James F. Keenan
James F. Keenan, S.J., is Canisius Professor and Director of the Jesuit Institute and the Presidential Scholars Program at Boston College.
By this author
On March 2, 1955, 15 year-old Claudette Colvin, was riding a Montgomery Alabama bus and was told by the bus driver to give up her seat for a white woman.
Colvin had just come from class and was studying Negro History month. She and her classmates had been studying figures Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. And they were also talking about all the contemporary injustices of the Jim Crow Laws.
“I drove 9 hours from Ljubljana to Krakow, from Slovenia, through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and then into Poland. I travelled through five countries and I was stopped at no border. We are now a Europe without borders. Are we European theological ethicists without borders?
With these words, Slovenian Theological Ethicist Roman Globokar opened the conference on “Faith and Morals: Contemporary Challenges: Reorientation of Values; Change of Moral Norms?” last Friday in Krakow.
His words were at once challenging and welcoming. For many years European Catholic theological ethicists met in their own countries or within their own language group, but last year the leaders of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church (CTEWC at http://www.catholicethics.com) invited a small representative group of ethicists from across Europe to Berlin to discuss the possibility of reaching beyond the normal and of deepening and strengthening a connection among ethicists in both Eastern and Western Europe.
Ten days ago, Santa Clara University hosted, “Conscience and Catholicism: Rights, Responsibilities, and Institutional Policies,” the brain child of David DeCosse, Director of Campus Ethics at the University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Kristin Heyer of the Religious Studies Department and DeCosse together invited 15 presenters from 7 countries (Argentina, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Philippines, and the US).
A study completed two years ago asked college students at 17 colleges and universities: "How important to you personally is helping to promote racial understanding?" The question was posed three times: upon arriving at college, at the end of freshman year, and at the end of senior year. The researchers reported that each time the question was asked, the interests diminished: the longer students were in college,
In September 1982, I moved to Rome to do a licentiate and a doctorate at the Gregorian University. I wanted to study with Josef Fuchs, SJ, who had just retired but told me he would direct my dissertation. He suggested that in preparation for the degree I should do my licentiate course work and thesis with Klaus Demmer, MSC. A fellow Jesuit studying at the Gregorian told me that many thought Demmer, who died July 18 at the age of eighty-three, the greatest European moral theologian of his generation. I had never heard of him.
Fuchs and Demmer proved to be very different from each other: Fuchs was clever and friendly, hosting doctoral students in the Gregorian’s dining room and then later in his room where we would retire to drink and share stories. Demmer was shy and frail; the only time I went to his room was to discuss my licentiate. None of us socialized with him; if we discussed anything with him, it was usually a recent lecture of his.
It was in the main aula of the Gregorian where Demmer was in his element. Before his lecture, he would pace back and forth across the enormous foyer collecting his thoughts. At the break, he would do the same. We never interrupted him because we knew that his lectures to the two hundred of us would be memorable. More than thirty years later, they remain so.