Saturday, December 2, 2006

Modernity: Yearning for the Infinite

In an address in Guadalajara, Mexico in May of 1996, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, spoke about the various ways in which relativism threatens the modern world. He concluded the address, however, with a ray of hope. The Catholic faith still has a chance in the modern world, and that is because in man “there is an inextinguishable yearning for the infinite….Only the God himself who became finite in order to open our fi niteness and lead us to the breadth of his infiniteness responds to the question of our being.” Man's yearning for the infinite, for God, remains present and active not only when it finds its proper orientation in God, but also even when it is misdirected, expressing itself in practices and institutions that of themselves cannot lead to God. Our modern world too often reflects this latter situation. The purpose of “Modernity: Yearning for the Infinite” was to examine the nature of this peculiar dynamic.

The conference, held on the snowy weekend of November 29-December 1 at Notre Dame’s McKenna Hall, brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars—theologians, philosophers, historians, artists, legal scholars, and literary theorists—who pondered the nature, limitations, possibilities and dangers of the epoch we have come to call “modernity” and what
it means for the renewal of Christian culture in our time.

The weekend began with Center permanent senior fellow Alasdair MacIntyre’s keynote lecture on Thursday evening, “Islam, Modernity, and Us,” for which the main auditorium of McKenna Hall was fi lled beyond capacity. From there the 440-plus registered participants had spread before them a feast of uncommon intellectual delights involving nearly one hundred presentations. Among the many highlights of this copious feast were— Paul Griffiths’ plenary lecture on Friday evening, “Owning Knowledge: Modernity and the Purposes of the Intellectual Life”; Rev. Marvin O’Connell’s guided tour of the Church’s condemnation of the modernist heresy in the early 20th century; Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete’s meditations on modernity’s fear of the Incarnation; Bishop John M. D’Arcy’s reflections on the Catholic priest in the present age; and Joseph Pearce’s engaging lecture on the Catholic literary revival in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The festive closing banquet on Saturday night featured the presence of Monsignor Charles Brown, former assistant to Cardinal Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, currently at Notre Dame to finish his doctoral dissertation, who shared with us some after-dinner thoughts on the differences between the late Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

This seventh edition of our fall conference both extended and deepened what has become a rich annual tradition at Notre Dame. It brought together a group of people, not all of whom are professional academics, but all of whom share a deep commitment to retrieving for the modern world some of the most glorious but often overlooked treasures of our Christian heritage. This large and impressive group surely manifested the “ray of hope” that Pope Benedict assured us is more than capable of shining through the darkness of the modern world.

The Center would like especially to thank the Maas Family Endowment for Excellence, as well as the Strake Foundation, for making possible this tremendous experience. We would also like to thank Tom and Megan Eakins for providing travel stipends that made it possible for several students to attend the conference.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

After Urbanism: The Strange Bedfellows of Neo-Traditional Architecture and Town Planning

What is the physical form of genuine human community? This was the question explored by Professor Philip Bess in his fall 2006 Schmitt Lecture, entitled “After Urbanism: The Strange Bedfellows of Neo-Traditional Architecture and Town Planning.” Professor Bess’s answer to the question took the form of what he deemed a natural law: human beings should make mixed-use neighborhoods with pedestrian proximity of all activities central to daily life. The home, the school, the place of business, the place of worship, venues for recreation and shopping, all should be accessible within the half-mile radius of a ten-minute, parentchild walk. For only in such neighborhoods, Professor Bess argued, can the virtues of social and political community flourish.

Professor Bess delivered his Schmitt Lecture on Wednesday afternoon, November 15th, to a large and appreciative audience in the main auditorium of Notre Dame’s McKenna Hall. Using an engaging PowerPoint presentation, he vividly contrasted the features of what he called “traditional urbanism” with the dominant form of contemporary urban architecture, namely, “sprawl.” In sprawl, segregation reigns: homes, places of work, worship, recreation, and shopping are all segregated from one another, making the automobile a virtual necessity for most urban dwellers. Th is compartmentalization of the activities of modern life, according to Professor Bess, fosters an individualism inimical to the development of genuine human community. Professor Bess’s presentation took the Schmitt Lecture Series into exciting new territory. In answering the charge of the series—the exploration of the ethical, political and religious dimensions of science and technology—he reminded us that the physical form of how we live is not just incidentally related to our moral, political and spiritual well-being.

