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Posted March 30, 2005

Book: Creed and Culture: Jesuit Studies of Pope John Paul II
Edited by: Joseph W. Koterski, S.J., and John J. Conley, S.J.
St. Joseph’s University Press, Philadelphia, PA, pp. 256

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

On of the most important events that took place in Rome during the Great Jubilee Year was the International Conference on Science and Faith, “The Human Search for Truth: Science, Philosophy, Theology. The Outlook for the Third Millennium,” held at the Vatican from the 23rd to the 25th May 2000, as part of the Giubileo degli Scienziati. “Science” is here understood in the broadest sense, thus encompassing the experimental sciences, the human sciences, and the sciences of the spirit — philosophy and theology. Organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture, this conference emphasized the search for truth as a distinctive feature of all scientific inquiry by promoting a rediscovery of the sapiential dimension of the sciences: that is, research into nature and humanity must include a deeper awareness of its human dimension and of the human values which undergrid it, so that as knowledge of the world increases, so too will the ethical values that give life meaning.

An Excerpt from the Book:

By “new evangelization” I mean the evangelization called for by Pope Paul VI in Evangelii nuntiandi and then by Pope John Paul II in a variety of statements. The new evangelization is clearly not a matter of preaching a new Christ or a new gospel. What then is new about it? The evangelization called for is new in the conditions under which it occurs, new in the methods it employs, and, we may hope new in its intensity. The papal call for this new evangelization comes in the wake of what John Paul has spoken of as the “extraordinary grace” of the Second Vatican Council, and can be understood as part of the Church’s reception of the Council. The call for a new evangelization is issued, then, during the extended period of debate within the Church over the proper interpretation and reception of the Council’s teaching. The call for a new evangelization has obviously not terminated this debate, but it can and should contribute to the debate by focusing attention on what we as a Church can say and must say to the contemporary world.

The documents on the new evangelization and evangelization of culture insist on the need to evangelize not simply individuals, but also the cultures in which those individuals grow up and are formed. They point to a number of salient features, both strengths and weaknesses, of contemporary culture in general and American culture in particular. The focus on the crucial difficulty presented by the widespread denial of objective truth about the human person and morality. They call attention to the troubling influence of the culture of death on American culture.

. . . The new evangelization of American intellectual culture will require elements of pre-evangelization, that is, discourse aimed at removing obstacles to the reception of the gospel message. My first suggestion, then, is: let’s not be afraid of apologetics., that is, of a frank statement of the contents of Catholic belief and of their presuppositions, together with arguments for the truth or at least the reasonableness of these beliefs and presuppositions. In recent years “apologetics” has become something of a pejorative term in Catholic circles. But Paul Griffiths has argued forcefully that apologetics is necessary for meaningful interreligious dialogue, and I think the same is true for the new evangelization.

My second suggestion is: don’t just think ism, think people. The encyclical Fides et ratio and the other documents that bear on intellectual culture and the new evangelization speak in necessarily general terms about tendencies and trends of thought (positivism, fideism, rationalism, nihilism, and so on.). But people are always more than instances of isms. To put the evangelization of culture into practice, we need to supplement our grasp of general principles with particular and concrete knowledge of significant figures in American intellectual culture. If each of us could become thoroughly conversant with one or two of these people, and with the obstacles that make it difficult for them to be converted or to profess the Christian faith in its fullness, that would be a great advance.

Third, we have to articulate more thoroughly and more expressively than we have done, a Christian interpretation of the culture of freedom. John Paul II, following long tradition, has been speaking of genuine freedom and contrasting it with spurious freedom. An authentically Christian conception of freedom could make a strong appeal to the intellectual culture and to American culture generally, but the Holy Father’s idiom and tone sometimes make his message almost inaccessible to American intellectual culture. Here let me borrow from the Protestant writer Kathleen Norris. Her Amazing Grace may not be a great book, but it illustrates the kind of revival and freshening of language that we need if we are to communicate to the intellectual culture.

Fourth, it will be important for us to study and intervene in the culture’s debates over liberty and equality or autonomy and entitlement, over particularism and cosmopolitanism, over the theory and practice of education, over gender and sexuality. For example, Catholic elementary and secondary education, currently the stuff of cheap satire and low humor, but also of political debate, may in the long run be a crucial piece of evidence for the truth about human beings, evidnece of a kind that people in the intellectual culture ought to take seriously; and if so, that is more important than the current agitation about public funding for Catholic education. And for that matter, how many people currently know, or care, what the Catholic tradition might have to say about the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO, or other aspects of the contemporary international capitalist economy?

Table of Contents:

Creed and Culture: An Introduction
John J. Conley, S.J.

1. The enrichment and transmission of faith in the theology of John Paul II
Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J.
Response: John M. McDermott, S.J.

2. John Paul II the countercultural pope
Martin R. Tripole, S.J.
Response: William S. Kurz, S.J.

3. The distant country of John Paul II
Raymond Gawronski, S.J.

4. A critical reading of Pope John Paul II’s understanding of culture
John C. Haughey, S.Y.

5. The new evangelization of American intellectual culture: context, resistances, and strategies
Arthur R. Madigan, S.J.
Response: Christopher M. Cullen, S.J.

6. Pope John Paul II and the new age movement
Mitchell Pacwa, S.J.

7. John Paul II and the interreligious dialogue
Joseph A. Bracken, S. J.
Response: Earl C. Muller, S.J.

8. Karol Wojtyla, artist; John Paul II, theologian of art
John J. Conley, S.J.
Response: Dennis McNally, S.J.

9. John Paul II on the priesthood
Cardinal Avery Dulles
Response: Lucien F. Longtin

10. The desire for fulfillment: comments on an issues raised in the Letter to Families
Peter F. Ryan

11. Nature and grace after the baroque
Sephen Fields, S. J.