Saturday 5 July 2014

Snapshots of the Lonergan Workshop, Boston College, 2014


Dear Ivo,

Thank you so much for writing when you did. People said the Workshop was especially good this time. As is becoming usual, a cram-packed schedule. 

We certainly missed you, and did so perhaps most of all when on Tuesday, before Greg Lauzon's presentation, we asked those still in attendance (Carla Mae had to depart that afternoon for meetings of her order) to offer reflections or comments on the Jerusalem Workshop. While Tom McPartland, Warren, Cloe, Pat, and Tom McCauley made their brief and moving presentations, Pat Byrne played a loop of scenes of Jerusalem and Galilean sites in the background. Tom McP, whose orientation is historical, gave a summary of our outings, from the Mass at the site of the crucifixion to Qumran and the Dead Sea, remarking sites that he found particularly moving. Warren concentrated on an experience he had with a particular Muslim woman at the Dome of the Rock that made him realize that he was indeed on Holy Ground, where he was supposed to be. [Tish came to the Workshop for a day to reunite with the Jerusalem contingent.] Cloe spoke of how marvelous was the combination of a "scientific conference" filled with many excellent presentations with the re-visiting of sites she had already been to many times, but this time with a new impact. She also stressed how it was the occasion of special bonding, different from the Boston Workshop because of living and traveling at close quarters and the special circumstances. Pat told of the impact upon him of the distances, e.g., from Galilee to Jerusalem, which Jesus would have traveled without an air-conditioned bus, of being moved by the Via Dolorosa, and of the pleasant reunion with Mustafa Abu Sway and his family, which whom he'd had a close familiarity when, for example Mustafa's daughter whom he'd known as a child was present with her kids. Tom McA mentioned his penchant to go off on his own, e.g., floating out quite a ways off shore at the Dead Sea, and also the terrific driver who took us around. Many mentioned the role of Fr Vernet, his tireless generosity, and the gift of his books. Everyone underlined the splendid hospitality and friendliness of the Salesian Community.
It was really a marvelous recapitulation, and Sue and I told each other that it seems now like a wonderful dream that we can hardly believe was a real experience, thanks to you.

There were special talks at the Workshop, what with a still weaker Bill Murnion doing another Skype Q & A, Bob Doran previewing his plans for the 2nd volume of The Trinity in History, wonderful talks on the Church's unequivocal shift away from extra ecclesiam nulla salus by Frank Sullivan and Niki Wandinger. William George spoke of a terrific Islamic fellow in Chicago and an exemplary Cathoic learned man named Weeramantry, both of whom play mediating and peace-making roles in inter-religious contexts, somewhat like Stephanie Saldana. Dennis Doyle, ecclesiologist from U of Dayton, kicked things off with a great talk that had to do with taking both sides of the ongoing progressives/traditionalists controversies in re: Vat II, and also on other so-called 'hot-button' issues, suggesting that the higher viewpoint of an explanatory ecclesiology might help to "cool the mark" or disarm the adversaries, each of whom can have legitimate fears and concerns. Ex-BC students were outstanding: Mark Miller (on Malcolm X's life and conversion), Joe Mudd on Francis and liturgical reform, Matt Petillo on how he changed his mind from agreeing with Charles Hefling about the gift of charity as a created participation in passive spiration from the Spirit to the Father & the Son to coming to the realization that, on Aquinas's analogy for charity as friendship, it is a specifically social grace explicitly given to many, Jeremy Wilkins on the grace sufficient for salvation, and Paul LaChance on the implications of Eugene Gendlin's technique of Focusing. Carla Mae translated Pope Francis's lovely ideas about mission, friendliness, being non-judgmental into practical terms grounded in Lonergan's thought, and a Loretto sister who teaches at Regis, Gill Goulding, gave a very nice talk on the complementarity of Balthasar and Lonergan; while John Dadosky talked about how the other complementary couple, Rahner and Lonergan could contribute to the recovery of Vatican II's apercus.

On Thursday night, Gerry Whelan gave a talk linking the Pope's Argentinian orientation to liberation theology by way of a theology of the people with Lonergan's/Doran's notions of theology as mediating between a religion and a culture; and then Phillip Berryman gave a splendid summary of the social, economic, cultural and religious situation of Latin America now, contrasting the facts sometimes with the statements regarding the Church in Latin America in the statement that came out of the Latin American Bishops Conference at Apericida, upon which Bergoglio had a big influence in the writing.

Must go...

But much love and wishes to see you sooner than later!

Fred & Sue  



Dear Fred, thanks for taking the time to write all that. Much appreciated.
what is your take on Petillo's change of mind? I would be very much interested to know.

in the meantime, whelan and i will be readers of a Lonergan thesis at the Salesian Pont. U. here in Rome, in December. The thesis is on culture, and I happen to the the guide. 

