|John L. Allen Jr.
"I believe religion has a lot to contribute to Georgetown and to America. An attempt to remove religious values from our public discourse is dangerous."
Imam Yahya Hendi,
Georgetown University's Muslim chaplain
The future of Catholic
Education in America; The Vatican ponders globalization; Georgetown's Muslim chaplain; Molla - Pro-life saint; Nathan Mitchell on liturgy; More on just war
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
For anyone interested in Catholic higher education,
Archbishop Michael Miller is a very important person.
the new secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Miller is the Holy
See’s “point person” on the implementation of the 1990 document Ex Corde
Ecclesiae, which called on colleges and universities to revivify their
Catholic identity. It launched a decade of controversy in the United States by,
among other things, insisting that a theologian have a mandatum — a
license — from the local bishop.
Though the debate has recently been frozen in place by the sex abuse crisis, it
has not gone away. Hence Miller’s May 6 lecture at Rome’s Lay Centre on “Ex
Corde Ecclesiae and the Future of Catholic Higher Education in America” was
newsworthy indeed. While his views do not automatically translate into Vatican
policy, it’s hard not to imagine they’ll be consequential.
Miller, a Basilian who has served both in Rome
and in numerous capacities at the University of St. Thomas in Houston,
including a term as president, summarized developments in American Catholic higher education
since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). He suggested that a legitimate
desire to meet the highest secular standards led, largely unconsciously, to a
diminution in religious identity. He robustly defended Ex Corde as “a
wonderful kick in the pants to all of us to get the Catholic identity issue on
Miller identified a series of issues now coming to the fore.
Miller said he doesn’t see room under the Catholic “big tent” for a “non-mandatum
option.” One “open question,” however, is whether the mandatum should be
a matter of public record. Some bishops and theologians argue it is a private
affair between them, but Miller said it has public ramifications. Do parents and
students, for example, have the right to know when choosing particular courses
whether or not its instructor has received the mandatum? Given that Ex
Corde is intended “to foster and promote the common good of the church,”
Miller said, “transparency may be helpful.”
Miller predicted that “affirmative action” will be necessary to increase the
presence of practicing Catholics in the professorial ranks. “It would be
unrealistic and naïve to believe that a Catholic institution can transmit itself
over generations through people whose life and piety is not that of the Catholic
church,” he said. “‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ will not cut it.” Yet Miller stressed
that he was not proposing rigid quotas or percentages, and that non-Catholic
faculty can play an important role.
Miller called for a recovery of the “vibrant Catholic intellectual tradition” in
the curriculum of Catholic colleges and universities. Among other things, this
tradition fosters “a passion for truth, and a conviction that truth cannot only
be sought, but can be discerned and can order one’s life.” Catholic colleges,
Miller argued, “have a responsibility to the rest of the academic community and
to the culture to provide these points of reference.”
Miller suggested that in measuring the success or failure of Catholic
institutions, impact on religious attitudes and practices of students should be
considered. A healthy Catholic college, he said, should generate vocations to
the priesthood and religious life. It should increase the likelihood that its
graduates pray, attend Mass, and accept church teaching.
“Catholic universities are essential to the flourishing of the church, but they
have to be truly Catholic,” Miller said. “We have to be confident in the
richness and wonders the Catholic tradition has to offer.”
* * *
footnote. Miller told his Lay Centre audience that, as surprising as this may
sound, there is no exact list of Catholic colleges and universities in the
world. What it means to be “Catholic,” and who recognizes it, has never been
clarified. The Congregation for Catholic Education is currently working on such
a list; it was supposed to be published in June, but Miller suggested it may not
be ready. He said his office has prepared a draft list of institutions in the
United States, and is currently asking each of the American bishops as they come
through for their ad limina visits to check off those institutions they
regard as legitimately under their pastoral concern.
everyone,” Miller said, “has been checked.”
* * *
Friends who work in the Vatican say that among the more satisfying aspects of
their jobs is ready access to the world’s leading experts on virtually any
topic. There are few thinkers, writers or analysts, however famous or sought
after, who say “no” to a papal summons. (Actually, there are few people who
would decline a trip to Rome for any reason, giving the Vatican a mammoth
week offered proof of the point.
