"In verbo veritatis" (2 Cor 6:7)

June 22, 2022

J. C. Murray and the Everson and McCollum Cases

<p>The Church-and-State case decided by the Supreme Court yesterday, June 21, 2022, is sure to prompt interest in the Court’s decisions in two famous cases of the late 1940s, a time of great debate on the issue, particularly between Catholics and Protestants in the United States. The cases are known as “Everson” and as “McCollum.”<br />John Courtney Murray was very actively involved in presenting and defending the Catholic position, not only by several popular articles but also by helping the NCWC prepare amicus curiae briefs for the Supreme Court and by commenting on the Court’s eventual decisions. <br />Here is a history of Murray’s involvement as I was able to reconstruct it from considerable archival research. The essay is close to thirty years old and does not, then, take into account any secondary literature that may have appeared in the time since.</p>
<pre class="wp-block-syntaxhighlighter-code aligncenter"><a id="wp-block-file--media-7c7a2dd4-127d-4455-9ab9-4b9be1a4860a" href="https://jakomonchak.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/jcm-on-everson-mccollum-cases.pdf">JCM on Everson & McCollum Cases</a><a class="wp-block-file__button wp-element-button" href="https://jakomonchak.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/jcm-on-everson-mccollum-cases.pdf" aria-describedby="wp-block-file--media-7c7a2dd4-127d-4455-9ab9-4b9be1a4860a">Download</a></pre>
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March 23, 2022

Last day or first?

Filed under: Essays — komonchak @ 4:40 pm

 A couple of days ago, the NY Times had a piece on a nun who in recent years “has made it her mission to revive the practice of memento mori, a Latin phrase meaning ‘Remember your death.’ The idea is to intentionally think about your own death every day, as a means of appreciating the present and focusing on the future.” It is not morbid, she says, to remind yourself that you will die. It can, instead, intensify your living, focus your attention, sharpen your insights, balance your judgments, inspire your decisions.  

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/17/well/family/jane-brody-birthday.html
And now another column in the Times discusses turning 80–”the new 60″, someone said.  Those of us who have passed that milestone, and those hurtling towards it, will find a good deal of the essay resonates with them.  One remark struck me:

“I was still in high school when my mother died of cancer at age 49, and her premature loss became a lesson for me to live each day as if it’s my last with a keen eye on the future in case it’s not.”

That lesson goes back at least to Marcus Aurelius: “Perfection of character is this: to live each day as if it were your last, without frenzy, without apathy, without pretence.” But it was also anticipated by Plato and his injunction, “Practice dying.”

I wonder if that ancient maxim might be reversed and say: “Live everyday as if it were your first.” I was reminded of this by recalling a medieval poem that imagined how Adam and Eve, taken to have been created as adults, must have been astonished at everything they encountered as they wandered around in Eden, seeing everything for the first time, delighting in it all, giving names to the thrilling variety of creatures their eyes encountered, until evening came and the sun disappeared and they had no way of knowing whether it would return and they experienced their first night, and then their joy when they welcomed their first sunrise….
Living everyday as if it were our first is also a way of practicing the wonder that Aristotle said is the beginning of philosophy. We can see that wonder at work in little children as they thrill at new things and pester us with the countless questions by which they are trying to make sense of things, by which they are assembling their world. So, it’s not too late, even for octogenarians: “Practice wonder!”

One of the desert Fathers said each day: “Today I begin again, start again!”

January 30, 2021

Defending the Catholic Common Ground Initiative

The Catholic Common Ground Initiative promoted by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin turned out to reveal divisions within the hierarchy of the United States. The controversy soon involved theologians as well, two of whom, Fr. Avery Dulles and Prof. David L. Schindler, strongly criticized the notion of dialogue they believed to underlie the Bernardin proposal. Fr. Dulles’s essay was delivered as the McGinley Lecture at Fordham University on November 19, 1996, and then published as “The Limits of Dialogue” in Crisis (February 1997): 16-19, and then again, much later, in Church and Society: The Lawrence J. McGinley Lectures, 1988-2007 (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008) 221-233. Professor Schindler’s critique was published as “On the Catholic Common Ground Project: The Christological Foundations of Dialogue,” Communio, 23 (1996): 823–5.

It may be that it was an article by Jim Cosgrove, “The Common Ground Project and the Art of Dialogue,” which appeared in the National Catholic Register, on April 6, 1997, that led me to get involved. I dimly recall that I communicated with the editor of the newspaper, Joop Koopman, who invited me to write about the controversy. The result was the following long essay which he published in full in the pages of a journal that had always been rather conservative editorially and in 1995 had been bought by the Legionaries of Christ. In my accompanying letter, dated April 25, 1997, I wrote to Koopman: “I thank you for the invitation to contribute this. I appreciate it that the Register is interested in this kind of ‘dialogue’.” It was not long afterwards that he was replaced as editor of the newspaper, and I wondered whether his publishing of my critique had anything to do with his departure.

JAK – In Defense of the Common Ground Initiative

August 30, 2019

Episcopal conferences

Filed under: Essays, Foundations in Ecclesiology, Uncategorized — Tags: , — komonchak @ 5:04 pm

The Final Report of the 1985 Synod of Bishops called for a clarification of the theological and canonical nature of episcopal conferences. Even though the Report could be taken to be calling for theologians and canon lawyers to undertake that task, the Vatican took this to mean that they should appoint a committee to do the clarifying.  The result of this was an “Instrumentum laboris” (working paper) sent out to the bishops of the world.  It would receive severe criticisms from many episcopates, including that of the USA for which I wrote a lengthy critique which was adopted by the bishops.

