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Three Members Of Theology Dept. Featured In Moral Theology Journal

Professors Contribute Articles About Moral Theologians Of The 20th Century

Heights Senior Staff

Published: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

In a hat trick of sorts for the Boston College Theology department, three of its educators published work in the inaugural issue of The Journal of Moral Theology.     

Lisa Sowle Cahill, a professor in the theology department, Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J., University Chair in Human Rights and International Justice and a professor in the theology department, and Rev. James Keenan, S.J., a professor in the theology department, each contributed an essay to the journal about a famous moral theologian of the 20th century. Their personal ties to their respective subjects, however, offered an opportunity to pay homage to mentors and heroes in the field.

Editors of The Journal of Moral Theology invited each professor to write for the inaugural issue because of notable experience in the field of moral theology. For instance, Cahill and Hollenbach both served as president at one time in the Society of Christian Ethics, while Keenan served as the principal convener for two world conferences on moral theology. They considered the invitation an honor.

"It's a new journal that's aiming to have a notable influence, so to be invited to write for the inaugural issue of a new journal is a nice thing to do," Hollenbach said. "When they asked me, I said ‘yes' right away, and I'm sure Cahill and Keenan did, too."

Hollenbach wrote about John Courtney Murray, an alumnus of BC and the namesake of Murray House, and discussed his work regarding religious freedom. The task came easily for Hollenbach.

"I had written about him previously, and he's a hero of mine," he said.

Hollenbach's interest extends beyond Murray's legacy, though. He interacted with Murray personally while pursuing higher degrees in Baltimore.

"I participated in a number of institutes and programs that he was a speaker at, and I had gotten to know him," Hollenbach said. "I have a strong interest in social and political questions and the role of church in society, and since his main work was in the issue of church-state relations and religious freedom, it fits right in with my interests."

While Murray contributed to Hollenbach's education and shaped his interests, Cahill possessed a similarly strong connection to her subject. Her essay's focus, James Gustafson, who was a Protestant thinker, taught her at the University of Chicago. He also taught Hollenbach during his tenure at Yale University.

"Gustafson has had a huge influence on Catholic moral thought coming from the ecumenical influence of the interaction between Catholic and Protestant thought," Hollenbach said.

Keenan, just like his colleagues, wrote about a figure with whom he had a preexisting bond, his mentor Josef Fuchs, but his editors did not initially pitch that subject to him.

"I wrote about two people," Keenan said. "They asked me to write about Bernard Herring, but I chose to write about Herring and my mentor Josef Fuchs." Keenan travelled with Fuchs to Rome to work on his doctorate, and the theologian took Keenan under his wing. "He taught me how to ask questions within the context of the tradition, so I write a lot about the history of the tradition."

Keenan used his invitation to write for The Journal of Moral Theology to explore the differences between Fuchs and Herring, two moral theologians producing important work during the same time period.

"The editors liked that [approach] because then they had the two major Roman theologians being covered," Keenan said. "Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, all these guys taught at the same time, and they all taught the same thing.' They were very different from each other. Fuchs was the scholar and Herring was the visionary."

Of the seven essays in the inaugural issue of The Journal of Moral Theology, three are written by BC professors in the moral theology department. "It's a very positive statement about the quality of work BC is doing is the area of theology and social, political, economic, and personal ethics," Hollenbach said.

Keenan emphasized the importance of his colleague's work, citing the success as a team effort rather than an individual one. "BC is very well known worldwide because of the six of us in the moral theology department. It's six very strong people."

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