The Center was especially pleased to welcome several of Notre Dame’s Schmitt Fellows to Professor Bess’s lecture, as well as to the reception and dinner that followed. Th e Schmitt Fellows are graduate students in Notre Dame’s 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.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Shining in Obscurity: Rediscovering Four Catholic Authors

In past Catholic Culture Series, we have focused on such major figures as Flannery O’Connor, G.K. Chesterton, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Walker Percy, and J.R.R. Tolkien. This fall, rather than highlighting a specific, and rather wellknown, literary figure, the series focused on re-discovering four novels by four “forgotten” authors:

1. Michael Foley, Assistant Professor of Patristics in the Honors College at Baylor University, focused on Kristin Lavransdatter in his lecture entitled, “Sigrid Undset: Greatest Catholic Novelist of the Twentieth Century?”;

2. Ralph Wood, the Baylor University Professor of Theology and Literature, presented a talk entitled “The Call of the Desert in the Age of Ashes: The Centrality of Suffering in Walter Miller’s A Canticle of Leibowitz”;

3. Ralph McInerny, the Michael P. Grace Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame, lectured on The Diary of a Country Priest in a lecture entitled “Bernanos and the Noonday Devil”; and

4. David Solomon, the W.P. and H.B. Director of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture and Associate Professor of Philosophy, reflected on one of his personal favorites, Lord of the World, in “Robert Hugh Benson: Anticipating the Apocalypse.”

Although each of these books has been considered a “classic” at one time, most of them are no longer studied in literature programs or read by the reading public and the authors themselves have fallen into obscurity. As part of its mission to promote the Catholic intellectual, moral and cultural tradition, the Center for Ethics & Culture encouraged readers in the Notre Dame community to rediscover – or perhaps even discover for the first time – these four novels and authors.

We would like to thank Clarence and Frieda Bayer of Arlington, Texas, whose generosity to the Center makes this series possible.

Forgiveness and the Challenge of Loving Enemies

Our Breaking Bread event is by now quite familiar to faithful readers. It is our semi-annual dinner and evening of spiritual discussion, which is popular among undergraduate students for the prestige of the speakers, the quality and depth of the table discussions, the delicious food, and perhaps its most enticing feature– the venue, the Notre Dame Stadium Press Box.

This fall, L. Gregory Jones, M.Div., Ph.D., Dean and Professor of Theology at Duke University Divinity School, challenged students and faculty alike in his moving reflection on “Forgiveness and the Challenge of Loving Enemies.” Dr. Jones’ reflection focused on the Christian imperative of forgiveness. Using rich illustrations from biblical and literary texts, he reminded us that, as Christians, we are called to respond to God’s saving mercy with forgiveness in our own lives. Of course, he noted, this is a difficult task – and no more so than when we are faced with forgiving our enemies. The question & answer session revealed how deeply Dr. Jones’ rich and meaningful reflection resonated with the students as they sought advice on how to live out Christ’s call in their own personal lives and in our broken, war-torn world.

Breaking Bread is chiefly organized by the Center’s current undergraduate assistants, Kate Wilson, Stephen Freddoso and Greer Hannan. The Center once again thanks Mr. and Mrs. Fran McGowen, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, for their generosity in sponsoring this event.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Tailgates move to the A-lot

For the second year in a row, the Center hosted a series of “tailgate parties” before each of three Notre Dame home football games: vs. Penn State (on September 9th), Michigan (on September 16th), and Purdue (on September 30th). This fall, the tailgate parties took place in one of the tailgate lots located near the Notre Dame stadium, directly across from the Hesburgh Center for International Studies. We pitched our tent, proudly hung our banner, and welcomed many friends and their families. While we offered Starbucks coff ee, award-winning vintages of wine and the finest selections of gourmet cheese – we discovered that our friends had very simple needs – donuts, burgers, beer and brats! We obliged – and a truly wonderful time was had by all. We owe a special debt of gratitude to the Center’s visiting graduate student, Jeremy Neill, who was the grill-master extraordinaire!

