction and Responsibility: The Regulation of New Biotechnologies,” a comprehensive critical assessment of the governance (both public and private) of the activities at the intersection of assisted reproduction, human embryo research, and genetics.

In his energetic and engaging lecture, Professor Snead argued that, contrary to much popular rhetoric, science itself provides no answer to the moral question of whether it is licit to do research on human embryos or to clone human beings. He further claimed that the best moral argument for the maximal protection of the embryo was based on equality, claiming further that this was not a religious argument, but one accessible to all in the public debate.

The aim of the Schmitt Lecture Series—which in the past has featured such distinguished lights as Gilbert Meilaender, Mark Siegler, Paul Griffiths, Stanley Fish, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Michael Baxter—is to provide an occasion to reflect on the ethical, political and religious dimensions of science and technology. It is difficult to imagine a topic which answers more directly to the charge of the Schmitt Lecture than the topic discussed by Professor Snead.

The lecture was well-attended by Notre Dame’s Schmitt Fellows, those graduate students in the Schools of Science and Engineering who are the principal recipients of the generosity of the Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation to the University of Notre Dame. It was for the sake of honoring that generosity that the Schmitt Lecture Series was founded.

A reception immediately followed the lecture in McKenna Hall, and then a special group of Center guests, including the Schmitt Fellows and a cross-section of Notre Dame faculty, convened at the Morris Inn for a dinner in honor of Professor Snead. After dessert, Professor Snead generously agreed to take more questions from the audience. In this lively question-and-answer period, we were especially pleased to see how many of those questions came from Schmitt Fellows, who found this topic deeply compelling. In the end, the day was a great success, and a fitting tribute to Arthur J. Schmitt’s desire to help form young persons in the fields of science and engineering not only as people of technical expertise, but also as moral leaders in their fields.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Valor, Fellowship, and Sacrifice: Tolkien's Catholic Myth

“Is there any pleasure on earth as great as the circle of Christian friends by a good fire?” When C.S. Lewis penned these words, he probably didn’t have in mind a large lecture room in DeBartolo Hall. Nevertheless, taking this warm image as an inspiration to consider the works of J.R.R. Tolkien during our annual Catholic Culture Series, the Center certainly expanded its circle of friends with record attendance at a series of lectures each Tuesday evening from October 25th to November 15th.

Each 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 three years, this series has spotlighted G.K. Chesterton, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy, and Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh. This year, we changed the format of the series by spreading the lectures out over the course of a month, rather than holding them all in one week. This format seems to have worked quite well, as we had approximately 200 persons in attendance each week of the series, including many new faces from the local South Bend community.

The series opened with a lecture by Ralph Wood, the University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University, entitled “J.R.R. Tolkien: A Catholic Writer for our Uncatholic Age.” Professor Wood is a dear friend of the Center and has lectured at several of our past events. Once again, he enriched us all by providing reflections on how Tolkien “gave us such a deepened Catholic vision and understanding of the world.” According to Wood, Tolkien’s Catholic world-view, as depicted in Middle Earth, provides a powerful remedy to the ills of our anti-authoritarian and anti-sacramental modern culture. Tolkien depicts our modern culture in a unique way by using the image of the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings.

For example, the Ring has the quality of deathlessness which has the effect of making the Ring-bearers live longer, but not necessarily of living, or dying, well. This quality of the Ring stands in stark contrast to the specifically Catholic ideal of a good and holy death, such as that made by Boromir. After the lecture, Professor Wood signed copies of his book, The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth (Westminster John Knox, 2003).

The following week, Joseph Pearce, Writer in Residence and Professor of Literature at Ave Maria University, gave a lecture entitled,,“Tolkien: Truth and Myth.” In his talk, Professor Pearce gave us the “key” to unlocking The Lord of the Rings. This key, he said, is found in the appendices of the text: March 25th, familiar to us as the Feast of the Annunciation, is the date of the un-making of the One Ring in Middle Earth. Professor Pearce explained how the One Ring—the “One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them”—is a symbol of the Original Sin which binds us all. In the Christian tradition, the Incarnation of Christ is the un-making of Original Sin. Professor Pearce used this key to unlock the Christian themes and Catholic imagery in The Lord of the Rings. After the lecture, Professor Pearce signed copies of his book, Literary Converts (Ignatius Press 2000). He has also written numerous other books, including Tolkien: Man and Myth (Ignatius Press 2001).