Centesimus Annus-Pro Pontifice Foundation, a pontifical body founded by Catholic businessmen in response to the pope’s 1991 encyclical on social questions, hosted an April
30-May 1 conference on “Confronting Globalization: Global Governance and the
Politics of Development.” The event featured high-profile speakers such as John
Ikenberry, a Georgetown professor and a former State Department official;
Antonio Maria Costa, head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime; and American
Catholic intellectual Michael Novak.
At the same time, the
Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences conducted its 10th plenary
session on the theme of “intergenerational solidarity.” No less an eminence than
Francis Fukuyama, the political theorist who coined the phrase “the end of
history” to describe the collapse of the Soviet system, was a keynote speaker.
Other contributors included American Catholic writer Fr. Richard John Neuhaus
(unable to be physically present) and Argentinean economist and former Education
Minister Juan L. Llach.
sessions are fascinating not merely in their own right, but because they
indicate the kinds of thinking circulating in Vatican corridors.
Ikenberry told the Centesimus Annus conference that the central crisis created
by globalization is one of governance. The world has entered a period, he said,
in which its “rules of the game” are perceived as unfair by a broad swath of the
population, and hence a major rethinking of the global order is looming.
Ikenberry identified four mega-trends today:
• The rise of American global power;
• The globalization of the world economy;
• The rise of terrorism and the privatization of war;
• The growing politics of misery.
this light, Ikenberry argued, the central challenge is to make globalization
“more accountable, inclusive, governed, and more responsive to the losers.”
There is a “hunger for representation” in the world, he said. Ikenberry quoted
the ambassador from Singapore in a recent United Nations speech, who said on
behalf of his fellow Asians: “There are six billion eyeballs looking at the
United States and Western Europe and wondering why they don’t have a place at
Fukuyama, meanwhile, argued at the plenary assembly of the Academy of Social
Sciences that the “great disruption” over the last 35-40 years, which has
witnessed an disintegration of traditional family structures, is due primarily
to two factors:
• The introduction of the birth control pill in
the early 1960s;
• A post-industrial workplace with greater opportunities for women to work
outside the home.
Fukuyama predicted that Western culture is headed for another “great disruption”
driven by two factors: the demographic decline of native-born populations in the
developed world (the first time in history a population has dropped so steeply
from causes other than disease or war), and the consequent need to increase
immigration. The growing cultural diversity those two trends augur raises
questions about how pluralistic Western cultures can become without breaking
can’t draw a straight line between either Ikenberry’s or Fukuyama’s
presentations and eventual Vatican policy. Indeed, Llach challenged Fukuyama at
the Academy of Social Sciences for ignoring the impact of global economic
justice on social stability, and Novak offered a more optimistic vision of
globalization at the Centesimus Annus conference. Hence there was robust debate.
the papers by Ikenberry and Fukuyama illustrate the conversations being held in
Rome these days, and hence they suggest what’s on the Vatican’s mind.
* * *
Speaking of the Vatican’s mind, Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, offered the Centesimus Annus
conference an overview of current priorities in his office.
“Globalization must be read with the social doctrine of the church,” Crepaldi
said. “That means it is among the signs of the times. It is neither good nor bad
in itself. It’s a question of what one makes of it.”
that some 3 billion people live on less than two dollars a day, Crepaldi
asserted, there are clearly flaws in the way globalization is working. Among
other things, he said, the world situation is marred by an inefficient
distribution of resources and inadequate government at both the national and
Crepaldi listed the following front-burner concerns:
• Resolving the international debt of poor
countries, and ensuring that any funds released go towards social needs such
as health and education;
• Augmenting the amount of public aid for development from today’s 0.2 percent
of GDP to the 0.7 percent agreed upon at the Monterey Financing for
Development Conference in 2002;
• Lowering barriers to international commerce for developing countries;
• Encouraging scientific and technical development in poor countries;
• Meeting the U.N. goal of a 50 percent increase in global literacy by 2015;
• Developing more satisfactory mechanisms of global governance;
• Providing adequate assurances for public health and the provision of safe
appealed for greater attention to what he called “the forgotten 1 billion
Muslims.” He said that many Muslim nations, especially Arab states, command
natural resources (especially oil) that should make their people wealthy.
Instead there is widespread poverty, in large measure because many Arab
governments practice what Novak called “political repression” and “fear of their
own people.” He urged greater attention to human rights issues in these states.
then offered an optimistic reading of globalization’s impact.