As in past years, each of the tailgate parties featured a “special guest star” including Catholic scholar Michael Novak, Ralph McInerny, Grace Professor of Medieval Studies and professor in the philosophy department, and Fr. Wilson Miscamble, CSC, of the history department. We were grateful for their presence, but like Time magazine’s person of the year, we believe the special guests were really– each of YOU! We will continue to host tailgate parties next season, and hope you will be able to join us in festively preparing to cheer on the Irish!

Practicing Medical Ethics One-Credit course

Each semester the Center organizes 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. This fall, on Saturday, October 28th, despite it being the day of an away game against the Naval Academy, almost 100 undergraduate students left their big screen TVs to meet 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. This semester, the cases focused on three major themes: the scope of a physicians’ responsibility in a world of increasing globalization; suffering, dying and death; and the challenge of achieving social justice in light of limited resources.

As in past years, we are indebted to the generosity of Dr. Paul Wright, a cardiologist from Youngstown, Ohio, for so graciously funding this course. Additionally, we are grateful to the alumni physicians and faculty members who so generously give of their time to mentor Notre Dame’s undergraduate students: Dr. Mark Lindenmeyer, a lawyer and hospital administrator
in the Cincinnati area; Rev. Jim Foster, CSC, MD, director of the Preprofessional Studies Department at Notre Dame; Dr. Carol Lydiatt, a pediatric anesthesiologist, of Omaha, Nebraska; Dr. Tom Murphy, a clinical endocrinologist, and his wife, Dr. Laura David, an OB/GYN, both professors at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio; Yuri Maricich, a medical student at the University of Washington; and Center director David Solomon.

On Thursday, October 26th, as part of his visit to campus for this course, Dr. Wright gave a moving talk to a wider audience, including members of the South Bend community, regarding his experience as a personal physician to Mother Teresa. He has written about his relationship with Blessed Mother Teresa in his book, Mother Teresa’s Prescription: Finding Happiness and
Peace in Service.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Walking with Cleopas: Emmaus and the Theological Life

As evening sunlight streamed in through the windows of the Notre Dame Stadium Pressbox, students, faculty and staff at this Spring’s Breaking Bread event—our semi-annual dinner and evening of spiritual discussion—were enlightened by Rev. Michael Heintz. Father Heintz, the rector and pastor of St. Matthew Cathedral Parish in South Bend, offered a reflection entitled, “Walking with Cleopas: Emmaus and the Theological Life.” Father Heintz began his reflection by reading the passage from the Gospel of St. Luke in which Cleopas and an unnamed companion encountered Christ on the road to Emmaus. As they walked, and at first did not recognize Jesus’ true identity, He “interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures,” thereby revealing to them how He fulfilled the prophesies of the Old Testament. Upon their arrival in Emmaus, Cleopas and his friend persuaded Christ to stay with them. “And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.”

Father Heintz’s selection was apt, as this particular account of the two companions who recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread provided the original inspiration for the Breaking Bread dinner series. This passage, suggested Father Heintz, provides an excellent model for the theological life – a life of faith seeking understanding. Father Heintz examined five aspects of the Emmaus story, in particular “its provisional, communal, conversational, Christocentric and ultimately Eucharistic dimensions.” First, Father Heintz noted that the account involves two disciples traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus – they were on a journey. “There is something profoundly provisional, deeply incomplete, about our life in the here and now . . . ultimate meaning, complete satisfaction, and enduring happiness are yet to be experienced.” Therefore, the theological life is always a “work in progress.” Second, pointing out the passage’s communal aspects, Father Heintz pointed out that Cleopas was not traveling alone, and that it is “precisely in community that Christ reveals himself, as He did to the two on the road to Emmaus.” Third, he observed that during their walk to Emmaus, Cleopas and his companion were engaged in conversation when Christ joined them. Likewise, the theological life must be “essentially one of conversations” both with one another and with our “forbearers in the Tradition of theological reflection, the saints and doctors of old: a kind of conversation and engagement with their ideas and their thoughts, about our shared experience.”

