Segregation in Catholic Intellectual Life

By Martinez, Demetria | National Catholic Reporter, December 3, 1999 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Segregation in Catholic Intellectual Life


Martinez, Demetria, National Catholic Reporter


It was a slip-up that happened at the right place and the right time, a "sign of the times" that in provoking a frank discussion, might well turn out to be a blessing.

The Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs planned a conference titled: "The Future of Catholic Intellectual Life" (NCR, Nov. 5). Organizers drew up a list of the usual suspects to speak at the College of the Holy Cross Nov. 12-14. Speakers included such luminaries as Fr. J. Bryan Hehir, dean of Harvard Divinity School, and Monika Hellwig, executive director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

There was only one problem: No one thought to invite people of color.

Outrage ensued. Sixto Garcia, president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States, decried the "intellectual bigotry" prevalent in church circles.

Many whites would appear to assume that Latinos lack "the intellectual, cultural or genetic makeup to discuss thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, Karl Rahner, Maurice Blondel and others," Garcia told NCR. Diana Hayes, African-American professor at Georgetown University, observed that the program suggested that "only Caucasians could speak about Catholic intellectual life."

I've no doubt that the organizers of the Holy Cross conference had good intentions. So do the organizers of a lot of church conferences, where concerns close to the hearts of many a Catholic liberal are hammered out -- but often with little input from non-whites.

So what goes wrong? Why a segregated intellectual life in an astonishingly multi-cultural church?

First and foremost is the habit of white intellectuals to "barrioize" their Latina and Latino counterparts. (I'm using the example of Latinos here, although most of what I say applies to other groups as well.) Certainly Latinos bring expertise to topics related to Latino life. But as public intellectuals, our interests are necessarily broad.

The specific scholarly pursuits of Latinos furthermore, are as varied as those of whites. We have as much to say about celibacy and the priesthood, ecology, the just war theory and the rise of Islam as non-Latino experts is these fields. Limiting our participation to the "Hispanic Issues" panel (if there is one) of a conference makes no sense whatsoever.

What else goes wrong?

For one thing, many organizations wait until the last minute to attempt to pull off cultural diversity. Hence, the woes of "finding qualified speakers." In fact, such woes will decrease as the size of an organizer's Rolodex increase. And that should be happening year-round.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Segregation in Catholic Intellectual Life
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?