In This Section

Deitchman Family Lectures on Religion and Modernity

This series explores the place of religious and spiritual life in a world that is sometimes at odds with faith, other times in search of it, and always at work reshaping it.

Fall 2022 Lectures:

Contemplation in an Age of Anger 

Brian Robinette

Thursday, October 20, 2022
4:30 p.m., Rehm Library

Inspired by Thomas Merton’s classic essay, “Contemplation in a World of Action,” Brian Robinette, associate professor of theology at Boston College, explores the importance of contemplative practice in the midst of widespread social upheaval. Focusing on the challenges of polarization, social resentment, and empathy fatigue, the lecture draws upon both Christian and Buddhist contemplative traditions in order to help us rediscover and cultivate sustainable resources of wisdom, compassion, and hope.

Confronting America's Real Sister Act: Black Catholic Nuns in United States History

Shannen Dee Williams

Thursday, November 10, 2022
4:30 p.m., Rehm Library

For many people, Whoopi Goldberg's performance as Sister Mary Clarence in "Sister Act" is all they know of African American nuns and the desegregation of white Catholic sisterhood in the United States. The real story, explains Shannen Dee Williams, associate professor of history at the University of Dayton and author of "Subversive Habits" (Duke University Press, 2022), is of a radical group of Black women and girls called to the sacred vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, who fought against racism, sexism, and exclusion to become and minster as consecrated women of God in the Roman Catholic Church. In this talk, she turns attention to women's religious life as a stronghold of white supremacy and racial segregation, and thus an important battleground in the long African American freedom struggle.

Lectures Online:

Justice and Care: Reflections around Past and Current Abuse and Safeguarding in the Church

March 31, 2022
Rev. Hans Zollner, S.J., is founder and president of the The Centre for Child Protection, now the Institute of Anthropology, at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. He describes responses to the global crisis of abuse by Catholic clergy reported over the last 20 years and what needs to be done to administer justice, care and mercy. Watch online.

Fragments of Friendship: Spiritual Undercurrents of the Global Catholic Resistance to Fascism

March 16, 2022
Brenna Moore, professor of theology at Fordham University, explores a remarkable network of Catholic historians, theologians, poets, and activists who formed "Spiritual Friendships" as a form of resistance to the rise of fascism in the early to mid-20th century. Watch the video.

What Has American Politics Done to the Catholic Church?

November 16, 2021
Holy Cross President Vincent Rougeau leads a discussion with Ross Douthat, a conservative columnist for the New York Times and author of To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism, and Matthew Sitman, associate editor of Commonweal, who hosts "Know Your Enemy," podcast critical of the right. The three talk about the entanglements of politics and religion, advantages and drawbacks, and whether and how to decouple them. Watch the livestream.

Politics in the Name of Lord Rama in Narendra Modi's India 

November 8, 2021
Kalpana Jain, an award-winning journalist and senior religion and ethics editor at The Conversation US, will discuss how politics is being reshaped in India and religious sentiments are being mobilized under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She will illustrate how the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s pro-Hindu nationalist ruling party, has used the image of Hindu God Rama to whip up religious sentiments to its advantage and unite Hindus. Watch the video.

September 16, 2021
African, Christian, Feminist and More: Mapping and Engaging African/a Women’s Theo-ethical Footprint in the Age of Globalization — Teresia Hinga, associate professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University, is a founding member of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, a pan-African association of women who study the role and impact of religion and culture on African women's lives. She traces the historical footprint of African/a women’s theology and ethics, highlighting key themes, roadblocks to flourishing, and proposals for morally viable ways out of the precarity that characterizes the lives of women and children.
Watch the lecture»

February 19, 2020
A Church Renewed: Sex, Capitalism, and the Making of Modern Catholicism — Drawing on his recent book, “Catholic Modern” (Harvard University Press, 2018), James Chappel, Hunt Family Assistant Professor of History at Duke University, describes the transformation of the Catholic Church in the 20th century. In 1900, the Church stood squarely against everything we might call "modern": democracy, women's rights, and so on. By 2000, this had almost entirely changed. How did this happen, and why? The answer will involve sex, economic depression, fascism, Communism, and war.
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November 14, 2019
Believe in Belief: Looking at Religious Art — Holland Cotter, co-chief art critic of The New York Times, will speak on his approach to viewing and critiquing religious art. In connection with the Cantor Art Gallery exhibition Dharma and Puṇya: Buddhist Ritual Arts of Nepal.
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September 26, 2019
Crowns of Transformation: How Vajrācāryas become Bodhisattvas — John Guy, Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, describes the ritual use of Vajrācāryas crowns and the windows that their contemporary use provides into the medieval Indian origins of these key objects of Vajrayana practice. His talk is in conjunction with the Cantor Art Gallery exhibition Dharma and Puṇya: Buddhist Ritual Arts of Nepal.
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September 19, 2019
The Islam Question: Why Religious Freedom is the Answer — Daniel Philpott, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, drawing on his newly published book, “Religious Freedom In Islam: The Fate of a Universal Human Right in the Muslim World Today” (Oxford University Press, 2019), intervenes in our culture war over Islam, arguing that religious freedom can contribute to finding a consensus, showing why and how religious freedom can be expanded in the Muslim world, and how the Catholic Church's own journey to religious freedom can help.
Watch the lecture»

