In late September, our “Evangelization: Faith and Culture” class was honored to host Rev. Dr. Emeka Obiezu, OSA, as guest speaker. Fr. Obiezu, an Augustinian priest, is the author of Towards a Politics of Compassion: Socio-Political Dimensions of Christian Responses to Suffering, and the vice-chair of the NGO Committee on Migration at the United Nations. An experienced theologian and advocate for the wellbeing of migrants globally, he led the class in discussion of Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States, and in particular his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Fr. Obiezu suggested that Pope Francis’ approach to his pontificate was well-exemplified at the UN as the long-awaited enactment of the promise of the Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church’s engagement with contemporary society, and as grounded theologically in Pope Francis’ “cosmic theological anthropology,” his understanding of humans as part of a network of life far beyond human and even planetary existence. From this vantage, the Christian sensitivity to incarnation, Fr. Obiezu emphasized, gains a profoundly relational, environmentally-aware, and cosmologically-aware feeling for reality and how to live in it. This discussion was a natural bridge to a class conversation about Fr. Obiezu’s book, which students had read in preparation for his visit. In Towards a Politics of Compassion, Fr. Obiezu argues from his Nigerian cultural perspective that compassion can be an effective vehicle for Christians to make the necessary changes in everyday life and social structures that are needed in Nigeria today. Compassion is grounded in human experience of sharing suffering with the other in a way that is also always caught up in a “politics” of response--such that real-world choices must be made about the effectiveness of expressing that compassion. Resources from the Catholic teaching tradition and from Nigerian religion and culture point to wise ways of being compassionate in a way that are true to human experience and effective for the social changes Nigeria needs. We were grateful for Fr. Obiezu so generously sharing his experience and work with us.
Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Pope Francis showed he truly understands evangelization when he famously asked, “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord and is of good will, who am I to judge?” While this has alarmed some Catholics, his question reflects a deep understanding of Catholic doctrine. Evangelization does not tell people what they ought to regret, instead it offers the promise that what they actually regret can be forgiven.
More importantly, you cannot charge someone with sin, because sin is a subjective reality. It is radically subjective because it is about the relationship between God, who is not an object, and a person, who is not an object. Whereas Catholic doctrine identifies certain actions as objectively immoral, it does not equate what is immoral with sin. A person has to believe that an action is sinful for it to be so. If a person willfully did something that he or she believed was sinful, even if it was morally good, then it would be sinful for that person. So it is not our task or our place to charge people with sin, especially if the goal is evangelization. We should keep in mind the fact that contrition over sin is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It is not the result of browbeating.
St. Catherine of Siena perceived that the desire to punish is simply inconsistent with the Christian mission to save souls. When a person believes that he or she has the standing to act as the judge of another, St. Catherine said that the person had forgotten the infinite nature of his or her sins. Catherine wrote: “In this way [leaving judgment to Christ] you will come to me [God] in truth, and you will show that you have remembered and observed the teaching given you by my Truth, that is, to discern my will rather than to judge other people’s intentions.” ( #103) Since judgmental people can no longer look at the sins of others with sympathy, they also lose their ability to discern the will of Christ. They forget that Christ gave humanity the Church for the mission of salvation.
The question of whether or not a living person is justified – which is the question of whether or not he or she is part of the Church – cannot be answered by us. The Council of Trent taught that the formal cause of our justification is the justness of God. This justness is real; and, it is a gift given to us through the action of the Holy Spirit. So no one is justified for following the rules, for being right, for helping the poor, for personal virtue, or for meritorious conduct. The Holy Spirit apportions justification to each individual as the Holy Spirit wills in view of each person’s disposition and cooperation.
To judge, we would need to know a person’s disposition, which is a way of speaking about everything that we can attribute to genetics as well as environmental factors. Of course, none of us knows this perfectly about ourselves. Moreover, we would need to know is how much grace the Holy Spirit has given. Finally, we would need to know how much people actually cooperated with the grace that was given to judge them. Is the person who had a bad start in life, who received less grace, but who cooperated fully with the grace received, better or worse, than the person who had every advantage, who was showered with grace, but who only cooperated minimally?
Pope Francis pointed the way to becoming a more evangelical Church with his simple and humble question: “Who am I to judge?” He has not denied that there is sin, or that there is a judge, or that people need to embrace a life of ongoing conversion. All he has denied is that it is our role to judge people, which liberates us to discern the will of Christ and to love one another.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Mary Ellen Durante, Ph.D. is a May 2015 graduate who wrote her dissertation on: “Teaching Children How to Pray: An Essential Dimension of Religious Education in a Postmodern Age,” Mary Ellen plans to develop religious educational programs to offer as a consultant for religious educators, parents, and children. This ministry will also include a community outreach platform for interreligious dialogue.
Born in Rochester, New York, Mary Ellen chose a career in music performance that included her husband and children. In 2009 Mary Ellen began her studies at Fordham University with a concentration in family, church and community.
With an extensive background in curriculum development, music, and the arts Mary Ellen excels in integrating faith with creative educational programs that focus on performance, artistic production and assisting children and young people to realize their own creativity and potential. The underlining theme of her work is to show how quality religious educational programs and activities can provoke thoughtfulness, reflection, and spiritual awareness in serving others.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Imelda Lam, May 2015 graduate, discusses her dissertation on Confucianism and Catholic Religious Education
I am Imelda Lam. I am a curriculum officer working at the Ministry of Education of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong. I work with a team that writes teaching and learning materials on religious education for teachers and students of Catholic schools in Hong Kong.
The topic of my dissertation is Catholic Religious Education and Confucianism: Some Implications for Interreligious Education in Hong Kong. This research highlighted the complementarity of Catholic Religious Education and Confucianism. It led me to explore the culture and the belief of people in the West and in the East, and took me to examine this complementary notion with an example found and implications inspired from a new curriculum that undertaking in Catholic schools in Hong Kong.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
As Graduation approaches we want to introduce you to some of our recent doctoral graduates and their research. Congratulations to the 14 new Doctor of Ministry and Doctor of Philosophy students who have graduated this year!
William Joseph Mascitello
My B.A. is in Management and Industrial Relations is from Seton Hall University. My M.A. in Systematic Theology is from Notre Dame. I have been a religious educator in various parishes and institutions in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey for the past twenty-five years. Currently, I am in my fourteenth year as Pastoral Associate at St. Mary’s in Dumont and I am an adjunct at Felician College in Lodi.
My Dissertation: Theotic Religious Education
In the fifty years since the Second Vatican Council, Roman Catholic catechetical efforts have tended to move from emphasis on linear-rational approaches. I advocate for the re-emphasis of relational dimensions and other preter-rational elements which come together toward a more holistic approach to religious education. Renewed efforts would have theosis or divinization as orienting principle, a theme espoused by the Byzantine Christian East which is lifelong and centers on the transformation of individuals as they strive for the restoration of all the relationships in which they find themselves— those with self, others, the whole created order, and ultimately with the triune God.