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School of Theology and Ministry

April 2013
Pope Francis waving

Papal reaction roundup


“He looks like a fisherman. He looks like a man who will seek out the lost and the lonely,” Matthew Janeczko, O.F.M. Cap., M.Div. ’13, S.T.L. ’14, told the Boston Globe as he watched Pope Francis emerge for the first time on the balcony of St. Peter’s on March 13.

The unexpected election of former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the first Jesuit pope, brought a swarm of reporters and camera crews to the Boston College campus, and spurred scores of media requests for context and comment from STM students and faculty. They offered a range of perspectives. Assistant Professor of Hispanic Ministry and Religious Education Hosffman Ospino, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, expressed joy for the election of an Argentine, noting, “The present and future of Catholicism in America and the U.S. is pretty much linked to Hispanics.”

Others were more cautious. “There will be a lot of Catholics to the left on social issues that will simply have to wait until the next pope,” Thomas Groome, professor of theology and religious education, said in an interview with NECN. Professor of Moral Theology James T. Bretzke, S.J., who spoke with several local and national media outlets, agreed.

“Amongst the Jesuits, he has a reputation as being rather conservative, traditional, and that was somewhat troubling,” said Bretzke. On the day he was elected, however, Pope Francis “appeared as a man of prayer, a man of simplicity, a man of gentleness, and a man of openness, which I found encouraging because that hasn’t been his reputation,” he added.

Several STM faculty unanimously applauded the Pope’s initial blessing. Professor of Systemic Theology Richard Lennan praised the “immediate warmth” Francis conveyed by bowing after asking his audience to pray for him.

Like many of fellow members of the Society of Jesus, Bretzke said he was shocked that a Jesuit had been elected. “Supposedly, an early warning sign of the end of the world is when a Jesuit is elected pope,” he told USA Today with a laugh.

STM Faculty Panel

Papal panel


Two weeks before the papal election, three theology department faculty joined STM Professor of Moral Theology James T. Bretzke, S.J., for a panel discussion, “The Papacy after Benedict XVI,” sponsored by the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life and STM.

Fr. Robert P. Imbelli reviewed what he described as Benedict XVI’s strengths, including his focus on Christology, and faults, including a lack of accountability. Fr. James Weiss examined the election’s unprecedented circumstances (for one, “The cardinals don’t know who is safe to trust”). And Mary Ann Hinsdale, I.H.M., suggested reforms such as including lay organizations in papal elections. Bretzke contrasted the end of Benedict XVI’s papacy with that of John Paul II, and predicted that His Holiness’s resignation would mark a “major paradigm shift” in Vatican tradition.

The panel dismissed the likelihood of an American Papa. “Most Americans really do lack the perspective necessary for this job,” Bretzke said. When moderator and dean Mark Massa, S.J., asked whom the panelists would argue for, Bretzke and Hinsdale lauded Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila; Weiss, Italian Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi; and Imbelli simply asked for discernment. Benedict XVI’s resignation has “relativized” the papacy, he said, and reminded parishioners “the pope is not the Church.”

STM Professor Chris Matthews at Podium with Dan Harrington, SJ

Harrington and Matthews release book


Students and faculty filled the Theology and Ministry Library atrium gallery March 20 to celebrate the release of Encountering Jesus in the Scriptures (Paulist Press, 2013), a collection of contemporary scholarly essays exploring who Jesus was in the first century—and what he might mean in the 21st. 

STM professors Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., and Christopher R. Matthews, who edited the collection, each presented examples of modern New Testament scholarship included in the book. Harrington offered a seven-point “big picture” survey of New Testament studies and noted that theologians’ perspectives have shifted on both Jesus’s relationship with Judaism and on Paul’s teaching. Matthews focused on the Gospel of Luke. Luke, in his prologue (he was the only disciple to write one), wrote that he wanted to present an “orderly account” of Jesus’s life, said Matthews. For early Christians, this meant not a chronological but a “rhetorically persuasive account,” he added, eliciting murmurs and “hmms” from the crowd.

Second Annual Dean’s Colloquium on Religion and Public Culture

Income Inequality and Our Responsibility to the Poor
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
7:00 p.m., Gasson 100

The widening income gap between America’s rich and poor raises profound moral and ethical questions. Respected thinkers from four religious traditions will reflect on how our collective theologies consider and confront income inequality. RSVP »

Faculty news

Richard J. Clifford, S.J., was the featured presenter at the annual convocation of the bishop and clergy of the diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, where he gave five talks on “How the Bible Enriches Our Priestly Ministry.”

Christopher Frechette, S.J., presented “Understanding ‘Bless the Lord’ as a Formal Greeting in an Audience with the Deity” at the Boston Theological Institute’s Old Testament and Hebrew Bible Colloquium.

Dominic F. Doyle contributed a chapter, “Transposing Richard McKeon’s Philosophic Pluralism into a Theological Key,” to New Voices in Catholic Theology (Herder and Herder, 2012).

Thomas A. Kane, C.S.P., took part in a three-day workshop at St. Paul’s College in Washington, D.C., on designing liturgical space.

Melissa Kelley gave presentations at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, the Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg, South Carolina, and a meeting of the South Carolina Society of Chaplains in Columbia on contemporary understandings of grief.

Mark Massa, S.J., spoke at St. Mary’s Seminary in Cleveland, Ohio, on training lay students and ordination students together.

Hosffman Ospino was one of three project editors of Biblia Católica de la Familia, a Spanish-language Bible with more than 600 commentaries (Verbo Divino, 2013; sponsored by the Center for Ministry Development).

Nancy Pineda-Madrid contributed a chapter, “Redemption, Latinas, and the Contribution of Rosemary Radford Ruether,” to Voices of Feminist Liberation: Writings in Celebration of Rosemary Radford Ruether (Equinox, 2012).

Thomas D. Stegman, S.J., published a paper in Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, and two in The Pastoral Review.

Andrea Vicini, S.J., lectured on “Catholic Bioethics and the Irresistible Progress of Biotechnology” as part of the Institute of Catholic Studies lecture series at John Carroll University, University Heights, Ohio.

More news »