April 9, 2019
Is Theistic Belief Rational in a Scientific Age? — A dialogue between a William Lane Craig and Jeff Hester on theism, atheism and science. Named by The Best Schools as one of the 50 most influential living philosophers, Craig is research professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and professor of philosophy at Houston Baptist University. An astrophysicist, Hester is well known for his work with the Hubble Space Telescope. He is professor emeritus in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University.
Watch the lecture: Watch the Live Stream»

April 1, 2019
A New Curve in the Well-Known Color Line: Race, Respectability, and the Multi-Racial South — Derek Chang, associate professor of history and Asian American studies at Cornell University, discusses how Chinese Americans in 1920s Mississippi turn to white churches for education, racial and social mobility. Chang is author of “Citizens of a Christian Nation: Evangelical Missions and the Problem of Race in the Nineteenth Century” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010). Co-sponsored with Asian Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies.
Watch the lecture: Stream online»

March 19, 2019
Of Ancient Deities and Modern Gods: Making sense of the promises and pathologies of religion and faith in Africa — Drawing on his most recent book, “Religion and Faith in Africa: Confessions of an Animist” (Orbis, 2018), Rev.  Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, S.J., president of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar, offers a critical assessment of contemporary African religious experience and the tension between ancient and modern religious traditions, beliefs and practices, which continue to shape the past and present of Africans.
Watch the lecture: Stream online»

February 26, 2019
The Christian Invention of Human Dignity — Samuel Moyn, the Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School and Professor of History at Yale University, traces the idea of human dignity to the rise of Christian democracy across Europe in the late 1930s and 1940s. Moyn is author of "Christian Human Rights" and "Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World."
Watch the lecture: Stream online»

November 28, 2018
Finding the Essence of Christianity in Racial America — Willie Jennings, associate professor of systematic theology and Africana studies at Yale Divinity School, addresses what he calls a Christian crisis in America and suggests how we might articulate the essence of Christianity for this moment. Jennings is the author of "The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race" (Yale, 2010).
Watch the video: Stream Online»

October 15, 2018
Is China the New Roman Empire? Christian Growth in China and Global Implications —  Fenggang Yang, professor of sociology and director of the Center on Religion and Chinese Society at Purdue University, talks about the social and cultural factors for rapid growth of Protestantism and Catholicism since 1980. He is author of “Atlas of Religion in China” (Brill, 2018). Part of the McFarland Center's initiative on Catholics & Cultures.
Closed Captions Available Watch the video: Stream Online»

September 17, 2018
The Holy Cross: Symbol of Victory and Sign of Salvation — Robin Jensen, the Patrick O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, considers reasons for the late emergence of the cross and crucifix in early Christian art and illustrates how their earliest examples of the Holy Cross evolved as a symbol of victory and imperialism to suffering and salvation.
Closed Captions Available Watch the video: Stream Online»

April 23, 2018
“My Flannery O’Connor Problem, and Yours: Being a Catholic Novelist in 2018 — Randy Boyagoda, a Catholic writer and professor of English at the University of Toronto, discusses the challenges of trying to write religiously serious fiction today, when the terms for doing so are often overdetermined by the outsized influence and popularity of writers like Flannery O’Connor and Marilynne Robinson. He then reads a preview from his forthcoming novel, "Original Prin."
Watch the video: Stream Online»

October 24, 2017
Beyond the Abortion Wars: Finding a Way Forward in a Time of Polarization — Charles Camosy, associate professor of theological ethics at Fordham University, argues that despite the deeply divisive rhetoric on the issue of abortion, most Americans' beliefs fall along a spectrum where it is possible to find common ground. He suggests that most people who identify as pro-life or pro-choice could come together on policies to reduce abortion and assist pregnant women and new mothers. He is author of "Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation" (Eerdmans, 2015).
Watch the video: Stream Online»

