St. Augustine and the Conversion of a Progressive Journalist

st-augustine-3

Elizabeth Bruenig converted to Catholicism in 2014.  Her decision to unite with the church of Rome came through her reading of St. Augustine.  She describes her spiritual journey in a recent piece at America magazine.

Here is a taste:

Part of the reason I found Catholicism’s challenge to modernity so compelling was that it critiques aspects of our world that mostly go unquestioned, even by those who have disputes with liberalism in sexuality, marriage and so on. For me, the case in point was property ownership, the underlying question beneath all our current debates about poverty and wealth.

Early Christian writers, Augustine among them, thought deeply about the nature of creation. God made our material world, of course, but what for? Knowing what the bounty of the earth was meant to achieve would help them figure out how to use it rightly, that is, in accordance with God’s will for it and for us. In the view of the early church (and indeed,in the view of the church today), the world had been made and given to all people to hold in common to support their flourishing. “God made the rich and poor from the one clay,” Augustine wrote, “and the one earth supports the poor and the rich.”

Property entered the equation with sin. Since people could no longer be trusted to honor the original purpose and use of creation, governing authorities were able to maintain order by dividing it up. But the church remained sensitive to the pre-property purpose of creation, and with its own authority (throughout the Middle Ages, for instance, ecclesiastical courts heard many cases regarding property and contracts) and power to persuade states and subjects, it urged vigilance against the tendency of the wealthy to amass more than their due, to the detriment of the poor. Individual actors departed from the counsel of the church, of course, but never succeeded in altering its doctrine to advance their own purposes.

But that changed after the Protestant Reformation. 

Read the rest here, including Bruenig’s comparison of her conversion to those of conservative intellectuals R.R. Reno and Ross Douthat.

 

 

Who Was Gonzaga?

Gonzaga

For those of you settling in for the Gonzaga-North Carolina national championship game, allow me to provide some historical context for your viewing experience.

Perhaps some of you know that Gonzaga is a Catholic (Jesuit) university in Spokane, Washington, but how many of you know anything about the man for whom the university is named?

Here is a taste of a 2011 article in America Magazine on St. Aloysius Gonzaga:

Aloysius Gonzaga needs rescuing from the hands of overly pious artists. On holy cards and in countless reproductions, the young Jesuit is usually depicted clad in a jet black cassock and snowy white surplice, gazing beatifically at an elegant crucifix he holds in his slim, delicately manicured hands. For good measure, he is sometimes portrayed gently grasping a lily, the symbol of his religious chastity.

There is nothing wrong with any of those images per se, except when they obscure what was anything but a delicate life and prevent young Christians (and older ones, for that matter) from identifying with someone who was, in fact, something of a rebel.

On March 9, 1568, in the castle of Castiglione delle Stivieri, in Lombardy, Luigi Gonzaga was born into a branch of one of the most powerful families in Renaissance Italy. His father, Ferrante, was the marquis of Castiglione. Luigi’s mother was lady-in-waiting to the wife of Philip II of Spain, in whose court the marquis also enjoyed a high position.

As the eldest son, Luigi was the repository of his father’s hopes for the family’s future. As early as age four, Luigi was given a set of miniature guns and accompanied his father on training expeditions so that the boy might learn, as Joseph Tylenda, SJ, writes in his book Jesuit Saints and Martyrs, “the art of arms.” He also learned, to the consternation of his noble family and without realizing their meaning, some salty words from the soldiers. So anxious was Ferrante to prepare his son for the world of political intrigue and military exploit that he dressed the boy in a child-sized suit of armor and brought him along to review the soldiers in his employ. By the age of seven, however, Luigi had other ideas. He decided that he was less interested in his father’s world and more attracted to a very different kind of life.

Read the entire piece here.

Catholic History at the AHA

acsI hope you have enjoyed William Cossen‘s posts from the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Denver this weekend.  You can read them all here.  

Below is his final post.  He reflects on two sessions on American Catholic History.–JF

On AHA’s third day, I attended a presidential roundtable hosted by the American Catholic Historical Association, of which I am a member, titled “The Future of Catholic History: What Do Graduate Students Want to Know?”