Notre Dame assistant professor of political science, Mary Keys, gave our third lecture, “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Literary Politics of Friendship and Humility.” Professor Keys focused on The Hobbit and its dialectic between justice and friendship. During this lecture, several of the questions from the audience revealed a frustration among common folk—us mere hobbits—with contemporary government and political administration. Professor Keys provided an admonition, on behalf of Tolkien, that may not be intuitive to the modern political mind, but is thereby even more persuasive: if you want justice, work for friendship; if you want friendship, set a high value on humility. Understanding the role of friendship and the virtue of humility are essential to unlocking the works of Tolkien, suggested Professor Keys, and are critical to establishing social and civic happiness in our own world.

In the fourth and final lecture, Greg Wright, Writer in Residence at Puget Sound Christian College in Everett, Washington, provided his reflections on The Lord of the Rings films in a lecture entitled, “Missing the Spirit: The Scouring of the Shire, Tolkien’s Catholicism and Peter Jackson’s Return of the King.” Mr. Wright’s critical analysis of the relationship between J.R.R. Tolkien’s work and Peter Jackson’s trilogy was a wonderful way to end our series, as it tied together many of the themes addressed by the other speakers, including Tolkien’s Catholicism, from a new perspective that all in the audience could appreciate—that of the wildly successful films.

According to Mr. Wright, the films’ significant departure point from the books is the failure to include the “Scouring of the Shire.” The victory at Mount Doom, suggested Mr. Wright, is meaningless if the hobbits could not fight evil in their own backyard. While acknowledging practical reasons for omitting the Scouring of the Shire from the film, Mr. Wright declared that in so doing, Peter Jackson missed Tolkien’s spirit. After the lecture, Mr. Wright signed copies of his book, Peter Jackson in Perspective: The Power Behind Cinema’s The Lord of the Rings (Hollywood Jesus Books 2004). He has also written Tolkien in Perspective: Sifting the Gold from the Glitter (VMI Publishing 2003).

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Welcoming the Stranger

A sumptuous meal in the Notre Dame Stadium press box. One hundred Notre Dame students eager to talk about the Christian spiritual life. Rev. Mark Poorman, CSC, associate professor of theology and vice-president for student affairs.

Such were the ingredients for “Welcoming the Stranger,” the Fall 2005 edition of Breaking Bread, a dinner and evening of spiritual discussion shared by Notre Dame students, faculty and staff that took place on Wednesday, November 2, 2005. The theme of the evening’s discussion, the virtue of hospitality, was suggested by our special guest speaker, Fr. Poorman. And so, during the salad course, Fr. Poorman delivered some reflections meant to prompt discussion of this virtue. He talked of his experience in the novitiate with the Congregation of Holy Cross, and how his work with the poor challenged him to overcome complacency in order to better serve others in need. He also spoke of his sister’s decision to adopt two children from China, and how this act of generosity demanded that she lovingly upset the settled pattern of her life. In the remaining portion of the meal, each table—consisting of seven or so students and a member of the Notre Dame faculty or staff discussed how to live the virtue of hospitality and what changes one might have to undergo in order to live this virtue ever more generously.

Specific topics of discussion ranged from providing care to the homeless and poor, to asking whether Notre Dame was living up to its institutional call to welcome students from diverse backgrounds; from analyzing whether contemporary architecture, especially of the home, reflects hospitality, to questioning whether technology has had a negative impact on human relationships. Yet all conversations were inspired by Fr. Poorman’s stimulating reflections and centered on the Christian call to hospitality.