Next, he examined the inherently Christocentric aspect of the Emmaus experience, pointing out that Christ did not merely walk with Cleopas and his companion, but also revealed Himself and the fullness of his salvific role to them. “For those of us committed to the theological life, Christ must be at its center as a living companion, the pivotal companion on our journey.” Father Heintz concluded his reflection by emphasizing the Eucharistic dimensions of the Emmaus passage – Christ revealed Himself to them in the breaking of the bread. Although Jesus then vanishes from their sight, “the mode of His presence becomes what is later termed sacramental: it is in the Eucharist that Christ abides with them – and with us. Now even those Christians not of the Catholic communion and who may have very different notions of what exactly the Eucharist is or signifies nonetheless have a deep regard for table or meal fellowship.”

The students at Breaking Bread greatly appreciated the opportunity to enjoy their own meal fellowship and to consider Father Heintz’s thoughtful spiritual reflection. In addition to his pastoral responsibilities, Father Heintz teaches in the Theology Department at Notre Dame. He is completing his doctorate in Theology at Notre Dame under John Cavadini and Rev. Brian Daley. He enjoys reading, sports, and is a licensed baseball umpire.

Breaking Bread is chiefly administered by the Center’s current undergraduate assistants, Kate Wilson, Stephen Freddoso and Greer Hannan. It has become the Center’s most popular undergraduate event, and a beloved Notre Dame tradition. The Center once again thanks Mr. Fran McGowen, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, for his generosity in sponsoring this event.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hollywood: Mission Field or Mission Impossible?

Our inaugural Spring Catholic Culture Series was devoted to the art of cinema and the renewal of culture. Entitled “Hollywood: Mission Field or Mission Impossible?,” this inaugural series featured three prominent Catholic speakers who each took a different angle on the question of how Catholics and their fellow Christians might positively engage the film industry in Hollywood in order to revivify the art of the cinema in the light of the Gospel.

The first of the three speakers in the series was Rev. Willy Raymond, CSC, who since September 2000 has served as the national director of Family Theater Productions in Hollywood. The mission of Family Theater, which was founded in Hollywood in 1947 by Father Patrick Peyton, CSC, now a sainthood candidate, is to evangelize culture by using mass media to entertain, inspire and educate families. Family Theater’s famous slogan is “The family that prays together, stays together.”

On Tuesday evening, April 4, Fr. Raymond kicked off the series by giving a talk in Hayes-Healy entitled “Young Catholic Hollywood.” Fr. Raymond’s central point was the encouraging news that already there are many devoted and talented Catholics, especially young Catholics, doing good things in the film industry in Hollywood. After showing the audience a short promotional film on the mission of Family Theater, Fr. Willy then exemplified his point by showing a short film entitled Christmas Wish List, one of the finalists in the annual Angelus Awards, a film festival for student filmmakers started by Family Theater in 1996. Christmas Wish List—in which a self-absorbed lawyer finds himself the unwitting accomplice in a doctor’s efforts to fulfill the wish list of a child cancer patient, and in the process finds his own heart softened by the act of giving—delighted the audience and demonstrated the promise of young Catholic filmmakers in Hollywood.

Fr. Raymond also pointed out the various pastoral initiatives sponsored by Family Theater, which give Catholics in Hollywood a place to gather with their fellows in the industry who are also fellow believers. Family Theater sponsors an RCIA program (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults), a monthly open house called Prayer and Pasta to welcome newcomers to Hollywood, a course of studies on Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body, and a weekly occasion for reflection and discussion of the faith called “Going Deeper.”

