Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fordham’s Cardinal Dulles Society Gives a Voice Back to Catholicism

By Michelle Hardy

It’s a bit ironic when students at a Catholic university find themselves deprived of an outlet for promoting Catholic values. Countless Fordham students have complained of this lack of representation, but it wasn’t until now that someone decided to respond.

Brian Stong, a Fordham senior and former president of the campus’ Respect for Life club, is creating The Cardinal Dulles Society this spring. The club will hold lectures and facilitate discussions regarding the preservation of Catholic values within the college atmosphere, addressing both personal and campus-related issues of faith.

By giving an in-depth look at the core tenants of Catholicism, meetings will ask students to question how these concepts should be materialized in everyday college life. The club will also feature lectures by learned scholars from the Fordham community and beyond. Some potential topics of discussion will include faith and reason, Christian hope, the liturgy, and the real presence of the Eucharist.

Brian believes these lectures and discussions will provide a comfortable outlet for devout Catholics, as well as those simply interested in expanding their knowledge on the religion. He wishes for his club to serve as “…an intellectual society, a forum for learning the Catholic faith more seriously and discussing it seriously, as if it is something we actually believe.”

The Cardinal Dulles Society will also have several officer positions available for students interested in future involvement, including the office of president after Brian graduates this spring.

I was fortunate enough to have a discussion with the club’s founder regarding why this group was so greatly needed. Below is our conversation:

Michelle: During your time at Fordham, what have been your main concerns with how the University represents Catholic values through its actions and policy making?

Brian: We’re concerned with the lack of solid Catholic information we receive at Fordham. It seems that it’s assumed we all know about the Catholic faith, or else we wouldn’t have come here, but in reality it’s just not the case, even after some of us have gone to Catholic grade schools and high schools our whole lives (Here I’ll mention one of my good friends who was one such lifelong Catholic schooler and didn’t know who Judas Iscariot was when we were playing trivial pursuit).

This certainly isn’t Fordham’s fault, but when our theology requirements allow us to dodge learning about the Catholic faith by taking other options, it just seems that the University doesn’t care enough about sharing the beautiful and selfless faith that it holds and has prospered from. If we really believed that we have the right faith and that people can be saved by it, how come we don’t teach it? The Cardinal Dulles Society seeks to fill the gap and provide solid teaching on the Catholic faith. It is a direct response to the late Avery Cardinal Dulles’ proposal for a Catholicism 101 course that was not wholly welcomed by the theology department.

Michelle: Have there been any similar attempts to form this sort of organization in recent years at Fordham?

Brian: Not that I know of, but there has been tremendous growth in Christian life Communities (CLC), which I’m also proudly a member of, so we know that there is a growing number of seriously faithful students at Fordham who want to know more about their faith and continue building a solid foundation for it. The Cardinal Dulles society seeks to build the foundation with complete and total reverence for the traditional Catholic faith we have inherited and are proud of.

Michelle: What are some of the main topics your club wishes to address in this first semester of its existence? Are there any specific Fordham policies you wish to speak out against immediately? Any specific political issues?

Brian: In a way we want to rise above politics. Just like how the Gospels or the Pope don’t endorse a certain candidate, so would the Society seek to stay above politics. This isn’t to avoid contentious issues, but to realize that a certain political party or candidate really isn’t the answer to our problems, but rather Christ is. So we want to keep the focus on Christ.

Perhaps the point I’m trying to make is that there are certain times and places to be whiny and abrasive about politics, (been there, done that—ex pres of Respect for Life right here), and people definitely need to take a stand to real world evils, but this forum of the Cardinal Dulles Society helps teach the roots of the faith that are essential frameworks for being able to deal with modern political or university issues. For example, building a respect for the dignity of the person based on the Gospels and the Papal encyclicals can be indispensable in being able to deal with the modern real world issues of abortion, torture, war, euthanasia, nuclear armament, etc.

Michelle: What will you do to create a welcoming environment that facilitates cooperation among students of different spiritual backgrounds?

Brian: Certainly we’ll encourage people of any spiritual background to join and learn more about the core of the Catholic faith. Not surprisingly this will probably turn out to be mostly Catholics who join, but we would gladly welcome anyone so that they can see the great treasure of a faith we have and hopefully be inspired to join the Church themselves.

The club’s first meeting is planned for February 2nd at 7:30 pm, in a Keating room to be announced. Brian would also like to thank Joe Hill S.J., a Jesuit scholastic and graduate student, for assisting him in forming the club. If you have any questions about The Cardinal Dulles Society, you can contact Brian at stong@fordham.edu.

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