One participant’s reflections sum up the success of “Welcoming the Stranger”: “Not only was I moved by Fr. Poorman’s personal experiences and reflection, but it was so refreshing to hear the different perspectives from my peers. I participated in a summer service internship this summer, and it was the primary reason that I was interested in hearing Fr. Poorman. Not only did I find his speech relevant to my summer, but also to my overall experiences here at the University and out in the community. Additionally, I had the opportunity to speak with Fr. Poorman after the dinner, and found him to be so approachable, conversational, and genuinely interested in what I had to say. I would not only specifically recommend asking Fr. Poorman to speak again at this event, but to undoubtedly continue to promote this type of event and dialogue among faculty and students. I could not speak more highly about my Breaking Bread dinner experience.”

Breaking Bread is swiftly becoming a beloved Notre Dame tradition. The Center once again extends its profound gratitude to Mr. Fran McGowen,of Malvern, Pennsylvania, whose generosity makes possible this event.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Second Run of the One-Day Medical Ethics Course

Last year, thanks to the generosity of Dr. Paul Wright, 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. Due to the overwhelming success of the course, we decided to offer the course every semester. This Fall, on Saturday, October 29th, almost 100 undergraduate students met together, using the small-group discussion format of our Medical Ethics Conference, to discuss real case studies that they might encounter in their future medical practices.

The cases focused on three major themes designed to provide a context in which to explore more deeply the idea of medicine as a moral enterprise. In the first session, we reflected on the principles, virtues, and practices that characterize a good doctor. Some of the questions explored included how we should educate doctors with respect to moral character, and in the day of pharmaceutical advertising and market pressures, what sorts of outside interests can influence a doctor’s judgment and practice. In the second session, we reflected on a series of complications that can arise in the doctor-patient relationship, specifically focusing on the limits of patient autonomy and consent. In the final session, we explored the more general problems of social justice in the health care system.

In addition to providing an excellent educational opportunity, the course also provides a forum for students to form an on-going mentoring relationship with practicing alumni physicians. This year, six alumni physicians who regularly attend the Philip and Doris Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference, along with two other resource people, volunteered their time and expertise to make the course another huge success. The 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; Rev. Jim Foster, CSC, MD, who serves as an adviser to pre-med students at Notre Dame; and finally—our first husband and wife physician team—Dr. Tom Murphy, a clinical endocrinologist, and Dr. Laura David, an OB/GYN, both professors at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to these physicians, John Robinson of Notre Dame’s Law School and Center director David Solomon served as resource people for the course.

Feedback from the student participants has been overwhelmingly positive. One student commented that, “The subject matter that we covered was more contemporary than the usual philosophy classes, and with that came a relevance to my own personal life, [which] heightened my awareness of the issues confronting medicine today, and motivated me to take a stand in these pressing issues that are around me.” He continued, “The discussion leaders were great—they were kind, intelligent, and honest. They had hope and love for their patients (and/or clients), which filled me with optimism for the future, whatever field I may choose.” Perhaps the highest compliment from a college student was this: “I really enjoyed the seminar, and am really glad I convinced myself to give up a Saturday for it!”

We are grateful to all the resource people and physicians who generously gave their time to lead this course, and are especially grateful to Dr. Wright for his generosity in funding the project.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Joy in the Truth: The Catholic University in the New Millenium

To many of those who identify with the mission of the Center, there is no set of issues closer to the heart than the challenges presently facing Catholic higher education. Thus we deemed it most fitting to devote our sixth annual Fall flagship conference to the theme: “Joy in the Truth: The Catholic University in the New Millennium.” The result was an enormously successful conference which took place September 29- October 1, 2005 in McKenna Hall at the University of Notre Dame.

As a mission statement for the conference we turned to Pope John Paul II’s words from the opening of his 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church): “Without in any way neglecting the acquisition of useful knowledge, a Catholic University is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God. The present age is in urgent need of this kind of disinterested service, namely of proclaiming the meaning of truth, that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished.” So, our aim with this conference was to bring together scholars representing all the main academic fields to discuss a broad range of issues relating to the way in which the Catholic university can best perform the service of proclaiming to the present age the truth about nature, man and God. We also sought to benefit from the insight and experience of our friends from non-Catholic Christian colleges and universities, as well as from our friends at secular institutions.