The second speaker in the series was wellknown Catholic writer, speaker and blogger, Amy Welborn. Ms. Welborn is the author of several books, but is perhaps best known for her De-Coding Da Vinci (Our Sunday Visitor Press, 2004), which debunks the many myths masquerading as truth in Dan Brown’s best-selling thriller, now a movie. Her blog, “Open Book,” also serves as a virtual meeting place for those interested in a wide variety of issues affecting the Church and culture.

On Monday evening April 10, in DeBartolo Hall, Ms. Welborn spoke on “De-Coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of The Da Vinci Code.” She explained the worldwide phenomenon of The Da Vinci Code in terms of the eternal return of gnosticism, which ultimately comes down to human pride in being singled out to share in a very special secret. And what is the secret The Da Vinci Code wants to share with us? The absurdities of its plot aside, The Da Vinci Code seeks to tell us, ultimately, that Christianity is the enemy of truth. Instead of witnessing to the truth, and indeed to the One who is Truth, the topsy-turvydom of Dan Brown’s mythical world sees “official” Christianity as something that must be exposed as a fraud if the real truth about Jesus is to be brought to light. Given not only the enormous success of the novel, but also the premiere of the The Da Vinci Code film directed by one of Hollywood’s most esteemed directors (Ron Howard) and starring one of its most celebrated actors (Tom Hanks), Ms. Welborn underscored the grave threat that certain segments of popular culture pose for a truly Christian evangelization of culture.

To help counter that threat, our third and last speaker in the series, Barbara Nicolosi, founded Act One, Inc., a nonprofit organization located in Hollywood that trains people of faith for careers in mainstream film & TV. Stressing artistry, excellence, professionalism, and spirituality, Act One prepares students to be “salt and light” in writers’ rooms, on sets, and in studio and network offices. Act One’s goal is not to produce explicitly “religious” entertainment, but movies and TV programs that combine “mastery of craft with an unusual quality of depth.”

On Thursday evening April 26, in DeBartolo Hall, Ms. Nicolosi offered a lecture entitled, “Why God Cares About Hollywood: The Role of Entertainment in Human Life.” In her lecture Ms. Nicolosi argued that the Church has always been a patron of the arts because the Church has always situated the arts within what Josef Pieper calls “festivity,” that praise of God that affirms the beauty of God’s creation. The art form that characterizes our moment in history, Ms. Nicolosi stressed, is the cinema; the “Abel’s lamb” of our time. For the cinema to serve as a source of festivity, however, as a manifestation of the beauty that involves a love and longing for God, it must seek to be truly excellent in terms of the three components of beauty: integrity, harmony, and radiance. In particular, Ms. Nicolosi urged Christian writers to follow the example of Flannery O’Connor and seek to tell stories that, even in the midst of suffering, show that grace is being offered to mankind.

This inaugural spring Catholic Culture Series on cinema and the renewal of culture turned out to be a big success, and we now look forward to this spring series being the annual counterpart to our fall Catholic Culture Series on Catholic literature. We are deeply grateful to our three speakers. A special word of thanks goes out to Fr. Raymond and Barbara Nicolosi, who before their talks shared a meal with Notre Dame undergraduates thinking about a career in the film industry. Finally, we acknowledge our happy debt to our friends, Clarence and Frieda Bayer of Arlington, Texas, whose generosity to the Center made this series possible.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Stem Cells, Embryos, and Ethics: Is There A Way Forward?

As the national and international debate over the moral and political implications of human embryonic stem cell research rages on, some scientists have begun to suggest new ways of thinking about the problem. Among them is the Center’s Spring 2006 Schmitt lecturer, Dr. William Hurlbut, a physician and Consulting Professor at Stanford University’s Neuroscience Institute and, since 2002, a member of President Bush’s Council on Bioethics. On Tuesday afternoon, April 18, in the main auditorium of Notre Dame’s McKenna Hall, Dr. Hurlbut delivered a Schmitt Lecture entitled, “Stem Cells, Embryos and Ethics: Is There A Way Forward?” in which he discussed the seemingly paradoxical possibility of harvesting human pluripotent stem cells without destroying human embryos. The destruction of human embryos is morally out of the question, Dr. Hurlbut argued. But he went to outline a path of research he called Altered Nuclear Transfer, which involves “the artificial construction of a cellular system lacking the essential elements for embryological development but containing a partial developmental potential capable of generating embryonic stem cells.