Echoing the analysis of Jagdish Bhagwati in In Defense of Globalization,
Novak observed that in 1970 some 70 percent of the world’s poor were in Asia,
and 11 percent in Africa. By 1998, Africa had 66 percent of the poor, and Asia
only 15 percent. This spectacular reversal was driven in part by the economic
progress of both India and China; never before, Novak said, have so many people
been lifted out of poverty so rapidly. China over this period reduced the
percentage of its population that lives in poverty from 28 percent to 9 percent,
while India reduced its percentage of poor citizens from 51 percent to 26
percent. In effect, some one-half billion Asians moved into the middle class.
acknowledged that to date the benefits of globalization are less evident in
Africa, which he attributed in part to failures in governance. But he urged that
these problems not obscure the gains in other parts of the world.
deserve to take pride in this,” Novak said. “It’s good to take pleasure in what
has been achieved.”
Georgetown University’s Muslim chaplain has said that if the university were to
ever remove crucifixes from its classrooms, as some students and even faculty
have proposed, he would resign.
will not continue to be at Georgetown if that cross is removed,” said Imam Yahya
Hendi in Rome May 5. “I believe religion has a lot to contribute to Georgetown
and to America. An attempt to remove religious values from our public discourse
widely quoted spokesperson for Muslims in the United States, Hendi also said
that he believes global Islam needs an authoritative institution that can speak
for Muslims as an antidote to radical voices.
also called on the Saudi government to offer greater freedom for religious
minorities, long a sore point among Western critics of Islam.
Georgetown is the only university in America with a full-time Muslim chaplain, a
position Hendi has held for five years. He was in Italy at the invitation of the
United States embassy to speak about the experience of religious pluralism in
Georgetown University has periodically debated whether or not crucifixes should
be removed from classrooms. Roughly half of the student population today is
non-Catholic, and some students and faculty have argued that respect for
pluralism requires a religiously neutral academic environment. Others concerned
with a loss of the university’s Catholic identity have opposed such a move.
spoke May 5 at a lunch with American and Italian journalists arranged by the
U.S. Embassy to the Holy See.
insisted that the “Islamic street” does not seek violence, but acknowledged that
it can be difficult for this message to get through to the West given the lack
of authoritative institutions that can speak for mainstream Islam.
is a true challenge for Muslims,” he said. “It is an issue Muslims have to
said that American Muslims may be able to point a way forward.
the United States, we are working on the idea of a Muslim Congress, a
representative body able to speak on behalf of all Muslims,” he said. “I think
we are moving in the right direction. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely doable.
Very soon, we in America will be able to say: ‘Call this person.’”
the experience succeeds in one place, it can be imitated elsewhere,” he said.
said the candidate usually proposed as an authoritative spokesperson for Islam,
Cairo’s Al-Azhar Institute, is perceived as too close to the Egyptian government
to command the assent of mainstream Muslim opinion.
response to frequent complaints about religious intolerance in Saudi Arabia,
where some 1 million Christians are legally unable to import Bibles or wear
crosses, Hendi called for greater openness.
“Should Saudi Arabia be more inclusive? I believe that should happen, with no
doubt, on the basis that Islam is inclusive,” he said.
* * *
Vatican confirmed May 3 something that had already been widely reported,
including in “The Word from Rome,” which is that John Paul II will visit Bern,
Switzerland, June 5-6 for a national gathering of Catholic youth.
a media point of view, the event has three layers of significance.
is the papal health angle. This is John Paul’s first foreign outing since last
September’s trip to Slovakia, when his clear fatigue had networks scrambling in
case the end was near. Antennae will be up to assess how the pope manages. Given
that Switzerland is the first of at least two other trips under consideration
for 2004, it will also be an important “reality check.”
Second is the European dimension. The Vatican has been waging a steady, if so
far fruitless, campaign to convince the recently expanded European Union to
include an explicit reference to Christianity in its constitutional document.
John Paul has been insisting that the new Europe must not forget its Christian
roots. We will hear these themes again in Switzerland, which is something of a
Europe in miniature with its French-speaking, German-speaking and
Third is the intra-Catholic aspect.