The first presenter, Boston College’s Peter Cajka, who serves as the Graduate Student Representative to the ACHA’s Executive Council, posed five timely questions dealing with the job market and with the field of Catholic history:

1) Why are there not more positions being created at Catholic schools for junior scholars who specialize in Catholic history, and if there is only one Catholic history position open this year, what else is available for job seekers?

2) How can a scholar make a case for Catholic history when applying to general history positions?

3) Can religious historians apply for theology or religious studies positions?  Furthermore, what is really meant by “Catholic studies,” and how can historians make themselves competitive for positions in this field?

4) How can historians of Catholicism demonstrate the relevance of their research for postdoctoral positions that focus on broader issues dealing with religion?

5) How can Catholic historians articulate what it means to be Catholic and connect this to their research and teaching when applying to religious schools?

The second presenter, Shannen Dee Williams of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, spoke about her important research on black Catholic sisters.  Williams described the difficulties involved in locating sources on religious sisterhoods and then gaining access to archives holding these materials.  Looking toward future trends in the field, Williams recommended investigating the transatlantic history of Catholics of color, urging scholars to “look at those who have remained on the margins of the church.”  I have been thinking since the roundtable about a provocative question Williams posed during her presentation that historians of all fields, especially those researching figures who have been traditionally left out of historical narratives, should consider seriously: how can we reconstruct histories that were never meant to be told?

The third presenter, Kyle Roberts of Loyola University Chicago, who serves as Director of Loyola’s Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities and Project Director of the Jesuit Libraries Project, described exciting advances and possibilities in the field of Catholic digital humanities.  Roberts explained that the main activity in Catholic digital humanities has emanated from Catholic archives, which have a done a fine job making more widely available to the public important sources in Catholic history.  My own research has benefited immensely from digitized U.S. Catholic sources, and it is important to note that such popular databases as America’s Historical Newspapers also contain Catholic periodicals.  I was left with one question that I discussed with other audience members following the roundtable.  While many digital humanities projects are freely available, many others (for example, several newspaper and academic journal databases) are not, often requiring an institutional affiliation with access to a research library to utilize the sources they contain.  What can the AHA and other historical societies do to help scholars without access to such institutional subscriptions to make use of important digitized sources and to maintain active, productive research agendas?

The final presenter, Thomas Rzeznik of Seton Hall University, who serves as editor of the journal American Catholic Studies, asked the audience to consider how we can make articles in Catholic historical journals and the journals themselves more relevant to a wider audience.  Rzeznik also encouraged scholars of Catholicism to think more about what the “Catholic” in American Catholic studies means.  Rzeznik argued that too frequently, historians of Catholicism focus only on the so-called “good” Catholics, an approach which I think not only renders Catholic identity monolithically but frankly makes it much less interesting.  Rzeznik is right to call for scholars to more seriously consider in their research those who he terms “misfit Catholics” as well as those married to Catholics and those who worked or studied in Catholic institutions but were not themselves members of the faith.  This, Rzeznik argues, will “broaden our lens of who is considered Catholic.”  As far as the wider relevance of Catholic history in the historical profession goes, Rzeznik points out correctly that the “field already reflects the diversity the job market wants” due to Catholicism’s transnational, cross-cultural dimensions.  Ultimately, Rzeznik explains, scholars of Catholicism need to remain mindful of the many audiences they serve: the academy; interested lay non-scholars; and the institutional church.

I also delivered a paper Friday afternoon titled “Isaac Hecker’s American Odyssey: Rewriting the Catholic Nation in The Church and the Age.”  I argued two main points in the paper: first, the thought of Catholic convert Isaac Hecker was representative of an emerging movement in late-nineteenth-century U.S. Catholicism that espoused Anglo-Saxon racial superiority in an effort to challenge Protestant hegemony; and second, scholars have paid little attention to Hecker’s and the larger Catholic Americanist movement’s affinity for popular racial theories of the day.  This is part of the larger effort of my dissertation to revise historical interpretations of Americanism in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century U.S. Catholicism.  I argued in the paper and the dissertation that the Americanists, far from being the benign democratizers of historiography, were comfortable putting a Catholic spin on American colonization of the U.S. West and the Philippines, scientific racial theories, immigration regulation, and exclusionary formulations of the national community, which lends a darker cast to the Americanists than has been previously acknowledged by scholars.  My paper was joined by Erin Bartram’s (University of Hartford) “The ‘Use and Abuse of Reading’: American Catholics and the Debate over Reading, 1860-90” (which also examined Hecker but in an earlier period) and Luke Ritter’s (Troy University) “Where Bigotry Thrives: Know-Nothingism and the Origins of an Inclusive Civil Religion.”  Following our presentation, the panelists and members of the audience had a productive conversation on Catholicism, Americanism, historiography, and the state of the field that extended well into the evening.