”Altered Nuclear Transfer, in short, creates an entity that fails to bring together the necessary elements of a human embryo, but which nonetheless contains the pluripotent stem cells that scientists believe contain so much potential for curing various diseases." Dr. Hurlbut drew attention to the fact that his research on Altered Nuclear Transfer has received the approval of many notable Catholic moral thinkers.

After receiving his undergraduate and medical training at Stanford University, Dr. Hurlbut completed postdoctoral studies in theology and medical ethics, studying with Robert Hamerton-Kelly, the Dean of the Chapel at Stanford, and subsequently with the Rev. Louis Bouyer at the Institut Catholique in Paris. Dr. Hurlbut’s primary areas of interest involve the ethical issues associated with advancing biomedical technology, the biological basis of moral awareness, and studies in the integration of theology and the philosophy of biology. He is the author of numerous publications on science and ethics, including the co-edited volume, Altruism and Altruistic Love: Science, Philosophy, and Religion in Dialogue (Oxford, 2002), and “Science, Religion, and Human Spirit” in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Science and Religion. He is also co-chair of two interdisciplinary faculty projects at Stanford University, “Becoming Human: The Evolutionary Origins of Spiritual, Religious, and Moral Awareness,” and “Brain, Mind and Emergence.”

Dr. Hurlbut’s lecture was followed by a reception in McKenna Hall, and then by a dinner at the Morris Inn, after which Dr. Hurlbut graciously took more questions from the audience. The lecture and dinner were once again 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. Our special thanks go out to Mr. Peter Wrenn, a member of the Schmitt Foundation Board, who joined us for both the lecture and the dinner.

The aim of the Schmitt Lecture Series—which in the past has featured such distinguished lights as Gil Meilaender, Mark Siegler, Paul Griffiths, Stanley Fish, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and last fall’s lecturer Carter Snead—is to provide an occasion to reflect on the ethical, political and religious dimensions of science and technology. Both our Schmitt lectures this academic year focused on the problem of human embryonic stem cell research. This is entirely appropriate, for there is hardly a contemporary issue that answers the charge of the Schmitt Lecture more than this one. The Center is proud to have contributed to this debate by sponsoring these two very fine Schmitt Lectures this year.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

21st Annual Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference

During a quiet spring break week, the time-honored favorite of physicians and scholars, the 21st Annual Philip and Doris Clarke Family Medical Ethics Conference, was held March 17th through 20th at Notre Dame. Philosophers, theologians and legal scholars mixed with Notre Dame students, alumni physicians and health-care workers to explore a variety of issues ranging from the familiar case of Terri Schiavo to recent scandals in medical research and ripped-from-the-headline stories of the challenges facing medical care in emergency and disaster conditions.

The conference, as always, primarily consisted of several small-group discussions of case studies provided by members of the conference audience and reflecting current issues in medical practice. To start off the weekend, on Friday afternoon, Center director David Solomon chaired a session entitled, “Doctor’s Duties in Disasters,” which featured the failures in medical care observed during Hurricane Katrina and the challenges posed by a possible avian flu pandemic. The results of the small-group discussions were then highlighted in a plenary discussion with a panel consisting of Dr. Mark Siegler, professor at the University of Chicago and Director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, Gilbert Meilaender, the Phyllis & Richard Duesenberg Professor of Christian Ethics at Valparaiso University, Alyssa Brauweiler, and Christina Holmstrom, both Notre Dame undergraduate students. During the plenary discussion, participants noted the importance of hope and resourcefulness and the necessity of heroism in disaster cases. Differences in worldviews and in concepts of virtue, limited financial resources, and even the finitude of human life were all highlighted as challenges to ethical care-giving in disaster situations.

