News and Updates: March 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thomas Beaudoin in the Revealer

See this Revealer article, where Dr. Thomas Beaudoin is references on a recent New York Times advertisement.

Dr. Beaudoin speaks at Occupy Faith Conference

Tom Beaudoin, associate professor of theology in the GSRRE, attended the national conference of Occupy Faith at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, March 20-22. He was one of six representatives from Occupy Faith NYC/Occupy Wall Street. The conference planned future actions by various spiritual/religious communities in support of the Occupy movement. Over 60 leaders from 14 Occupy sites attended. Professor Beaudoin has written several articles on the Occupy movement and theology for America, the national Jesuit magazine.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Summer at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education!

Recently the GSRRE released our Summer 2012 course offerings. These course are open to new and continuing degree students and many are also open to visitors and auditors. The on-campus courses are one week intensives in the Summer, and we also offer two on-line sessions. On Campus housing is come join us!

Visit us on the web for more information:

Journalist Sees Waning Political Influence of Catholic Church

Contact: Patrick Verel
(212) 636-7790

David Gibson
Photo by Patrick Verel
The Catholic Church is in danger of losing its place in the American political sphere, a religious journalist said on Feb. 28.

David Gibson, a journalist for the Religion News Service and author of The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World, (HarperOne, 2006) delivered that assessment at a lecture at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus.

Although Catholics currently inhabit the offices of vice president, the speaker of the House (current and former), and six out of nine Supreme Court seats, Gibson asserted that the churches’ influence on matters of public policy in the United States is waning.

Nowhere was this more apparent than the recent decision by the Obama administration to not grant a waiver to Catholic hospitals and universities that object to covering the cost of contraceptives to their employees, he said.

When a compromise was announced on Feb. 10 that insurers, not employers, would have to provide coverage, groups such as the Catholic Health Association and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) supported it. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, however, did not, and have since denounced it.

“Why this battle, why now, and why framed in such apocalyptic terms? I think it epitomizes not only the current state of our fractured national polity, but also illuminates many critical aspects of Catholic political dynamics in this year of our Lord, 2012,” he said.

Gibson said three lessons can be gleaned from the current state in this country:
-Politics has become more like religion
-Catholics don’t know how to do politics well anymore
-Catholic leaders have become evangelical

One the first point, he said politics has a kind of substitute religion for many citizens.

“They’re bringing the worst attributes of religious thinking to the political sphere: Ideas like martyrdom and schism, condemnation and alienation, and above all, a purists’ mentality that considers political positions as articles of faith and compromise as a form of heresy,” he said.

Republican presidential candidates who refused in a recent debate to consider a national budget that includes $10 of spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases are guilty of this, as are Democrats who refused at first to grant the health care waiver for religious institutions.

One the second point, he noted that there is division among American bishops about whether to lobby for broad exemption for faith-based organizations or a complete abolishment of the contraception mandate.

This was preceded by the fight that erupted over President Obama’s invitation to speak at Notre Dame in 2009 and the debate over whether to deny Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry communion in 2004.

Both are examples, he said, of how Catholic leaders are trending away from the Democratic party, even though polls show the laity is not. And even though, Gibson said, that the party does advance causes dear to the church—like 40 Democratic congressmen (led by Bart Stupak of Michigan) who insisted that the 2010 Universal Health Care Bill not include funding for abortions.

Gibson called Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum an example of a Catholic leader who is often mistaken to be an evangelical Protestant.

“In a Republican primary where white evangelicals are a key voting block, this has been good politics for Rick Santorum in particular, but it’s a jarring sight for Catholic voters,” he said. “Here you have a Catholic candidate supporting creationism in schools, rallying against immigration, hailing the free market as sort of a panacea, and saying that wanting everyone to go to college—a longstanding dream of Catholic leaders throughout our history—is [snobbery],” he said.

The solution to today’s divisions is not to try to drive the faithful to one political party or another, or even create a third party that is more uniquely Catholic. Gibson suggested, instead, a revival of the “politics of personalism” of the sort that Pope John Paul II practiced.

“This is a mode of relating, not one particular stance, position or party,” he said. “It would start with a recovery of the virtue of prudential judgment on matters of laws and politics, rediscovering the ability to distinguish what is central and what is peripheral, what is contingent and what is a sort of danger to the faith.”

“An apocalyptic mindset characteristic more of the evangelical world than the Catholic world prevails among many Catholics. In that Manichean world, there’s only good and evil, and nothing between the two.
“When all you have is that kind of a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” he said.

Gibson's lecture was sponsored by the Department of Theology, the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies and the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Ecucation.

Founded in 1841, Fordham is the Jesuit University of New York, offering exceptional education distinguished by the Jesuit tradition to more than 15,100 students in its four undergraduate colleges and its six graduate and professional schools. It has residential campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan, a campus in West Harrison, N.Y., the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y., and the London Centre at Heythrop College in the United Kingdom.

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GSRRE Professor and Ph.D. Graduate both appointed to International Editorial Board.

Gloria Durka, Professor of Religious Education, has been appointed to the Editorial Board of PANORAMA: The Intercultural Annual of Interdisciplinary Ethical and Religious Studies for Responsible Research. The journal aims to encourage comparative studies in the fields of ethics, education, religious and moral education, philosophy, religion and theology on an international level. Its goal is to contribute to the dialogue among scholars throughout the world. Dr. Durka is one of 11 members from 9 countries who comprise the Editorial Board.