The conference keynote address was delivered before a large audience on Thursday evening, September 29, by Philip Gleason, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Notre Dame and author of the seminal Contending with Modernity: Catholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century. Professor Gleason’s keynote address was entitled, “Through Dangers, Toils and Snares: An Historical Perspective on Catholic Higher Education.” In this lecture, Professor Gleason provided a guided tour of Catholic higher education from the founding of Georgetown University in 1789 to the present day. In regard to this history Professor Gleason distinguished four stages: the initial founding stage (1789-1889); a period of crisis and reorganization (1889-1920); a period of synthesis inspired by the neo-Scholastic revival, a synthesis that served to make Catholic higher education intellectually distinctive (1930-1965); and finally a fourth period, when the synthesis which characterized Catholic higher education throughout most of the 20th century was exploded by what Gleason called “the perfect storm” of academic, social and ecclesial factors that converged in the mid-1960s.

As for the present, Professor Gleason observed that social and academic influences continue to push Catholic colleges and universities in the direction of assimilation to prevailing secular norms. Yet he did not give up the hope that Catholic institutions could still avoid the thoroughgoing process of secularization that characterizes the history of so many of their prestigious Protestant counterparts. The influence upon Catholic institutions of ecclesial authority, Gleason claimed, as exemplified perhaps most of all by Ex Corde Ecclesiae, has done much to stem what might have become an unintended
slide ever deeper into secularization.

After a full day of invited and colloquium sessions on Friday, September 30, the conference participants convened again in plenary session that evening to hear a talk by good Center friend and advisory board member, Helen Alvaré, associate professor of law at the Columbus School of Law at The Catholic University of America. Professor Alvaré’s talk was entitled, “The Catholic University: Mediator of Grace and Truth.” While not denying there is much to take issue with in regard to the inroads that secularization has made in the Catholic academy, Professor Alvaré argued that it is crucial not to lose the trust that we should have in what then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, called “the shape of grace in history.” For even in weak human beings and in weak institutions, grace can find a way to embolden and to renew. And there are many signs that such grace is operative in Catholic academia, Professor Alvaré contended, for example in the rise of a new crop of Catholic colleges and universities, in the impressive confidence of many Catholic intellectuals to speak the truth to our culture, in the abiding presence of the sacraments, in the pride of place still often given to the disciplines of theology and philosophy, and in the presence at many Catholic institutions of devoted clergy and religious.

The topics discussed by the conference participants over the weekend ranged widely—from academic freedom to new curricular initiatives; from spiritual aspects of the intellectual life to what Catholic universities can learn from non-Catholic. Issues involving women, families and the Christian university were discussed along with issues affecting the formation of professionals. But if one had to choose a dominant theme that characterized the entire conference, one would have to say that it was the theme of unity, unity in the truth and unity in the curriculum. Time and again throughout the presentations criticism was made of the fragmentation and compartmentalization of the disciplines in the modern academy. Our hope is that our sixth annual Fall conference helped make manifest the way toward a resolution of this problem, a resolution founded upon what St. Augustine called gaudium de veritate: joy in the truth!

The Center would like especially to thank George Maas of Edina, Minnesota, as well as the entire Maas family, whose Maas Family Endowment for Excellence played such a large part in supporting this conference.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Seeking Another City: Beyond Liberal and Conservative Catholicism in the United States

The Center’s 2005 Myser Fellow, Prof. Michael J. Baxter of Notre Dame’s Department of Theology, delivered the spring semester Schmitt Lecture on April 13, 2005. His talk was entitled “Seeking Another City: Beyond Liberal and Conservative Catholicism in the United States.” Prof. Baxter began by reflecting briefly on the voting habits of U.S. Catholics in the 20th century. The Catholic vote, which the Democrats could once count on, has been split since 1968, when divisions arose among American Catholics over Humanae Vitae and the Vietnam War. Baxter went on to assert that “this division between liberal and conservative Catholicism is the result of absorption of the Church into the political culture of the United States.”