Cloe and I met up in Rome before the workshop, and she tried hard to get me to send in a contribution to the Workshop, but it was not possible. things were too new for me here. but i've begun to find time once again for the journal, and for a festschrift we've been preparing, so perhaps that is a sign that i am settling down. in the meantime, Rossi de Gasperis on one side, and Jungian archetypes with John Sanford on the other side, are keeping me going. One great inspiration in the kind of work I am doing is Lonergan's comment in "The Apostolate of the Jesuit..." about an international organization working as a central clearing house for the many ongoing processes the world over... so i hope to listen and learn, and share ('good practices', not 'best practices' any more, I am told) before looking at dialectic. our main weaknesses are clearly in the area of the psyche and the spirit (human-affective and spiritual); though the intellectual remains important, we have been taking some care of it over the years. so instead of looking outward, the direction seems to be, pay attention to the subjects, and especially those subjects who are the formation team members. in short, one great direction seems to be that of preparing people to be spiritual directors. 

will be making a dash to India to see my mum who has not been well, and also to say hi to robert and co. at divyadaan, besides other places. 

as for Phyllis, I tried contacting Judith and Ben, but have no replies of late. i know she is in a nursing home. i would be happy to have news. i pray for her. it must not be easy on her. 

much love to Sue, and thanks again for writing. 

Dear Ivo,

Thanks for your reply.

We forgot to mention that Maury Schepers was part of the Jerusalem gang commenting on their experience. He was the one who especially spoke of Fr Vernet, not only as a learned and expert guide, but also, he thought, as a mystic. In his talk he continued his meditations on the Communications chapter in Method in Theology, and put Pope Francis in that context.

Cloe spoke of terms from the contemporary human sciences that might be relevant to the questions concerning the role of women in the church, esp. women's ordination, to wit: mutuality and reciprocity of male/female and husband/wife relationships, which now displace the former ways of understanding them in terms of subordination of woman to man.

Bill Mathews spoke on "Dimensions of Meaning" and of the way language structures consciousness and its operations--returning to the Wittgensteinian territory of his Leeds dissertation under Hugo Meynell (although I doubt that this link to his past expressly occurred to him). 

Also on the ex-BC list, I omitted Randy Rosenberg's critique of American and global consumerism. It reminded me of Pasolini's parody: "I am the Lord thy God who delivered you from slavery in Egypt. Thou shalt have no other jeans before you!" Which, in turn, reminds me of Leo Strauss's similar parody about the American reception of Exodus.  "I am the Lord thy God who delivered you from slavery in Egypt. Relax!"

I heartily agreed with Petillo. He did not send in a paper yet, or I would forward it to you. He adduced a number of passages in 
Method in Theology making his point plausible. 

I regard his thesis as antecedently probable in the light of the Sixth and Seventh points in The Triune God: Systematics in the treatment of the Divine Missions. In the Sixth place, Lonergan says, " a further distinction is to be made between the habit of grace [i.e., sanctifying grace] and the situation of grace." Here Lonergan points out that the participation in the divine life bestowed by this grace should be understood and conceived as having to do not just with each person, but with all the just. Then in the Seventh place, he says, "through this state [of grace] there is constituted a divine-human interpersonal situation." So he's saying that we have to expand our consideration of even sanctifying grace as the gift of a habit entitatively transforming each graced person to realize its implications for the situation (a key term in existentialism, as in J.P. Sartre's collection of essays entitled, Situations). So, a fortiori, something parallel ought to hold for the habit of charity as the created participation in the relation of passive spiration, from the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son.

Something like Petillo's point already struck me as I wrote "Grace and Friendship: Postmodern Political Theology as Conversational" (first given as a lecture at Regis College, and then published by Spaccapelo in the volume he published in honor of BL's 100th birthday, which I am attaching herewith), that Aquinas's audacity in using the analogy of friendship (basically according to Aristotle) to explain Charity in his treatise on the topic had cultural implications both in relation to the postmodern concern for the "Other" and for political theology. This seemed to be confirmed by "Finality, Love, Marriage," which I used at length in that article.

It seemed to us that the influence of Francis on the Workshop was profound, not least because of his posing the idea of the Church's mission, when one boils it down I believe, into friendliness. In relation to friendliness, the passions of the polarized factions of the post-Vatican II era seem to reject the need for friendliness even in intra-church relationships. 

This might be relevant to the "the area of the psyche and the spirit (human-affective and spiritual) as an area of concern in formation". Doesn't the issue of church as mutual self-mediation fall under the heading of friendship (as understood by Aristotle/Thomas, shorn of Romanticism and sentimentality--but not of deep feeling as related to listening)?

If you do hear, please keep us updated on Phyllis, for whom we join you in praying.


Fred & Sue

Dear Fred, 
thanks again, it's like getting a bit of the workshop in a nutshell. 
the other day, after Francis' famous house meeting with Peres and Abbas, it struck me that Francis had been opening a new way for dialogue. The sticking point between Jews, Muslims and Christians is really Christ, isn't it? and here was Francis cutting through the doctrinal by means of the interpersonal, to friendship and friendliness, to love.... 
thanks for the article. i had acquired the book last year in rome, dont know where i've sent it. 
your students were planning a collection of your articles. wonder what's become of it.
wishes once again to sue.
in friendship!

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