It was in Switzerland in 1990 that Bishop Wolfgang Haas had to enter the
cathedral in Chur for his installation ceremony through a back door,
sidestepping more than 200 protesters who had lined the front entrance with
their bodies. They were protesting John Paul’s choice to bypass the cathedral
chapter’s traditional prerogative of electing its bishop. (Haas has since been
transferred to Lichtenstein). Last November, a lay synod in Lucerne voted in
favor of abolishing mandatory celibacy and ordaining women priests. That stance
was endorsed by a lay Catholic parliament in St. Gallen. Strain continues in the
present; some Swiss Catholics feel targeted by the recent Vatican document on
liturgical abuses, Redemptionis Sacramentum, because it bans modes of lay
participation such as preaching that in parts of Switzerland have become common
practice. (A priest recently told me that a Swiss parish once asked him to say
Mass, explaining that his role was to “stay quiet until after the homily”).
John Paul faces the challenge of healing a divided flock while simultaneously
asserting ecclesiastical discipline, cajoling Europe to shake off what he sees
as historical amnesia, and reassuring an anxious world (not to mention the Roman
Curia) that he is still up to the rigors of travel.
in all, a tall order for less than two days.
* * *
the American debate over Catholic politicians and abortion heats up, John Paul
II is set to canonize the leading 20th century Catholic martyr of the
pro-life movement: Italian lay woman Gianna Beretta Molla, who died in April
1962 at the age of 39 rather than abort her child.
pope will declare Molla a saint on Sunday, May 16.
anti-abortion groups have declared Molla a patron, critics complain the church
is suggesting that unborn life is more valuable than the health and welfare of
doctor, Molla married in 1955, and by 1961 had three children when she became
pregnant again. Towards the end of her second month she began experiencing acute
pain. Her doctor diagnosed a fibrous tumor in the uterus, and recommended an
abortion to allow him to completely remove the cyst. Molla declined, and
insisted that the surgery not harm the child.
couple of days before she delivered her baby, Molla told her doctor: “If you
have to choose, there should be no doubt; choose — I demand it — choose the life
of the baby. Save him.” On April 21, the child, named Gianna Emanuela, was born.
Seven days later, on the morning of April 28, Molla died. Her daughter is still
find Molla’s story unedifying. On April 10, the left-wing Italian newspaper
L’Unità carried an article by Gloria Buffo, a member of the Italian
parliament from the main center-left party, criticizing a decision by the
Minister of the Interior to include Molla among 250 biographies of Italian women
in a three-volume series.
footnote. The miracle required for Molla’s
canonization also involved saving an unborn child. In 2000, Italian Elisabete
Arcolino Comparini began to have serious problems with her third pregnancy. In
her third month, Comparini lost all her amniotic fluid. The unborn child
normally would have died, yet the girl was born in May 2000. Her parents, who
prayed to Molla, named the baby Gianna Maria.
* * *
University of Notre Dame liturgist Nathan Mitchell, well known for his “Amen
Corner” column in Worship magazine, was in Rome this week for a
conference on confirmation at the Gregorian University. He gave a public
presentation on Monday, May 3, at the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier del Caravita,
part of that community’s Conversazioni a Caravita series sponsored by
Jesuit Fr. Keith Pecklers.
Mitchell, a poet, is known for the richness and beauty of his language. He was
the primary author of the proposed “Eucharistic Prayer A” in a translation of
the Roman Missal from the International Commission on English in the Liturgy
submitted in 1998 that was rejected by the Vatican. (Ironically, his prayer has
in the meantime been incorporated by the Church of England into its book of
Mitchell spoke on liturgy and ecumenism, listing insights he believes have
resulted from the ecumenical movement.
First, Mitchell said, ecumenical dialogue has clarified that “people are the
point” of liturgical celebration.
as Jesus offered the liturgy of the cross for all, so the liturgy of the church
is for all,” Mitchell said.
Following the German Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner, Mitchell argued that the
primary liturgical celebration in our experience is not formal worship in a
church but the “liturgy of the world,” what he called the “immense ceremony of
goodness and grace in human history.” In that sense, he said, the church does
not “own” public worship.
Second, Mitchell said, ecumenism has underscored that liturgy is “a radical act
of dispossession.” Worship is not about having, he said, but divesting.
Finally, Mitchell said ecumenism has reinforced the links between ethics and the
Eucharist. Liturgy is false if it does not give rise to a keen sense of justice,
“Sometimes Roman Catholics imagine that we get together just to transubstantiate
the bread and wine,” Mitchell said. “But what gets transformed most deeply is
* * *
offer a rather strained analogy, one might say that St. John Chrysostom, the
“golden-tongued” father of Eastern Christianity, is sort of the Boston Red Sox
of the patristic period – usually overshadowed by a flashier and more successful
rival. In Chrysostom’s case, that rival is not the Bronx Bombers but St.
