Lane Center Recommends

2014

A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us Can Create Hope,
Change, and Community

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Lobby recently published her autobiography, A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us can Create Hope, Change, and Community. Campbell gained public recognition after her speech at the Democratic National Convention in which she advocated for the universal healthcare and opposed Congressman Paul Ryan's proposal to cut social programs for the poor and middle class. Throughout her speech, she drew upon stories of individuals she met on the Nuns on the Bus tour. Similarly, the book narrates personal encounters that have shaped Campbell's life and have inspired her political advocacy. Campbell shares the stories of people she met during her work as an attorney for the Community Law Center in Oakland, CA and reveals her passion for promoting social justice through political advocacy. Campbell consistently grounds her commitment to the preferential option for the poor in her Catholic faith. She also shares her inspiring journey to vowed religious life and discusses what it means to be a Catholic sister in the United States today.

A Nun on the Bus: How All of Us can Create Hope, Change, and Community.
By Sister Simone Campbell
HarperOne, San Francisco (April 15, 2014)

2013

On ‘Strangers no Longer:’ Perspectives on the Historic
US-Mexican Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Migration

In 2003, the Catholic bishops of the United States and Mexico issued a joint pastoral letter, Strangers No Longer: Together on a Journey of Hope. A decade since its publication, immigration remains an important topic in Catholic social teaching and many of the insights outlined in Strangers No Longer still carry relevance. Todd Scribner and J. Kevin Appleby highlight this relevance in their edited volume, On ‘Strangers no Longer:’ Perspectives on the Historic US-Mexican Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Migration. The collection of essays features advocates for immigration reform, Catholic Church leaders, and scholars, including former guests of the Lane Center.

Part I offers a theological, historical, and pastoral analysis of immigration while part II highlights Catholic social teaching on contemporary immigration policies. The Lane Center’s 2013 Summer Scholar, Kristin Heyer draws upon Catholic social teaching to argue for pathways for legalization of undocumented migrants. She argues that current US immigration policies perpetuate family separation and create a two-tiered society in which undocumented people are denied basic rights. Catholic social teaching, she points out, grounds human rights in human dignity, not citizenship.

Part III examines the Catholic Church’s teaching and advocacy for particular populations of migrants: victims of human trafficking, refugees, and individuals eligible for the DREAM act. Past Lane Center speaker Maryann Cusimano Love presents the Catholic Church’s commitment to refugees as an expression of the preferential option for the vulnerable. Her essay highlights the root causes of the involuntarily displacement of people including conflict, religious persecution, and climate change.

The final chapters of the book look back at Strangers No Longer in order to look ahead to some of the pressing policy issues surrounding immigration, drawing upon the moral framework offered by the US-Mexican bishops to inform contemporary legislation. This book is a great resource for readers interested in Catholic social teaching on immigration.

2012

Beyond the Walls: Abraham Joshua Heschel and Edith Stein on
the Significance of Empathy for Jewish-Christian Dialogue


By Kimberly Rae Connor, Associate Professor

This text focuses on important issues for Jewish-Christian relations. By bringing into dialogue two significant figures, Abraham Heschel and Edith Stein, who have themselves had an important impact on the growing rapprochement between Jews and Christians in the last centuries, the author makes an original contribution to creative thinking and scholarly endeavor in this area.

The writing is strong and committed, touching upon a number of fundamental theological themes - suffering, guilt, memory, reconciliation and hope – which are held together by a phenomenology of empathy. The discussion is technically sophisticated and pays attention to the relevant literature. The likes of Tracy, Levinas, Marion, Mounier, Rahner, Scheler, are made to play a role in the development of a richly complex text.

Beyond the Walls: Abraham Joshua Heschel and Edith Stein on the Significance of Empathy for Jewish-Christian Dialogue
By Joseph Palmisano
Oxford University Press, USA (October 9, 2012)

The Wound and the Blessing: Economic, Relationships and
Happiness


By James Hanvey, S.J.