This has been another fantastic AHA.  Between sessions, exhibits, and the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and friends and to make new connections with other scholars, the AHA and its affiliate organizations certainly fulfilled their goal of exploring cutting edge scholarship and building collegiality across our profession.  Safe travels, fellow historians, and see you next year in Washington, DC!

Parish Boundaries

parishWhen I first read John McGreevy’s Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter With Race in the Twentieth-Century Urban North (1996) I thought he was describing my upbringing in an Italian and Slovakian enclave of northern New Jersey.  It is a great book.

So needless to say I have been enjoying the forum on the 20th anniversary of Parish Boundaries over at the Religion in American History blog.  The final post in the series comes from McGreevy himself.  Here is a taste of his reflections:

So how did I get to that dissertation, entitled, as Lila Berman noted, “American Catholics and the African-American migration, 1919-1970”? It’s a short story. I wandered into graduate school, as we might say, without a “research agenda.” I wavered between high school teaching and college teaching and in fact I  ended up teaching for a time at Hales Franciscan high school, an African-American Catholic high school on the south side of Chicago. At Stanford I loved the coursework and enjoyed working with superb and generous faculty such as David Kennedy and George Fredrickson, ultimately the first and second readers on my dissertation. But I agonized over a dissertation topic.  I did a seminar paper on 19th century populism in California. I did one on draft resisters in California and even wrote a dissertation proposal on the topic.[i] I finally settled  on Catholics and race after reflecting on my own life and that of my parents, very much  raised in a Catholic milieu, with both of my parents having gone to Catholic grade school, high school, college and, for my father,  medical school and then both working in catholic hospitals for much of their professional lives. This Catholic milieu – roughly 25% of the US population and a standard topic in, say, German history —  seemed absent from the literature on United States history.

But what would be my angle?  Probably no topic seemed as exciting to graduate students at Stanford as “race” broadly construed, and George Fredrickson’s work, and more distantly that of David Roediger, Barbara Fields and others animated late night conversations.[ii] And then like Amanda Seligman I read Arnold Hirsch’s Making the Second Ghetto:Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960 (Cambridge, 1983).  Hirsch mentioned Catholics episodically and I started following his footnotes, which led to a full summer going through the Catholic Interracial Council papers in the Chicago Historical Society archives. The late Archie Motley befriended me there and pointed me to other local sources and archives. I even ended up, I should add, marrying and raising four children with a local  archivist. So I had a topic.

Read the rest here.

Mary Beth Connolly: "A Historian Walks into a Religion and Theology Conference and…."