He then gave a narrative history of Americanism, that is, the belief that the American government and its principles were benign to and even supportive of the aims of the Catholic Church, and that the United States was a providential instrument to aid the Church in bringing salvation to the world. Though Americanism was condemned by Pope Leo XIII in his 1899 apostolic letter Testem Benevolentiae, it has continued to be propagated as a sort of civil theology. Baxter traced this belief through the 20th century to the present day, noting that “both liberal and conservative Catholics have different conceptions of Catholicism, and different conceptions of America, but they both believe there exists a fundamental harmony between the two.” Baxter warned that the danger of Americanism is not the threat of dividing the American Church into liberals and conservatives so much as it is the threat of dividing the American Church from the universal Church.

He concluded that American Catholics would do well to follow the admonition of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae, in which he affirms the goodness of the democratic ideals of peace, freedom and justice, but cautions that democracies themselves must constantly be reassessed to ensure that they actually adhere to these ideals in practice.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Hearing the Call

On Wednesday evening, April 6, 2005, the Center hosted its second Breaking Bread dinner. Breaking Bread is an occasion for Notre Dame students to gather for a meal with their peers and professors in order to discuss a topic of central concern to the spiritual life of Christians. The participants, who are selected on a first-come, first-served basis, gather for the meal in the
press box at Notre Dame Stadium. Approximately eight students are seated at each table, along with one Notre Dame faculty member, who serves to facilitate the discussion.

The theme of each Breaking Bread dinner is sounded by remarks given by a speaker during the early portion of the dinner. This spring’s speaker was Dr. Os Guinness, one of the country’s most popular Christian writers and speakers. Dr. Guinness, the author or editor of more than twenty books, received his D.Phil from Oxford. Since 1984 he has lived in Washington, D.C., where he has been a visiting fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies and the Brookings Institution. From 1986-89 he was the executive director of the Williamsburg Charter Foundation. He is also the co-founder of the Trinity Forum and served as senior fellow and vice chairman of its board from its inception in 1991 until 2004. His energies are now principally devoted to writing and lecturing.

Dr. Guinness’s topic at this spring’s Breaking Bread dinner was “calling,” the special mission that God gives, not simply to professed religious, but to every Christian person. The discussion at the tables centered on how one is to discern and live out God’s call in one’s own life. Copies of Dr. Guinness’s book, The Call, were presented as a gift to each participant at the dinner. Many students lined up after the dinner to have their books autographed by Dr. Guinness. This year’s dinner was declared by many to be even better than last year’s. After the event, many students and faculty emailed the Center with rave reviews of Dr. Guinness’s talk and the conversation at their tables, and they promised to recommend it to their friends next year. The event was made possible by a generous gift from Mr. Fran McGowen, who honored us with his presence at this year’s dinner.

Friday, January 14, 2005

The Facts and the Fairytales about Stem Cell Research

On Thursday evening, January 13, 2005, the Center co-sponsored, in conjunction with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, a marvelous talk by Rev. Dr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, a talk which separated the facts from the fairy tales when it comes to the ethics of stem cell research. Fr. Tad is a staff ethicist and director of education at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, and a priest of the Fall River Diocese in Massachusettes. He has his PhD in neuroscience from Yale University, and he also worked for several years as a molecular biologist at Massachusettes General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

Fr. Tad spoke to a crowd of about 200 Notre Dame students and faculty, as well as many members of the community. The most striking aspect of his presentation was the large number of amazing, documented success stories that can already be attributed to adult stem cell research, as compared to the zero successes achieved by embryonic stem cell research. The Center would especially like to thank Fred Everett, director of the Office of Family Life at the diocese, for bringing Fr. Tad to our attention and for doing so much to make his talk such a great success.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

What Can Philosophers Learn from the Tradition?

On April 30, 2005, the Center co-sponsored a one-day conference entitled “What Can Philosophers Learn from the Tradition?” The event, which took place at the University of Chicago, was organized by the Lumen Christi Institute and co-sponsored by the Committee on Social Thought of the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Divinity School. The main speakers for the day were the Center’s Senior Research Fellow Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor of Northwestern and McGill Universities and Jean-Luc Marion of the University of Chicago and the University of Paris.

