Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rev. Ker on Newman as Rhetorician

Rev. Ian Ker of Oxford University delivered the first lecture in our annual Catholic Culture Literature Series, "Victorian Catholic Writers: Penning the Grandeur of God," to an audience of over a hundred in DeBartolo Hall last night. His lecture received an enthusiastic response from a mixed audience of undergraduates, grad students, professed religious, and local lay Catholics.

Fr. Ker highlighted Newman's wit and beautiful Victorian prose in his lecture, pointing out that although Newman is noted for his novels and poems, his true greatness is to be read in his homilies, sermons, essays, and other prose. Fr. Ker shared some of his favorite passages with the audience, and he also gave suggestions of which works readers who are new to Newman should read. He discussed at some length Newman's understanding of the authority of the Church, and the dynamic tension between theologians and the Magisterium of the Church. He used an analogy of tennis, explaining that one can only have a tennis match if a court has been drawn, an official is present, and the players know the rules of the game. Those boundaries, such as the ones that the Magisterium sets, make the give-and-take of theological discourse possible. Authority must be respected, but so must the demands of intellectually rigorous theological engagement.

Video of the lecture should be available on our website soon, but until then, remember to join us next week for Ron Hansen's lecture on Gerard Manley Hopkins, who, Fr. Ker said, once visited Newman himself when Hopkins, a student at Oxford, was afraid that he would have to convert to Catholicism. Newman's response to the young Hopkins? "Well of course!"

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