Cross-posted from One Solid Comfort

In another post from the floor of the American Academy of Religion annual meeting, Mary Beth Connolly discusses her experience as a historian at a religion conference.  This post was originally written for her blog One Solid Comfort.  We appreciate Mary Beth allowing us to publish it here. For Mary Beth’s previous cross-listed post click here.-JF
Yesterday, I had another full day at the AAR/SBL in Atlanta.  In the morning I attended a session on Anti-Catholic Protest, saw some friends that I met while working at the LFP, and then participated in the Women’s Caucus’ publishing Roundtable.
In the morning, I attend the North American Religions Section’s panel Protesting Catholics: The “New Anti-Catholicism” and the Politics of Public Religion in North America.  Amy Koehlinger, Oregon State University, presided, and Anthony Petro, Boston University, Hillary Kaell, Concordia University, Montreal, and Kathleen Holscher, University of New Mexico presented.  Robert A. Orsi, Northwestern University, responded.
[Disclaimer: I did try to attend a panel that did not involve a Catholic theme.  Really.   I just really wanted to see what these presenters had to say.]
This panel looked at more recent events in Catholic studies and included a examination of AIDS activists and use of camp in the late 1980s and early 1990s (Petro), Québécois feminist protests in Montreal in the early 2000 (Kaell), and contemporary Native American protest (Holscher). The last presentation looked specifically at the recent canonization of Junipero Serra as a means of looking at the larger protest movement.
This panel was engaging, thoughtful, and challenging. Like the West/Sales plenary from the day before, I need more time to really process the ideas offered.  One takeaway is the idea that Catholicism or Catholicity is not fixed.  The recent assertion that there is a “new” Anti-Catholicism originating from liberal democracy and more specifically from the Left was challenged by the panel.  Left and Right, Liberal and Conservative, Anti-Catholic and Catholic do not fit the reality of these protest movements.   I found Hillary Kaell’s paper about Québécois feminist very compelling as she argues that these activists are seen as a part of a French Canadian Catholic culture.  With Petro, Holscher, and later Orsi’s response, I took away a better understanding of (what I secretly believed, thank you panel) a broader Catholic belonging.  The conversation actually reminded me of Terrence Fishers’ The Catholic Counterculture Among the many things Fisher does in this book is talk about how Jack Kerouac is formed by Catholicism. (Fisher talks a lot about Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement in this text, too.)
The other thing I took from this panel and haven’t quite finished chewing on it is a new understanding of Public Catholicism.  I call this a new understanding on purpose, because of David O’Brien’s 1996 book, Public Catholicism.  The book was not mentioned, but I imagine it was in the back of people’s minds.  O’Brien writes about an earlier period and a different immigrant/American church. What the panel (and Holscher in particular) articulated was something different.  And here is what I am chewing on.  How is it different and what does that mean?  Or is it different?  Still chewing.
After that, I spent the afternoon looking around, having lunch with a friend, and catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while.  I hadn’t expected to see many of these lovely people, so that made my afternoon quite fun.  Then, came the roundtable.
I must confess, I was a bit nervous.  I didn’t know anything about the Women’s Caucus.  What would the roundtable be like? How would the presentations go? Would I keep to time? (Nope.) Would anyone want to be in my breakout group?  As it turned out, it was a wonderful experience and I got to meet some lovely people all engaged in the project of advancing and incorporating scholarship by and about women in a thought and meaningful way (read: not as additive or other in the cannon).
I have a lot to say about this panel and this post is getting long. And I have to head to the airport! More soon.  For now, thank you AAR/SBL 2015, it was an interesting and enjoyable time!

The Battle Over Pope Francis Historicized

I think it is pretty clear by now that many Catholics–mostly conservative Catholics–are not big fans of Pope Francis. Mark Silk, writing at his blog Spiritual Politics, connects the current criticism of Francis to the Neo-Jansenist challenge to papal authority in the 17th century.  I don’t know enough about Catholic history to fully endorse this comparison, but I do find some interesting parallels between the two eras.  Here is a taste of Silk’s piece:

The conservative Catholic intellectuals who are increasingly unhappy with Pope Francis hark back to the Jansenist purists who fought with the Jesuits in 17th-century Europe and were eventually swatted down by the papacy.
They were strict moralists who followed their patron Saint Augustine in embracing predestination, separating the sheep from the goats the way the Calvinists of the time did. They attacked the Jesuits for laxity to sinners, and when the pope proved unsympathetic to their views, they questioned papal authority.
Sound familiar?
Today’s neo-Jansenists are likewise moral sticklers, focused laser-like on the twin evils of abortion and same-sex marriage, They are driven crazy by a Jesuit pope who tells them to stop harping on those issues, whose most famous remark is, “Who am I to judge?

In the rest of the post Silk talks about Ross Douthat’s recent blog post, the way that critics of Francis have embraced the “spirit of capitalism,” and the connection between the Francis critics and the neo-Calvinists who are influential today in American evangelicalism.

Rev. John Hugo and American Catholicism at the AHA/ACHA

Father John Hugo

What?  You have never heard of Rev. John Hugo?  If you are interested in the priest whom Dorothy Day credited for her “second conversion,” check out the session entitled “Rev. John Hugo and American Catholicism, 1911-1985.  It is session 16 of the meeting of the American Catholic Historical Association and it will be held on Friday, January 3rd from 2:30-4:30.