Also appointed is Dzintra Ilisko, Ph.D.,’02. Dr. Ilisko is Associate Professor of Education at Daugavpils University in Latvia. She is the Director of the Institute for Sustainable Education which is located at the University.


Sister Antonia Cooper, OSF, artist and icon writer, gave a workshop session on “Icons: Doorways to the Sacred,” for students in the course, Spirituality and the Arts, on February 14, 2012. Sister Antonia demonstrated the process of icon writing and explained its symbolism. She discussed the use of icons in prayer and meditation, and together with Prof. Gloria Durka, gave an exposition of key elements of iconography. Students were then invited to participate in various aspects of meditating with icons.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Professor Endeavors to Mutually Enhance the Fields of Psychology and Religion

Professor Endeavors to Mutually Enhance the
Fields of Psychology and Religion

Lisa Cataldo, Ph.D., said the study of eastern religions brought her home to her Christian roots.

Photo by Joanna Klimaski

By Joanna Klimaski

By most modern standards, Lisa Cataldo had achieved success.

After receiving an M.B.A. from Columbia University, she secured a job in Manhattan working for Chemical Bank and spent the next eight years carving out her place in the world of corporate real estate financing.

Something, however, was lacking.

“On some level I didn’t feel fulfilled, and I didn’t feel like I was contributing anything to the world,” said Cataldo, Ph.D., assistant professor of pastoral counseling at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GRE) and a licensed psychoanalyst. “Ultimately, it just didn’t feel like me.”

She quit her job and traveled about as far away from corporate real estate as she could get: India and Nepal. For several months, she journeyed on a spiritual pilgrimage, visiting temples, monasteries, ashrams, and other places of worship, hoping that one of them might contain the missing piece.

“I was very interested in spirituality, and that study of eastern religions ultimately brought me home to my Christian roots,” she said.

Entertaining the idea of pursuing theology, she returned to New York, taking inspiration from a speech given by the late priest and spiritual writer Henri Nouwen. Nouwen was pastor of L’Arche Daybreak Toronto, a community for individuals with cognitive disabilities and the volunteers who assist them.

“I went there on a retreat because I was attracted to the idea of this place,” said Cataldo. “But once I got there, I realized it wasn’t an idea—it was real life. And I had to move in.”

Cataldo stayed for several months, and remains closely connected with L’Arche. “It was a real, lived experience. It wasn’t just going to ashrams and meditating. This was about how real spiritual growth takes place in relationship with other people, who show you what it means to be human.”

She returned, again, to Manhattan and enrolled at Union Theological Seminary to study psychology and religion. Her own experience in psychoanalysis, coupled with her experiences both in India and Toronto, drew her to the disciplines.

While some hold that the duo is incompatible, Cataldo considers psychology and religion a natural combination.

“In each of those worlds there are people that see the two disciplines as having a real basis for dialogue, because they both deal with higher-order questions: Who am I? What am I doing here? What’s my purpose? What’s meaningful in my life?” she said.

Trained in relational psychoanalysis—a branch that emphasizes interpersonal relationships in one’s life—Cataldo works today both as an academician and clinician to bridge the two domains.

Despite a growing interest in spirituality within the psychoanalytic community, Cataldo said, there is still no thorough understanding about religion and religious practice and their actual role in an individual’s experience. Some psychoanalysts—including Freud—reduce religion and spirituality to mere defense mechanisms against existential fears, but Cataldo maintains that faith facilitates the basic human need for connection and thus warrants higher regard.

“Whether the analyst is familiar with religion or not, a vast majority of the patients who come to see us have some kind of religious life,” she said. “And if we can’t make room for it without being reductive or dismissive, we’re really not making room for the patient as a whole person.”

In addition to helping the psychoanalytic community to better understand the connection between psychology and religion and spirituality, Cataldo also strives to illuminate the latter from a psychoanalytic standpoint.

“People experience life through their religion; but people also experience their religion through their psychology,” she said. “My primary work is to look at spiritual and religious experience through a psychoanalytic lens, without reducing it to a psychological phenomenon.

“As an analyst, I don’t advocate for religion or spirituality any more than I would advocate that a person should change careers, or get married, or get divorced,” she said. “I want to be curious with the person about what their spiritual life or religion means for them, how it functions for them, and whether it’s expansive or limiting.”

As a member of GRE faculty, Cataldo draws from her psychoanalytic training to shed light on theological issues. Her primary research addresses the multiplicity of self—images of ourselves that arise in response to our various experiences and relationships—and how this multiplicity yields diverse images of God. Her work questions the possible psychological influences that may contribute to the emphasis on the image of God as a father, rather than imaging God normatively as a mother.

Relatively novel in the worlds of psychoanalysis and religion, Cataldo’s views have been well received nonetheless. In June, she was awarded the Stephen A. Mitchell Author’s Award from the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Next year she will lecture at Tao Fong Shan Christian Center in Hong Kong, which hosts the first program in psychotherapy and spirituality in China.

In the meantime, she continues to teach pastoral counseling, an area that particularly reveals the impact of uniting psychology and religion.

“In places where there are very few mental health services, or people are reluctant to use them, having the clergy trained to do counseling and pastoral care from a deeper base of knowledge, and then teaching people in their home diocese about this—it’s actually changing the world, one person at a time.”