A symposium on episcopal conferences was held at Georgetown University, the results of which were published in a book. I was asked to write an introduction explaining what the controversies were that surrounded the institution and then to offer a theological assessment of the working paper. Both essays are available here: JAK – Two essays on episcopal conferences .

The official text that came out of the Vatican effort is entitled Apostolos suos. It will be seen that the critiques of the draft had little effect, and this text presented a very narrow vision of the conferences which are basically seen as threats to the pope or to diocesan bishops, or to both.

Pope Francis has asked that the question of the role and authority of episcopal conferences be re-opened. These essays, then, if of little effect forty years ago, may have some pertinence today.

December 19, 2018

Performative Ecclesiology

Asked to participate in a little symposium on Giuseppe Ruggieri’s book Chiesa sinodale, I wrote this essay, which has just been published in Cristianesimo nella Storia. The introduction by Silvia Scatena is in Italian, but my piece is in English.  What I mean by “performative ecclesiology” will be clear, I hope, from this little essay. Briefly it means that ecclesiology should never forget that the Church is not a “thing,” but is en-acted in and as the subjectivity and inter-subjectivity of its members.  Comments, questions, disagreements are all welcome.

JAK – Performative ecclesiology

March 31, 2018

Newman on Easter

Filed under: Essays, Newman — Tags: , , — komonchak @ 11:56 am

The sixth volume of John Henry Newman’s Parochial and Plain Sermons gathers sermons for Lent, Holy Week, Eastertide, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday; it makes for rich, nourishing spiritual reading. One of the best of these sermons is the one I give here, on “The Difficulty of Realizing Sacred Privileges.” Note that “realizing” here means “making real to oneself,” and recall how much Newman made of the distinction between “notional” and “real” assent: the first is assent to ideas and tends to be abstract; the second is assent to concrete realities. What Newman is urging in this sermon is a real assent to the blessings which Christ’s resurrection has brought to oneself, to us.

Sermon 8. Difficulty of Realizing Sacred Privileges 

This is the Day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Ps 118:24.

It is always very difficult to realize any great joy or great sorrow. (more…)

December 28, 2017

Humani generis and “la ‘nouvelle théologie'”

This chapter in the book Ressourcement is adapted from a talk I gave at the the convention of the Catholic Theological Society of America
Milwaukee, Wisconsin – June 8, 2001. This is the first paragraph of that talk:

Last year was the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, Humani generis. The anniversary does not appear to have been celebrated anywhere. When I was in Rome a month ago, I inquired at the Libreria Vaticana located in St. Peter’s Square about any symposia that might have been held and published for the event. Not only did the clerk not know of any such commemoration, he was not even able to find a copy of the encyclical for sale. Inquiries at other bookstores in Rome had the same result. La Civiltà Cattolica took no notice of the anniversary and, to judge from the English-language edition, neither did L’Osservatore Romano. The annual indices of Documentation Catholique and of Origins list no mention. Now it is hard to prove a negative, so it is risky to say that no one anywhere noted the anniversary, but there is a good chance that the Catholic Theological Society of America is the only body in all of Christendom that has marked the occasion, and even we are meeting a year late.

JAK – Humani generis

December 23, 2017

And the Word became…

Filed under: Essays — Tags: , , — komonchak @ 9:39 am

St. Augustine taught rhetoric–the art of persuasion–and his own mastery of the art is never displayed more convincingly than in his sermons. He delighted in exploring the paradoxes that lie at the heart of the Christian claim: that the Word became flesh; that he who was rich became poor so that we might be enriched by his poverty; that the instrument of death became the tree of life; etc. Here, in preparation for Christmas are four ways in which he sang variations on the theme of the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel.

And the Word was made syllables

There is a single message [sermo] of God spread throughout all the Scriptures, a single Word [Verbum] sounding through the many mouths of the holy. Although this Word was in the beginning, God with God, it was not expressed in syllables then because it did not exist in time. And since it descended and took on the weakness of our bodies, it should be no surprise that for the sake of our weakness it also made use of our tiny sounds. (EnPs 103[104]/4, 1; PL 37, 1378) (more…)

November 24, 2017

Toward a synodal Church

Filed under: Essays, Foundations in Ecclesiology — komonchak @ 8:42 pm

This is the paper I gave at a Vatican symposium devoted to re-thinking and re-structuring the Synod of Bishops, in February 2016. I attempt to identify the reasons why some cannot understand the need for synodality, co-responsibility at all levels.

JAK – Synodality

April 10, 2016

The Ordination of Women

Filed under: Essays, Uncategorized — Tags: — komonchak @ 1:38 pm

In November 1975, a conference in Detroit on the ordination of women attracted over a thousand participants. One of the results was the determination to hold similar conferences around the country. In the Spring of 1976, an all-day meeting on the topic was held in the Borough of Queens, in New York City, and I was invited to speak at it.

I constructed my talk as a commentary on a document issued in 1973 by the Committee on Pastoral Research and Planning of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops that gave various arguments against ordaining women to the priesthood. I rapidly reviewed seven of those arguments and offered my opinion about them.

Meanwhile, the acts of the Detroit Conference were being prepared for publication. Someone alerted the editor, Sr. Anne Marie Gardiner, to my paper and she expressed a desire to include my talk in the volume, but because it was so late in the editorial process, it could appear only as an appendix to that book, Women and Catholic Priesthood: An Expanded Vision (New York: Paulist Press, 1976). My essay also appeared in The Catholic Mind, 75 (1977) 13-28.

It was to such movements, of course, that subsequent magisterial statements were to respond.

You will find the essay here: JAK – Ordination of Women

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