Here are all the details:

In 1980 David J. O’Brien described Dorothy Day as “the most significant, interesting, and influential person in the history of American Catholicism.” This panel will explore the life and influence of the person whom Day credited for her “second conversion,” which she experienced after attending one of the famous silent retreats given by Fr. John Hugo, Catholic priest of Pittsburgh. Each panelist will take up a different aspect of Hugo’s work: pacifism during World War II, theological innovation and national influence, and pastoral leadership in suburban Pittsburgh in the 1950s and 1960s. 
Panel Participants
Assistant Professors Jack Downey (Religion-La Salle University, PA), Benjamin Peters (Religious Studies-University of St. Joseph, CT), and Charles Strauss (History-Mount St. Mary’s University, MD) will each present a paper on John Hugo. 
DavidJ. O’Brien, formerly the University Professor of Faith and Culture at the University of Dayton and Professor Emeritus of History at the College of the Holy Cross, will respond to the panelists’ papers. 
HowardJ. Gray, S.J., Special Assistant to the President at Georgetown University, will serve as chair of the panel. 
Paper Abstracts
Limits of Obedience: John Hugo and Resisting the Military State
Jack Downey, La Salle University (PA)
In a 1976 interview with Dorothy Day biographer William Miller, Fr. John Hugo offhandedly hypothesized that he may have been “the first American priest to defend conscientious objectors.”  Although this claim is flatly erroneous, John Hugo did contribute a significant clerical voice to the project of Catholic pacifism.  Particularly during the World War II period, which preceded Gaudium et Spes’ – albeit rather tepid – recognition of conscientious objection to military service as legitimate, Hugo was part of a miniscule faction within American Catholicism that resisted U.S. involvement in the Allied confrontation.  Hugo viewed his pacifism as an external expression of his internalization of radical Christianity – the Gospel of the Sermon on the Mount.  Although he served as her spiritual director for a time, Hugo credited Dorothy Day with converting him to pacifism, following their first encounter in 1940.  For Hugo, pacifism was a manifestation of the properly-formed interior life, in a world that could no longer “justify” war.  This paper will examine the development of John Hugo’s dissent regarding militarism and his “Gospel of Peace,” as well as locate him within the broader American and Christian pacifist traditions. 
Beyond “The Retreat”: The Significance of John Hugo for Mid-century American Catholicism
Benjamin Peters, University of Saint Joseph (CT)
When mentioned at all in American Catholic studies, John Hugo is almost always associated with Dorothy Day and the retreat she embraced in the 1940s. While his connection with the Lacouture retreat movement is certainly Hugo’s primary claim to fame, I would argue that he is significant beyond this association. For throughout the 1940s-50s, Hugo wrote a series of books, pamphlets, and articles in which he revealed a theological vision that had much in common with some of the major currents emerging in Catholic theology in the first half of the twentieth-century. Indeed, in my paper I will argue that in his theological perspective, his efforts at ressourcement to justify and defend the retreat, and his clear critique of the form of neo-Thomism that dominated Catholic thought at the time, Hugo shared striking similarities with prominent Catholic theologians in Europe who were working during this same period, particularly Henri de Lubac, S.J.—a connection made by Day herself in The Long Loneliness. That theologians like de Lubac would go on to profoundly shape Catholic theology in the second half of the century suggests that the radical Christianity put forth by Hugo—often marginalized by scholars—was not from the theological fringes, but rather was much closer to the center of the Christian tradition. And as he was one of the few Americans at the time articulating these kinds of theological arguments—albeit in a less sophisticated way than his European contemporaries—Hugo is significant for American Catholicism.   
John Hugo and Catholic Parish Life in Cold War Pittsburgh
Charles T. Strauss, Mount Saint Mary’s University (MD)
If John Hugo is known at all outside of his home of Pittsburgh it is because of “The Retreat” that he directed for Dorothy Day and other Catholic Workers, for his pacifism during World War II, or perhaps for the theological controversy that surrounded his writings and eventually got him temporarily silenced. However, Hugo worked on theology and spiritual retreats in his spare time: his day job was serving as a priest and pastor in the Diocese of Pittsburgh from 1942 to 1970. Hugo, who had tried street preaching in the 1930s, was no ordinary pastor. He prohibited bingo and all gambling fundraisers in his parishes and still managed to build a church and school in suburban Pittsburgh in the late 1950s. He scorned cigarettes when most of his congregation, not to mention the local bishop, smoked regularly. He achieved active lay participation in the liturgies at his parish four years before the opening of Vatican II; in 1970, then Bishop John Wright of Pittsburgh named him chair of the Worship Commission for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. He supported the nascent charismatic movement and was a magnet for Catholics searching for a different kind of worship. For a priest who had once been accused of Manichaeism, Hugo was, by all accounts, an effective pastor and community builder. This paper will locate John Hugo in the historical context of Catholic parish life in Cold War era Pittsburgh and assess how suburbanization in one of America’s industrial powerhouses affected Hugo’s life and work. In so doing, it will also present a microhistory of Catholic conflict and reform in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Who Will Be the Next Pope: Clues from Past Conclaves