Augustine, the North African father whose autobiographical Confessions
has so captivated the Christian imagination over the centuries.
6-8 Rome conference on Chrysostom, the first of its kind since 1972, lamented
Professor Wendy Mayer from Adelaide in Australia observed, for example, that at
the 1995 Oxford Conference on Patristics, there were 17 papers on Chrysostom to
62 on Augustine. In 1999 the respective numbers were 12 and 66; in 2003, they
were 9 and 72. She called Chrysostom studies “under-staffed, under-researched,
Ironically enough, she was speaking in the aula magna of the
Augustinianum, run by the Augustinian Fathers.
her talk, I asked Mayer what we’re missing. She said Chrysostom has an
accessible, pastoral style in his letters and homilies that still can enrich
Christian life today. Further, the vicissitudes of his life — his relations with
laity as Patriarch of Constantinople, ecclesiastical and political infighting —
give us a very human picture of the man, allowing today’s Christian to identity
with Chrysostom in a way that overly pious or “sanitized” portraits fail to
* * *
weeks ago I covered a conference sponsored by the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See
entitled “Revitalizing International Law to Meet the Challenge of Terrorism.” I
noted that Legionaries of Christ Fr. Thomas Williams argued that the anti-war
impulse in modern papal teaching has been, in part, shaped by the threat of a
nuclear holocaust. Given that weaponry today has become more precise, allowing
for greater discrimination between combatants and non-combatants and more
restricted collateral damage, Williams suggested a near-absolute prohibition of
war may need review.
Williams’ line of argument brought a response from Redemptorist Fr. Brian
Johnstone, one of Rome’s foremost moral theologians. Herewith Johnstone's reply:
“Probably the best account of papal teaching on peace and war in the modern era
is that by Joseph Joblin, L' église et la guerre: conscience, violence,
pouvoir (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1988). Papal rejection of war in this
period goes back to Benedict XV and was a component of what developed into a
doctrine on peace and war of which the main points were: (1) War is not
inevitable, in other words, war is not tied to human nature, so that there will
always be war; (2) War is not worthy of humankind; (3) Peace is possible; (4)
Active involvement for peace is a moral imperative; (5) Specifically, the arms
race ought to be done away with.
reading of Pope John Paul II’s statements on the theme makes it clear that he is
not basing his opposition to war simply on the consequentialist argument that
any war would entail the risk of nuclear war, and that the effects of nuclear
war would be so terrible as to outweigh any conceivable benefit.
clearest statement he made was that contained in his address to the diplomatic
corps in January 2003:
‘No to war’! War is not
always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity . . . I say this as I
think of those who still place their trust in nuclear weapons and of the
all-too-numerous conflicts which continue to hold hostage our brothers and
sisters in humanity.
quite clear that the Pope's rejection of war is not based simply on the fear of
offered Williams a chance to comment. His response:
intervention was not a review of just war theory but rather a discourse on the
need for an increasing role of international law in the contemporary world and
specifically the underlying reasons for the Church's push for international
“I think it is important to note that I never said nor implied that the
church's anti-war stance is merely the fruit of fear of all-out war and mutual
destruction. What I said was rather that the conciliar document Gaudium
et spes calls for a reevaluation of war based on
the new hazards of weapons of mass destruction.
noted that in situations where ius in bello just war criteria,
specifically proportionality and discrimination, are rendered impossible by the
nature of the weapons being employed, ius ad bellum criteria can never be
adequately satisfied. Therefore the possibility of a just war becomes radically
diminished. That I take to be the thrust of Gaudium et spes’
reevaluation of war.
stand by my statement that technological advances in precision conventional
weapons does attenuate somewhat the evaluation called for by the council, not in
its basic presumption against war and the need to phase out war altogether (I
made that clear elsewhere in my intervention), but in specific instances where
recourse to the use of armed force may be deemed necessary.
other words, I would never say that the bias against war needs reviewing, but
that a nearly absolute prohibition of war because of the inability to guarantee
in bello criteria needs attenuating. They are two different things, at
least as I see it.”
The e-mail address for John L. Allen Jr. is
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