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New committee will study papal encyclical

Justin Tardiff | Tuesday, November 7, 2006

In an effort to encourage discussion and reflection in the Notre Dame community on the message of Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, “God is Love” University President Father John Jenkins has established a new committee made up of students, faculty and staff.

The committee’s first meeting will be next week, said committee chair and history professor Sabine MacCormack, and the objectives and goals of the committee are “very much at the moment in the making.”

Jenkins asked MacCormack to chair the committee earlier this semester. MacCormack said she knew Jenkins “had been thinking about how [the Notre Dame community] can reflect on what is, after all, a very important document.”

“I hope the committee will get together at our first meeting, get to know each other, and that people will have had time to think about some ideas concerning the Pontificate’s document,” MacCormack said.

To encourage discussion and reflection on Pope Benedict’s “God is Love” Encyclical, MacCormack said the committee might establish a “student essay prize” and publish the winning essay in a campus publication.

Senior Patrick Knapp, who is a member of the committee, said he has already started to reflect on the Encyclical’s practical applications.

The most interesting aspect of “God is Love,” Knapp said, is its “renewed exploration of Catholic political and social activism.”

“It essentially says that social justice is the duty of the laity to carry out in the political sphere, but efforts should be made in the spirit of love and charity; there can be no social justice without love,” he said.

Knapp said the Encyclical serves “as a sort of polite admonishment towards liberation theology, a school of thought that holds that we are called to arms, literally, to fight for social justice in the name of Christ. A crusade, if you will.”

Pope Benedict presented his Encyclical on Christmas Day 2005, drawing heavily from the First Letter of John. He cited 1 John 4:16: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” In the introduction to “God is Love,” Pope Benedict wrote that he wished “to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others.”

Jenkins’ message in the opening mass of the 2006-2007 school year echoed the challenge presented in Pope Benedict’s encyclical.

Jenkins asked members of the Notre Dame community to reflect on whether they will use education, which he described as the greatest power in the world, “for ourselves or for others.”

He prayed that the Holy Spirit would enable the Notre Dame community to “go forth in this academic year to discover, understand and express the truth, and to serve others in love – particularly those in greatest need.”

Jenkins announced the members of his new committee last week. They include theology professors Lawrence Sullivan, Larry Cunningham and Virgilio Elizondo, history professor John McGreevy, political science professor John Roos, civil engineering and geological sciences professor Stephen Silliman, and philosophy professor Gretchen Reydams-Schils.

Also included will be film, television and theater professor Susan Ohmer, Law School professor Paolo Carozza, Dean of the First Year of Studies Hugh Page, Dean of the Mendoza College of Business Carolyn Woo, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Ann Firth, Associate Vice President of News and Information Don Wycliff, student senators Danny Smith and Pat Knapp, student body president Lizzi Shappell, student Madeleine Ryland, Director of the Center for Social Concerns Father Bill Lies, preprofessional studies professor Father James Foster, Director of Campus Ministry Father Richard Warner and Senior Executive Assistant in the Office of the President Father Jim McDonald.