David Perry, a history professor at Dominican University, looks to the past for clues about who might be the new Pope.  He makes some interesting points in his recent piece at The Atlantic:

1.  The process of voting for a new Pope is not an “authoritarian relic of the past.”  Actually it’s “the same kind of democratic tradition that permeates modern American and European life.”

2.  Can we really expect the Cardinals to keep the rule of secrecy in an age of e-mail, texting, and other forms of digital communication?  Perry notes that the College of Cardinals have a long tradition of breaking the rules of papal selection when they are not convenient.

3. A slow election is a sign that a dark-horse candidate could emerge.

4.  Sometimes the conclave has chosen an “administrator” Pope to replace an “intellectual” Pope.  Benedict XVI was an intellectual.

Read the entire piece here.

The Holy Spirit and the Conclave

Matt Schmalz of the College of the Holy Cross explains the role of the Holy Spirit in the papal conclave.  His piece is a reminder that the conclave, above all else, is a deeply spiritual event.  Here is a taste:

When thinking about the papal conclave, it often comes down to what you believe about “inspiration” and how to get it.

When Catholics talk about religious “inspiration,” they usually are thinking about the Holy Spirit. In Catholic doctrine, the Holy Spirit is the third part of the Trinity. The Catholic catechism refers to the Holy Spirit with the pronoun “he,” and Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “paraclete,” the “consoler” or “he who is called to one’s side.”

For Catholics, the Holy Spirit comes through baptism, and through the other sacraments.  But he also comes in ways we do not expect.  Knowledge and wisdom are among the seven gifts that the Holy Spirit brings to sanctify a person.  There are also special or “charismatic” graces associated with Holy Spirit that are specific gifts related to a particular task or vocation for the common good.

All these gifts of the Holy Spirit figure into how the conclave is designed.

The Mass is more than a ceremony to inaugurate the proceedings. It is a sacrament that bestows grace on those who are properly disposed.  The meditative chanting of “Come Holy Spirit” is not only a petition or plea, it is a way of quieting one’s mind and heart, so that the Holy Spirit can be felt and heard.

Does Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston Have a Chance?

Michael Sean Winters, writing at The New Republic, explains how we can get our first American Pope.  Here is a taste:

This last scenario could produce the first American pope in the person of Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley. O’Malley captured the hearts of the Roman people in the last few weeks: A Capuchin friar who prefers wearing his brown friar’s habit to the scarlet red vestments of a cardinal, O’Malley’s simplicity is accessible and endearing. Known for cleaning house in Boston after the sex abuse scandal erupted there in 2002, and enjoying wide contacts with the Church in Latin America, O’Malley also benefits from the fact that there are three other well-placed Franciscan cardinals in the conclave: the archbishop of Durban, South Africa, the former archbishop of Seville, Spain, and a Brazilian cardinal who worked at the Vatican. If these men started promoting the candidacy of their fellow Franciscan among their compatriots, the O’Malley bandwagon could gain steam quickly as Wojtyla’s candidacy did in 1978. The difference: O’Malley is an American, and some cardinals will hesitate to turn the papacy over to anyone from a country they think controls enough of the world already.