Pope Benedict’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, covered many important topics, not the least of which was the economy. It was a timely intervention for the world economies were beginning to enter ‘melt-down’ and their recovery is still tentative. In the Encyclical, the Pope spoke about gratuity and gift as important aspects of a new economy. To most commentators schooled to have a robust faith in the Smithonian ‘invisible hand’ of the markets and, wittingly or unwittingly, apostles Hayek et al, such language was incomprehensible. Didn’t he know that ‘the business of business is business’ i.e. profit, even at the Vatican there was no such thing as a free lunch – someone must have paid for the last supper! Yet, the Encyclical was not naïve or merely exhorting the markets to virtue. The language of gratuity and gift was well grounded in a sophisticated economic theory and practice which was well researched by certain respected European economists and economic historians. Bruni’s important and accessible short book, The Wound and the Blessing: Economic, Relationships and Happiness, not only explains the significant workings of gratuity and gift, economically and socially, he (and the school of thought which he represents) provide a refreshing and provocative alternative to the current economic orthodoxy which seems less and less convincing.

Bruni traces the origins of our current understanding of the market and the economy in terms of what he calls ‘immunitas’. That is basically a set of structured exchange relationships designed to protect us against risk and against each other. The alternative, ‘communitas’ is also traced in terms of its immediate historical roots in the 18th century (although Bruni also sketches its roots in Christian medieval religious orders). This recognizes the centrality of relationships – their capacity to ‘wound’ (when risks don’t work out) and bless (when the common good is developed and human flourishing is made more secure). His analysis argues that there is a generative relationship between the different economic models and the absent of a rich relationality leads to more than economic impoverishment. Bruni is not proposing a utopian vision but a ‘civic economy’ which recognizes and fosters economic and social reciprocity. “The thesis of this book…….is to reclaim the value, including the economic value of a more fully dimensional relationality, open to the contract but also the encounter with the other inspired by gift, by its blesng an by its wound; a relationality, therefore, open to gratuitousness…” A little reflection on our experience will quickly illustrate how in many ways we not only live this but depend upon it. The heart of Bruni’s argument is that our current economic environment is the result of ‘the famine of gratuity.’

In a stimulating chapter, Bruni examines the notion of gratuity he has made central to his thesis. He draws parallels between the classical characterizations of love: Eros, Philia and agape, and the sort of relational exchanges (economic as well as personal) they produce. This allows him to explore the idea of ‘the joyless economy’ – and economy which denies reciprocity/gratuity and therefore denies the human because the other is reduced to a ‘thing’ (the erotic narcissistic economy where there is effectively no relation except “I/I”). In the course of this discussion, many other key themes of Catholic Social Teaching are also touched on: the common good, subsidiarity etc. However, he interestingly does not develop the connection between agape and conversion. Indeed, ‘conversion’ is the missing discussion of his essay. Yet, even if we think of it in secular terms, what moves us from the orthodoxy of ‘immunitas’ to the practice of gratuity/reciprocity of ‘communitas’ if it is not some sort of ‘conversion’ – even if we are intellectually persuaded by, something more is needed to move us to practice it. Surely one of the most depressing and yet fascinating aspects of the current economic crisis is not that people do not believe that things need to change but either they don’t believe that they can change them, or they still believe that the broken model will deliver the goods once the ‘invisible hand’ is allowed to move freely.  Perhaps the deeper fallacy in our current system may be that markets and their players are governed by some deep rationality.

Bruni reminds us of the ‘relational goods’ which we also need and are frequently ignored or diminished. He also introduces the notion of ‘charism’ as ‘seeing with different eyes.’ This is an unusual definition and I am not sure that it is the right one for his purpose which is really about creative responses to social situations – the men and women who create trade unions, found savings and loan, rural banks and cooperatives. Essentially those gifted entrepreneurs of the common good who can turn problems into opportunities and help us see (and live) things in a different way.

It will be clear that although the Wound and the Blessing is a relatively short book, it provides much to think about and discuss. Bruni’s book is itself a good example of his own definition of ‘charism’ – it can help us see with different eyes. Given the bleakness of our social and economic world at present can we afford not to take a look through another optic?

The Wound and the Blessing: Economic, Relationships and Happiness
By Luigino Bruni
New City Press, New York 2012 (Trans. N Michael Brennen)

Notes for Neighbors

The Bishops Conference now publishes something called Notes for Neighbors [as in “Who is my Neighbor?” from the story of the good Samaritan] which has a wide variety of suggestions for advocacy and action. We recommend that you check out this resource. Visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website and look down the page for Notes for Neighbors to sign up. Let us know what you think.