October 23, 2017
Book Launch: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Jesuits — Rev. Thomas Worcester, S.J., general editor, and Rev. James Corkery, S.J. and Alison Fleming, associate editors, share some of the interesting items and visual richness that can be found in the pages this new volume spanning the Jesuits’ 500-year history. They also talk about the years-long process to bring the book from concept to completion. Co-sponsored with the College Committee on Mission and Identity.
Watch the video: Stream Online»

October 4, 2017
Dare We Hope for Common Ground? — Julie Hanlon Rubio, professor of Christian ethics at St. Louis University and author of “Hope for Common Ground” (Georgetown University Press, 2016), draws on moral theology and Catholic social teaching for resources on how we can find common ground with people with whom we disagree politically.
Closed Captions Available Watch the video: Stream Online»

April 6, 2017
The Gift of Modernity — Cyril O’Regan, the Huisking Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, speaks to the ambiguity of modernity from a Catholic theological and philosophical point of view. Using Charles Taylor's overarching narrative of modernity as a framework, he addresses responses and justifications of those who accept modernity as a gift, those who reject it, and those who view it with ambiguity and doubleness.
Watch the video: Stream Online»

March 23, 2017
The Crusades and Crusaders: History and Historiography — Kevin Madigan ’82, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School, offers a historical perspective on what the Crusades were and reflects on the historiography of the Crusades from the late 19th century onward.
Watch the video: Stream Online»

February 21, 2017
St. John Paul II on the Free and Virtuous Society: Democracy, the Market, and Culture — George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Catholic theologian and one of America’s leading public intellectuals. He explores the social teachings found in Pope John Paul II's encyclicals that connect culture, economics and politics. Co-sponsored with the Department of Political Science’s Charles Carroll Program.
Watch the video: Stream Online»

November 29, 2016
American Jesuits and the World: How an Embattled Religious Order Made Modern Catholicism Global — John T. McGreevy, I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and professor of history at the University of Notre Dame, speaks about his newest book, which tracks Jesuits who left Europe for America in the mid-19th century and places them at the center of the worldwide clash between Catholics and liberal nationalists.
Watch the video: Stream Online»

November 16, 2016
A Latinx Political Ethics for the Hopelessness of Our Community — Miguel De La Torre, professor of social ethics and Latino/a studies at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, argues for a Latinx political ethics which embraces hopelessness, and explores why such a move is more salvific for the oppressed than Eurocentric Christian thought. Co-sponsored with Latin American and Latino Studies and Peace and Conflicts Studies.
Closed Captions Available Watch the video: Stream Online»

September 14, 2016
Kinship with Migrants in the Year of Mercy — Kristin Heyer, professor of theological ethics at Boston College and author of "Kinship Across Borders: A Christian Ethic of Immigration" (Georgetown University Press, 2012), suggests reframing the immigration debate from one based on fears about threats to our security, economy and culture to one focused on human rights, worker rights and family ethics.
Closed Captions Available Watch the video: Stream Online»

April 6, 2016
Catholicism and Science in the Modern Era: A New Rapprochement — Vatican Astronomer Rev. David Brown, S.J. talks about the Vatican Observatory and his roles there, as well as current research and trends in astronomy. He then considers the larger questions of the universe and how scientific work fits in with Catholic belief.
Watch the video: Stream online» | Free iTunes download»

March 15, 2016
Dorothy Day: A Saint for Today — Robert Ellsberg, editor in chief and publisher of Orbis Books, worked with social justice activist Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker and later edited her selected writings, diaries and letters. He speaks about her life and service and argues for her canonization. George Horton '67, Catholic Charities Director of Social and Community Development for the Archdiocese of New York, is working on Day's case for canonization and talks about the process under way.
Closed Captions available Watch the video: Stream online» | Free iTunes download»

February 29, 2016
Patriarchy and Gender: Understanding the Spiraling Incidences of Sexual Violence on Women in India — Shaji George Kochuthara, associate professor of theology at Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, Bangalore, India, talks about the prevalent patriarchal society in India and how it contributes to escalating incidences of sexual violence and gender violence on women.
Closed Captions Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

February 4, 2016
Does Religion Promote Violence? — William Cavanaugh, director of Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology and a professor of Catholic Studies at DePaul University, talks on the myth that religion is more prone to violence than secular orders. He is author of "The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict" (Oxford University Press, 2009).
Watch the video: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