The day began with Mass in Rockefeller Chapel celebrated by Cardinal Francis George. In his homily, Cardinal George began the day’s discussion of tradition by reminding those at the Mass that they are never alone, because their participation in the Catholic and more broadly Christian tradition puts them into contact not only with ideas but more importantly with people through the Communion of Saints.

Prof. MacIntyre gave the first lecture, entitled “Rediscovering Tradition from within Modernity,” in which he gave a semi-autobiographical reflection on academia and the place of tradition in philosophical enquiry. MacIntyre recalled that he became an atheist after coming to believe, through his contact with academic philosophy, that there are no arguments that are logically compelling to all rational persons, anytime, anywhere. Thus, arguments such as those for the existence of God need not be believed by every reasonable person. As this realization was contrary to the claims of Thomism as MacIntyre understood them (and as some Thomists presented them) at the time, he rejected Th omism. Eventually, though, he returned both to theism and Th omism as he came to understand the nature of goal-oriented philosophical enquiry, that is, that it presupposes certain types of answers and excludes others. To enquire about the nature of things presupposes that things have a nature, and to enquire at all about the causes of things is to commit oneself to the possibility of a Cause of all things, i.e., God. MacIntyre observed that one particularly attractive feature of Th omistic Aristoteleanism is its ability not only to explain the world but to identify its challengers’ errors and account for them on their own terms.

This lecture was followed by Prof. Taylor, who spoke on “Modern Imaginaries and the Uses of Tradition.” Taylor explored how the social imaginary (that is, how members of a society imagine that society) applies to modernity. Many understand modern society as a system of individuals who are looking to achieve individual goods, and the hope is that we can all find a way to do this without disturbing others, and even in some cases advancing them towards their goals as we pursue our own. This model, Taylor pointed out, tends to rely on an economically centered worldview. He then went on to explore how one can make the Christian tradition, or even the concept of any tradition, available to those in this modern mindset. He suggested that there are two alternatives: bringing back a literal translation of past ideas and practices, or seeing modernity as an altogether diff erent civilization from those of past ages and expressing the truths and ideas of the tradition in a new way in an effort to relate it to modernity. Taylor favored the latter alternative, arguing that tradition must be adapted in order to thrive, and he noted that this adaptation serves as a catalyst for fruitful discussion and self-understanding within the tradition.

After lunch, the conference picked up again with another brief reflection by Cardinal George in which he continued his earlier theme about the Communion of Saints, elucidating it with anecdotes of the papal conclave. He recalled the palpable sense that the cardinals were attended by all the saints and angels as they worked to discern the will of the Holy Spirit in choosing the successor of Peter. He predicted that Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy would likely focus on renewing the Church in Western Europe, going back to the Treaty of Versailles to abrogate secularism as John Paul II went back to Yalta to abrogate communism in Eastern Europe.

After the cardinal’s address, Prof. Marion gave a lecture entitled “On the Edge of Tradition.” One of his central theses was the inescapability of tradition. Even modern philosophers who claim to reject tradition have established a tradition of denying tradition. All ideas are built upon what others have done before, and if one were to try to begin anew, ignoring the work of his predecessors, he would end up only rearticulating their theses, most likely in a less cogent manner. Rather than attempting to work in a vacuum, Marion claimed, “the living should understand what the dead have made of them and for them.” He stressed the importance of understanding tradition as living; it is not simply a restatement of ideas but a practice, a task to transform the world which is passed on. Marion noted that in the Christian tradition, this passing on is most clearly seen in the celebration of the Eucharist.

The day closed with a panel discussion among the three main speakers, chaired by the University of Chicago’s Jean Elshtain. Th e panelists responded to each other’s papers and discussed a wide range of themes, from language to politics, and then took several questions from the audience. The conference was, as expected, a day of scintillating discussion, attended by over 400 participants. Students and scholars came from all over the United States to attend this remarkable scholarly event.

The Center is grateful to the speakers and to the Lumen Christi Institute for their work in organizing the event.