The conference continued on late Friday afternoon with the annual J. Philip Clarke Family Lecture on Medical Ethics, delivered by John Robinson, J.D., Ph.D., associate dean and associate professor of law at the Notre Dame Law School. Robinson’s lecture was entitled, “The Three Deaths of Terri Schiavo: Cultural, Medical and Legal.” In his lecture, Professor Robinson first recounted the facts and legal history of the Terri Schiavo case. He then brought this background into focus by emphasizing the near-impossible task assigned to judges in end-of-life cases. Judges, he claimed, must mix the subjective preferences of the patient or the patient’s family with objective legal or statutory standards to determine the appropriate legal outcome in each particular case. He noted, however, that judges are particularly suited to this task and he expressed confidence in judges’ ability to do it well. As he stated, “all normative institutions [including the judiciary] need time to adjust to the radical novelty of contemporary end-of-life medical care.” The Clarke Lecture was followed by a reception and dinner in McKenna Hall.

After the day’s hard work, many attendees attended a beautiful mass in Alumni Chapel concelebrated by Rev. James Bresnahan and Rev. John Young, followed by dinner in the private dining rooms of the Morris Inn. The closing banquet contained a touching tribute to Judy Gibson and Kathleen Sullivan, who are no longer coordinating the conference for the Alumni Association. Judy and Kathy have organized this conference for many years and their presence, guidance and wisdom will be greatly missed. The conference concluded with a final session on Sunday morning, where the participants discussed a variety of topics in a roundtable format, with panelists Margaret Hogan, Tris Englehardt, John Robinson, Jorge Garcia, Kevin McDonnell and David Solomon. Other ethics consultants in attendance at the conference and not already mentioned were Corinna Delkeskamp-Hayes, Mark Jensen (the Center graduate assistant who selected and put together the packet of readings), and Center associate director Daniel McInerny.

As always, we are grateful to the Notre Dame Alumni Association, and in particular to our new partners, Mirella Riley, newly-appointed director of the Academic Division, and administrative assistant Janet Miller, for their tremendous help in coordinating this year’s conference.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference (NUBEC)

The weekend of March 10-11 marked the beginning of spring break here at Notre Dame. But instead of heading for the beach, over 100 Notre Dame students and 150 students traveling from other schools gathered in McKenna Hall to discuss the future of bioethics at the 9th Annual National Undergraduate Bioethics Conference (NUBEC), hosted by a group of undergraduate students, the Notre Dame Forum on Biomedical Ethics (FBE), and led by the Center’s own undergraduate assistant and FBE president, Kate Wilson. For the last seven years, FBE has been actively involved in the national undergraduate conference, hosting it in 2001 and sending Notre Dame students with a demonstrated interest in ethics to the conference each year. In the last several years, however, Notre Dame students became disheartened by the secular emphasis in the field of the national conferences and felt that their opinions were dismissed, not on merit, but because being from Notre Dame carried a certain “moral tendency.” In April 2005, a group of Notre Dame students traveled to Philadelphia to successfully propose that Notre Dame once again host the annual conference with the goal of placing a decisive emphasis on the demand that bioethical decisions be oriented within a conception of the human person; a conception that is not adequately supplied by secular ethics.

The conference, entitled “Health Care in an Increasingly Health-Obsessed Culture,” attracted many prominent physicians and distinguished bioethicists from across the nation to discuss the increasing cultural and societal focus on medicine. Dr. Paul McHugh, the Henry Phipps Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, gave an electric keynote presentation on the disordered state of the field of professional bioethics and the hope for revival through the model represented by the President’s Council on Bioethics, of which he is a member. Eric Cohen, director of the Bioethics & American Democracy Program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and editor of The New Atlantis, spoke about the “dilemma of old age,” end-of-life care, and the grave problems posed by the dissolution of the family. Deirdre McQuade, director of planning and information for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, illuminated the “ethical lenses” prevalent in media in discussions of pregnancy, abortion, and stem cell research.