November 18, 2015
Bringing Equal Opportunity for Children to an Unequal Society — Mary Jo Bane, Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School, looks at what governments, the private sector, civil society and churches should do to make sure that all children can grow up to lead productive and fulfilling lives. Bane is former Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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October 5, 2015
Miraculous Images and Votive Offerings in Mexico — Frank Graziano, John D. MacArthur Professor of Hispanic Studies at Connecticut College, explores how Mexican devotees make petitionary and votive offerings to certain statues and paintings—the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Lord of Chalma, the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos—which are endowed with sacred presence and consequently have the power to perform miracles. His book, "Miraculous Images and Votive Offerings in Mexico" (Oxford University Press), is forthcoming in November 2015. The talk is part of Catholics & Cultures.
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September 24, 2015
Against Empathy — Paul Bloom, Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Cognitive Science Program at Yale University, draws upon his research into psychopathy, criminal behavior, charitable giving, infant cognition, cognitive neuroscience and Buddhist meditation practices to argue that empathy is a poor moral guide and we are better off without it.
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April 23, 2015
Consumerism, the Architecture of Indifference, and the Work of Solidarity — Vincent Miller, Gudorf Chair in Catholic Theology and Culture at the University of Dayton, talks about how the full consequences of our consumption are hidden from us, and how we might change these shallow economic relationships to relationships of responsibility and solidarity. He is author of "Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture" (New York: Continuum, 2003) and working on a book about how globalization is affecting religious belief and communities.
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October 28, 2014
Unconscious Racial Bias and the Challenge of Solidarity: Catholic Social Teaching Post Trayvon Martin (and Michael Brown and ...)  - Rev. Bryan Massingale, professor of theological ethics at Marquette University, is author of "Racial Justice and the Catholic Church" (Orbis, 2010). He explores the culture of unconscious racial bias, racially-select sympathy and racial isolation that make the shootings of unarmed Black men seem normal and reasonable. And he reflects on Catholic social teaching about solidarity and being our brothers' and sisters' keeper to address the problem.
Listen to the lecture: Stream Online» | Free iTunes download»

October 23, 2014
How Do People Become Catholic? Formation, Incorporation, and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults — David Yamane, associate professor of sociology at Wake Forest University, is author of “Becoming Catholic: Finding Rome in the American Religious Landscape.” He talks about the significance of Americans who convert to Catholicism and why, when the focus is more typically on those leaving the faith.
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October 2, 2014
Millennials, Parents, and Grandparents: Are families still passing on their faith? — Vern Bengtson, faculty research associate with the Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging at the University of Southern California, talks about his 2013 book, “Families and Faith: Generations and the Transmissions of Religion.” In the largest-ever study of religion and family across generations, Bengtson and his colleagues followed more than 350 families for nearly four decades to find out how religion is, or is not, passed down from one generation to the next.
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April 8, 2014
Prophetic Rhetoric in the Public Square — Legal scholar and moral theologian M. Cathleen Kaveny, the newly named Darald and Juliet Libby Professor at Boston College, will discuss how Catholics in a pluralistic society should frame their public discussion of controversial issues. She will analyze both effective and divisive forms of prophetic speech and suggest various ways in which the tension between truth and civility can be identified and managed. Read more.
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October 29, 2013
Shared Responsibility: Re-imagining the Future of Governance in the Church - Mary McAleese is the popular former president of Ireland, serving two terms from 1997 to 2011, and author of "Quo Vadis? Collegiality in the Code of Canon Law" (Columba Press, 2013). She brings her experience in civil law and governance and her study of canon (church) law to a discussion of how authority might be more effectively shared in the church for the sake of realizing the vision of Vatican II.
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March 18, 2013
God and Evolution - Martin Nowak is professor of biology and of mathematics and director of the program for evolutionary dynamics at Harvard University. His latest book, "SuperCooperators," was published by Simon & Schuster in 2011. In this talk, he proposes that cooperation is the third fundamental principle of evolution after mutation and selection. He also addresses the tension between science and religion and suggests that science does not disprove the existence of God, and evolution should pose as little a problem for religion as gravity.
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February 18, 2013
Natural Law, God, and Human Dignity - Robert P. George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and founder and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. In this lecture, he explains that, according to natural law theory, all persons possess irreducible capacities for reason and freedom, and that moral norms are rooted in the good of human beings.
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February 12, 2013
The Burial of the Dead in the Modern Novel - Pericles Lewis, professor of English and comparative literature at Yale University, is assuming duties as president of the New Yale liberal arts college in Singapore. His talk explores the theme of the burial of the dead in the work of such authors James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann, and William Faulkner.
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November 7, 2012
Coming to Terms with the Past: How our Understanding of the Christian Past shapes our Future — Kenneth Parker, associate professor of historical theology at Saint Louis University, will discuss how competing accounts of historical narrative are used to define the church today.
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October 16, 2012
Catholicism, Citizenship and Conscience: What Does It Mean to Be a Faith-filled Voter in our Polarized Society? — Bishop Robert W. McElroy is auxiliary bishop of San Francisco and the author of "Morality and American Foreign Policy" (Princeton, 1992). He holds degrees in history, political science and moral theology from Harvard, Stanford and the North American College in Rome.
Listen Online» | iTunes download»

