Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Seventy-Eighth Annual Meeting of the American Catholic Historical Association

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Seventy-Eighth Annual Meeting of the American Catholic Historical Association

Article excerpt

Report of the Chairman of the Committee on Program

The Association met at the same time as the American Historical Association at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle between January 8 and 1,1998. The days were clear and bright but unusually cold for Seattle, and a rare threat of snow, which indeed failed to materialize, had many attendees concerned about return flights. Association members praised local restaurants, the many marine and lake views, and the intimacy of the city in contrast to larger venues.

The morning of Friday, January 9, saw two sessions. A session on "Challenges to Orthodoxy in the Patristic Age," chaired by Professor Harold Drake of the University of California at Santa Barbara, heard first a presentation by Professor Elizabeth DePalma Digeser of Saint Norbert College on "Porphyry and the Arians: Christianity and Mainstream Roman Culture Professor Digeser offered the hypothesis that Arius was actually trying to strike a middle ground between Sabellianism and the theories of Porphyry that reduced Jesus to the role of a spiritual guide. Then followed Professor Christine McCann of the University of California at Santa Barbara, whose topic was, "The Pelagians and Spiritual Mentoring: Within the Tradition?" Comparing the spiritual counsels of the Pelagians to those of Saints Jerome and Augustine, Professor McCann found little difference in this area. Finally Professor R. M. Frakes of Clarion University spoke on "Defending Against Heretics: New Functions for the Defensor Civitatis in the Late Fourth and Early Fifth Centuries. Far from simply "defending, these local officials were ordered by imperial decree, under threat of heavy fines, to seek out heretics, seize their property, and whip and exile their associates. The presentations were followed by comments by Professors Alberto Ferreiro of Seattle Pacific University and Professor Michael Williams of the University of Washington.

Concurrently on the morning of January 9, Professor Mel Piehl of Valparaiso University chaired and served as commentator for a gathering titled, Alternative Perspectives on Catholic Intellectual Life." This group heard first a presentation from Professor David J. O'Brien of the College of the Holy Cross speaking on "Thomas Merton and John Courtney Murray: Perspectives on the American Catholic Experience." Using the metaphor of center/edge, Professor O'Brien compared the journeys of Merton and Murray occasioned by the problematic of being Catholic and American during the middle third of the twentieth century. He argued that Murray made a theological journey from the margin to the mainstream by developing distinct languages for civil and ecclesiastical realities. His legacy is a vision of shared political responsibility for the culturally and religiously pluralistic United States, made possible through a public philosophy based on the traditions of reason and natural law. Merton, in contrast, moved from the center of society to the margin of Catholic monasticism, and then back to a different kind of center. His legacy, O'Brien continued, is a larger, more inclusive view of the common life of humans, one that places God, not Church, at the center. Then Professor Frank Sicius of Saint Thomas University in Miami spoke on the question of "William Miller's Design: The Catholic Worker as a Foundation for a New Catholic Intellectual History," summarizing Miller's project for a Catholic history, itself having arisen from Miller's research on the "Catholic Worker." Miller believed that in the 1960's and 1970's most Catholic scholars lost their nerve for studying Catholic thought and social history and so pursued excellence as defined by Harvard and Yale. For Miller, researching and interpreting the history of the Catholic Worker Movement offered a way to search for what had been lost in the quest of Catholics for middle-class status. Miller wanted Catholic history to remain outside the modern progressive myth, instead revealing transcendent meaning. …

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