2011

Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems

Towards Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority by the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace. This is the daunting title of the recent "note" from the Vatican calling for more regulation, indeed more global authority, over rapidly changing and increasingly powerful international financial activities. It has drawn both praise and critique, and is an important initiative applying Catholic Social Thought to these new high impact global realities.

Of Gods and Men

Last weekend, I saw "Of Gods and Men", the film based on the story of a community of Cistercian monks living in Algeria who were murdered by a group of terrorists in 1996. Seeing the movie during the Triduum allowed me to reflect more deeply on the commitment to justice and non-violence at the heart of the Christian message. The movie highlighted the difficult discernment process that led the monks to decide to stay in Northern Africa knowing that their lives were in danger. The story of their discernment reveals an uncompromising commitment to the impoverished community that they were called to serve and an inspiring dedication to each other and the common life that they had established. In one scene, a military helicopter hovering over the monastery interrupted the monks' morning prayer. In response, they embraced each other, looked toward the window, and kept chanting. This image stands out as a manifestation of the power of non-violence and the sustaining role of community in living out one's deepest convictions.

Catholic Social Teaching in Global Perspective

Catholic Social Teaching in Global Perspective, edited by Daniel McDonald SJ (Orbis: 2010). Paul VI taught us that the Church's social thought must be applied to each nation or region in its own way. Catholic Social Teaching in Global Perspective is a set of responses to that call, applying Catholic Social Thought to realities as diverse as Australia and Africa, and challenges us to continue that process in our own setting.

Catholic Social Teaching website

For a view of the British Church's approach to Catholic Social Thought, the Lane Center recommends the Catholic Social Teaching website. The website is maintained by livesimply, an organization "based on a radical idea that God calls us to look hard at our lifestyles and live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with poor people at home and overseas." Livesimply places special emphasis on the themes of human dignity, environmentalism, solidarity, community involvement, and economic justice, drawing on the modern CST movement beginning with the encyclical Rerum Novarum - "Of New Things" in 1891 and continuing up to the present with Caritas in Veritate - "Charity in Truth" in 2009.

2010

Vision

The Lane Center recommends "Vision", a film about the life of Hildegard von Bingen. With great attention to detail, German director, Margarethe von Trotta presents the life of the 11th century Benedictine abbess, mystic, herbalist, writer and musical composer Hildegard von Bingen. This movie is particularly relevant for exploring the dynamics of gender and power in the medieval Catholic Church. The movie portrays Hildegard's ongoing struggle for the recognition of her visions by an all-male hierarchy. Although some of her language and strategies would receive criticism from modern-day feminists, Hildegard was able to transcend many of the limitations women faced in the church and society at the time-educating herself in science, philosophy and theology, building a private cloister for her religious sisters, and integrating democratic processes into her leadership style. The movie successfully captures the complexity of this intriguing woman.

Benedict XVI's Caritas in Veritate: A Challenge to Business Ethics

"Benedict XVI's Caritas in Veritate: A Challenge to Business Ethics" by Jim Stormes SJ, has been published in the Journal of Religion and Business Ethics.

The True Wealth CoverTrue Wealth of Nations: Catholic Social Thought and Economic Life

The True Wealth CoverTrue Wealth of Nations: Catholic Social Thought and Economic Life, Daniel K. Finn, ed. (Oxford: 2010). This book "arises from the conviction that implementing a morally adequate vision of the economy will generate sustainable prosperity for all". It is a most serious effort at true dialogue among economists and theologians, ethicists, lawyers and activists, showing the important contribution that Catholic Social Thought can make to practical economic thinking.

The Future Church

John Allen, Jr., Vatican correspondent for the national Catholic Reporter and Vatican analyst for CNN and National Public Radio, has an intriguing new book, The Future Church. Mr. Allen writes of ten trends he sees the Catholic Church facing in the near future. The trends, a world church, evangelical Catholicism, Islam, the new democracy, expanding lay roles, the biotech revolution, globalization, ecology, multipolarism, and Pentecostalism, are thought provoking and paint a challenging and exciting future.

EQUIVOCATION

Bill Cain SJ's play EQUIVOCATION, an imaginative story of Shakespeare, the Jesuits, the Gunpowder plot and the fine points of moral reasoning, is being presented this month at the Marin Theater. Highly recommended by various USF Jesuits, the play will run every day except Mondays through April 25. 2010.