October 3, 2012
Living in China's Highly Politicized Church Today - Rev. Paul Mariani, S.J., assistant professor of history at Santa Clara University, will talk about religious policy and conflict in the People's Republic of China since 1950 and how Catholics in China understand their faith today. He is author of "Church Militant: Bishop Kung and Catholic Resistance in Communist Shanghai" (Harvard University Press, 2011).
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April 19, 2012
Along the Boundary of Faiths: Christianity and Islam on the 10th parallel - Journalist and poet Eliza Griswold, author of The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam, talks about her travels and research in North Africa and Central Asia, where high concentrations of Christians and Muslims live together.
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Read the interview with Griswold by sociology major Emily Comstock '12

February 2, 2012
Catholic Social Teaching, Bioethics and Justice - Lisa Sowle Cahill, the J. Donald Monan Professor of Theology at Boston College, talks about access to health care in the U.S. and globally from the perspective of a theological ethicist and progressive Catholic.
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November 8, 2011
Ignatius Loyola and Why It's Not Quite Enough to Do What Jesus Would Do — Philip Endean, S.J., who teaches theology at Campion Hall, Oxford University, suggests that knowledge of God is more than any encounter with Jesus Christ and that Ignatian spirituality calls on believers to continue where Jesus left off.
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October 18, 2011
The Resurgence of Religion in Global Politics - Monica Duffy Toft, associate professor of public policy at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and director of the Initiative on Religion in International Affairs offers fresh perspectives on how and why religion's influence on politics is surging. Read more.
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April 26, 2011
Standing in the Shoes My Mother Made: My Journey to Womanism - Diana Hayes, professor of systematic theology at Georgetown University, speaks on womanist theology and themes in her 2010 publication, Standing in the Shoes My Mother Made: A Womanist Theology.
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March 16, 2011
Living with Hope in a Crucified World: Resurrection Faith, Ignatian Spirituality and Liberation Theology — J. Matthew Ashley, who chairs the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, shares a first glimpse of his new book on the impact of Ignatian spirituality on three 20th-century Jesuit theologians.
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November 8, 2010
Sacrifice and the Sacrifices of War — Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke University Divinity School, a distinguished contemporary ethicist and pacifist, asserts that war is a moral practice and its Christian alternative is worship.
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October 5, 2010
An Ecological Inquiry: Jesus and the Cosmos — Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University, will explore the traditional role of Jesus Christ as Savior of the human race and consider if his teachings can be applied to a more bio-centric or cosmos-centric theology. Part of the yearlong series In Our Lifetimes: Environmental Changes and Stewardship.
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April 7, 2010
Understanding the Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults in America - Christian Smith, director of the National Study of Youth and Religion, shares findings from the third wave of NSYR data collection of 18-23 year olds.
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October 5, 2009
The Mission of the Church in the Asian Context— Peter C. Phan, the Ignacio Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University, provides an overview of the history and current situation of Catholicism in South and East Asia and then discusses how Christian mission is to be understood in that context.
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September 28, 2009
Mystical Transfers, Local and Global: The Modernity of 'Folk' Catholicism in the Philippines — Smita Lahiri, associate professor of anthropology at Harvard University, talks about her research at Mt. Banahaw, a major center of folk-Catholic pilgrimage in the Philippines. 
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March 16, 2009
The Religious Enlightenment - David Sorkin, Professor of History and Frances and Laurence Weinstein Professor of Jewish Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison, presents a comparative Jewish, Protestant and Catholic intellectual history, and suggests that the Enlightenment, which gave birth to Modernity, should best be understood as a religious, not an anti-religious project.
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February 2, 2009
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, visits from the Vatican to talk about the church's understanding of Christian responsibility for migrants, refugees and itinerant people.
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