Where Does Cardinal Levada Find Hope?

Yesterday, John Carroll University, my homeinstitution, presented Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for theDoctrine of the Faith, with an honorary degree. At the ceremony Cardinal Levada gave our annual Margaret F. Gracelecture sponsored by the Cardinal Suenens Center on the theme: Where Do I FindHope? (The text of the address shouldbe available soon in Origins.)

I cannot possibly do justice to the entire talk here, butone theme was particularly striking. Cardinal Levada insisted on the importance of rightly understanding therelation between reason and faith as a necessary step to building bridges ofdialogue across religious traditions and between those who accept theexistence of God and those who do not. Interestingly, Cardinal Levada cited an opinion piece in the International Herald Tribune by Mark C.Taylor, the scholar of religion at Williams College, in making thispoint.

Taylorwrites: Religious conflict will be less a matter of struggles between beliefand unbelief than of clashes between believers who make room for doubt andthose who do not. The warning signs areclear: Unless we establish a genuine dialogue within and among all kinds ofbelief, ranging from religious fundamentalism to secular dogmatism, theconflicts of the future will probably be even more deadly. (A recent WallStreet Journal piece that conveys the stridency of secular dogmatism, As Religious Strife Grows, Europes Atheists Seize Pulpit is available here to WSJ subscribers.)

This might not seem like the ideal sentiment to appeal to ina talk on the theme of hope, but Cardinal Levada was clear in suggesting thatan appropriate understanding of faith and reason leaves room for a rationalexploration of faith and doubt. The factthat, unlike secular dogmatism, the Catholic Church understands reason to becompatible with faith and doubt, the Cardinal seemed to say, is precisely whythe Church can be an agent of hope in the midst of religious conflict.

For an interview with Cardinal Levada, see the April 30,2007 issue of America magazine.

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