Dr. Carl Elliott, professor at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Bioethics, gave an energetic presentation about the “invention and marketing” of illness. Dr.William Hurlbut of Stanford University, and member of the President’s Council on Bioethics, spoke movingly on the “transformation of medicine” and the way the central idea of healing has been displaced by increasingly perverse ideas of freedom. Carter Snead, associate professor at the Notre Dame Law School, capped off the weekend with his fast-paced discussion of the role of the law in bioethics, the deep connection between the legal and the moral, and the “10 rules of engagement” that are fundamental to reforming the field of bioethics. Finally, at the closing banquet, Dr. Paul Wright spoke to a captivated audience of his years working with Mother Teresa and her “prescription” for life.

The variety of topics and perspectives, and the number of prominent figures from bioethics fields, combined to make the 9th Annual National Conference one of the best in years. While attracting these prominent professionals, the conference maintained its decided emphasis on undergraduate participation, presentation, and involved learning. Not only did several undergraduates present their papers, but they also served on panel discussions and led discussion groups, which all testified to the quality and professionalism of undergraduate work in bioethics. This conference was instrumental to increasing student awareness of and involvement in issues of bioethics.

Through the generous support of the Strake Foundation, the Pfizer Foundation, Mr. Thomas Abood of Minneapolis, MN, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas and Dorothy Gray of Dumfries, VA, and the Fighting Irish football fans who purchased food from the FBE concession stand, the entire conference was available to the Notre Dame community at no cost. Through the continued support of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, the undergraduates of the Forum on Biomedical Ethics have big dreams for their organization. FBE was originally established to create a campus-wide forum for student discussion of biomedical ethics and to foster education and awareness of the scientific, religious, cultural, legal and economic implications of current issues in biomedical ethics. Hosting the national conference was certainly a successful step in achieving these goals. Next they intend to launch a website to serve as the hub for all undergraduate medical organizations on campus. With the collaboration of alumni in the medical field and “The Pathos Project” (recently begun by Notre Dame graduates currently in medical school, Yuri Maricich, Keri Oxley, and Phil Slonkowski), the website will provide essential readings in ethics, an online forum with a different topic each month, and resources for internships and graduate programs in the field.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Edith Stein Project: Redefining Feminism

Snowy South Bend played host to a heated debate this winter over whether the University of Notre Dame should allow The Vagina Monologues to take place on campus. Three Notre Dame students sparked new life into this debate when they initiated an entirely different forum for discussion about violence against women – a discussion more consistent with the mission of Our Lady’s University. This event was a two-day, studentled conference entitled “The Edith Stein Project: Redefining Feminism.” Three undergraduate students initiated the project, inspired by the writings on women of both Edith Stein (Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) and Pope John Paul II. These three students felt strongly that Notre Dame needed to have a constructive forum for dialogue and education about the dignity of women and the problems women face in our culture, a forum that incorporated the rich teaching of the Catholic Church on the dignity of the human person. With the help of the Center and other campus groups, their desire became a reality.

The first half of the conference sought to take an honest, holistic look at how women are perceived and treated within our culture. Speakers addressed issues ranging from rape, pornography, and eating disorders to abortion, contraception, and current gynecology. The talks explained the physical, emotional and spiritual damage women experience as a result of these practices. Furthermore, they challenged the audience members to reevaluate the culture’s misconceived notion of the nature and dignity of the human person, particularly the female person, which lies at the root of these problems.

The second half of the conference sought to move beyond criticism to a better vision for women in our society. Speakers—including Center senior research fellow Alasdair MacIntyre, Laura Garcia of Boston College, Deirdre McQuade of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Josef Seifert of the International Academy of Philosophy—sought to articulate a solid, philosophical foundation for the “new feminism” called for by John Paul II in Mulieris Dignitatem. This new feminism is one that acknowledges and upholds the reality that men and women are endowed with equal dignity, being made equally in the image and likeness of God, but are also endowed with unique natures and distinct gifts to offer society.

Over three hundred people attended the conference, including students from Notre Dame, the University of Dayton, Taylor University, and Franciscan University of Steubenville, as well as members of the South Bend community. The event has received attention from The South Bend Tribune, Today’s Catholic, Our Sunday Visitor, The National Catholic Register, the Washington Times, and the National Review.