New pope’s age, name, Jesuit history clues to future, says Curran

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., now Pope Francis, in 2008
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J., now Pope Francis, in 2008. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

News that Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio would become Pope Francis revealed “two significant surprises,” says Father Charles Curran, SMU’s Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values and one of the nation’s foremost experts on Catholic theology.

The first surprise? Pope Francis’ age: “He is 76, and will be 77 this year,” Curran says. “Every bishop and archbishop is expected to retire at age 75, so his age is older than what people thought the new pope’s age would be. Perhaps a precedent has been set with Pope Benedict XVI, and most Cardinals weren’t afraid of going beyond retirement age.”

> Curran in The Houston Chronicle: Picking a pope for the 21st century

Next, his name: “His selection of the name ‘Francis’ after Saint Francis of Assisi reflects that he’s obviously a very simple man,” Curran says. “He gave up the archbishop’s big house in Buenos Aires to live in a modest apartment. He takes public transportation to his office. That says he’s not very high on the trappings of the church.” What’s more, Curran notes, “Everybody loves St. Francis, whether Catholic, Protestant or Jewish. Francis is universally respected for his commitment to peace, poverty and ecology, so one would expect those to be significant issues for the new papacy.”

While Curran doesn’t expect Pope Francis will try to change any great teachings, “I do think he will be more open to dialogue about issues of social importance,” he says. “Having been a Jesuit priest and superior, he is used to having a collegial, brotherly relationship with others — and taking a less down-from-on-high approach to decision making.”

Written by Denise Gee

> More on Pope Francis in The Dallas Morning News

Women’s health advocate Sandra Fluke to speak at SMU Sept. 24

Women's health advocate Sandra FlukeWomen’s health advocate Sandra Fluke — the Georgetown University law student Rush Limbaugh verbally attacked earlier this year for supporting contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act — will be at SMU Monday, Sept. 24, 2012 to discuss “Economics and Equality: How Obstacles to Women’s Health Care Access Affect Us All.”

Fluke’s appearance is set for 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater and is free and open to the public. It is sponsored by SMU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program with support from Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, Embrey Human Rights Program and the Office of the Provost.

On the heels of her speech at the Democratic National Convention Sept. 5, and her March testimony before a Democratic steering committee, “Sandra Fluke is emerging as one of our most outspoken advocates for reproductive rights and women’s health issues,” says Beth Newman, director of SMU’s Women’s and Gender Studies Program and associate professor of English.

“Our goal is not to stage a debate between adversaries who hurl worn-out sound bites at one another. We want to offer students and the community an informed discussion about the relationship between reproductive rights and women’s health and how the conversation plays out in the media.”

Joining Fluke for the panel discussion will be:

  • Charles E. Curran, SMU’s Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values, “who can provide insight, as a moral theologian and loyal dissenter within the Catholic Church, into some of the issues Fluke raised in her testimony last March,” Newman says.
  • SMU Associate Provost and Dedman School of Law Professor Linda Eads, who can add legal expertise to the discussion.
  • Ken Lambrecht, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of North Texas, “who can speak about how the Texas legislature’s recent defunding of all Planned Parenthood clinics is affecting women’s health,” Newman says.
  • Event moderator Karen Thomas, professor of practice in Meadows School of the Arts. The award-winning journalist has 25 years’ experience covering the news as well as health and family issues.

For more information, contact the SMU Women’s and Gender Studies Program.

Written by Denise Gee

> Read more from SMU News

Reserve by April 29 for 2011 Faculty Club Awards BBQ

SMU Faculty Club logoThe Faculty Club will honor an outstanding professor and administrator for service to the University community at the 2011 Faculty Club Awards BBQ. The celebration begins at noon Wednesday, May 4 at the SMU Faculty Club – reservations are due Friday, April 29.

Charlie Curran, Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values, will receive the Mentor Supereminence Award, recognizing a faculty member for exceptional mentoring of SMU faculty and students. Stacy Paddock, executive director, alumni giving and relations, will receive the Distinguished Service Award, recognizing Faculty Club members for extraordinary service to the club.

The cost for the barbecue is $5 for Faculty Club members and $10 for non-members. RSVP by Friday, April 29 to Dee Powell, 214-768-3012 – or respond and pay online at the Faculty Club events webpage.

Calendar Highlights: Oct. 27, 2010

Charles CurranChurch controversy: SMU’s Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility has promoted the upcoming lecture by Charles Curran as the story of a man raised within the Catholic church who famously clashed with many of its leaders on just about every social issue possible, including premarital sex, masturbation, contraception, abortion, homosexuality, divorce, euthanasia, and in vitro fertilization. The tipping point came for Curran in 1986, where he was ousted from teaching at Catholic University of America schools despite having tenure. (The man responsible for Curran getting the boot? Josef Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict XVI.) Curran (right), now SMU’s Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values, speaks about his challenges as a “black sheep” of the Catholic family in “The U.S. Catholic Bishops and Abortion Legislation: A Critique from within the Church” at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 28 in the Hughes-Trigg Ballroom. For more information, call 214-768-4255.

Service of Memory: The University’s annual Service of Memory will take place at noon Thursday, Oct. 28 in Perkins Chapel. The service honors SMU community members who have passed away during the past year and is organized by the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life and Perkins School of Theology.

A future for books? Bridwell Library, DeGolyer Library and Friends of the SMU Libraries/Colophon are hosting a special lecture by the Director of Rare Book School and University of Virginia professor Michael F. Suarez, S. J. on the future stock of old-fashioned books and their “digital surrogate” replacements. In this lecture, Suarez will show the ways in which our changing technological and cultural times are determining the way we view text formation and comprehension itself. The lecture is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28 in the Great Hall, Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall. Free parking is available for this event only in the Meadows Museum Parking Garage. Attendance is free, but RSVPs are required – respond online or call 214-768-3483.

Prado at the Meadows logoSpanish flair: SMU’s Meadows Museum hosts a faculty/staff reception celebrating its “Prado at the Meadows” partnership with Madrid’s renowned Prado Museum. Freixenet wines, hors d’oeuvres and Spanish guitar music will be provided. The party is scheduled for 4:30-6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29 in the Museum.

Modern MSO: SMU’s Meadows Symphony Orchestra takes a stroll through more (relatively) modern composers for its second show of the season, with pieces by Soviet-born Giya Kancheli, French composer Henri Tomasi, and Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. Dallas Symphony player and faculty member John Kitzman is the featured trombone soloist on the Tomasi piece, aptly titled Concerto for Trombone. The performances begin at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29 and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31. Tickets are $7 for SMU faculty, staff and students. For more information call 214-768-2787 (214-SMU-ARTS).

Curran elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Charles CurranCharles Curran, SMU’s Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values, is among 229 leaders in the sciences, the humanities and arts, business, public affairs, and the nonprofit sector who have been elected members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Academy announced April 19, 2010.

The new Fellows and Foreign Honorary Members join one of the world’s most prestigious honorary societies. A center for independent policy research, the Academy celebrates the 230th anniversary of its founding this year.

The new class will be inducted in an Oct. 9 ceremony at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Curran’s fellow inductees will include journalist Christiane Amanpour, director Francis Ford Coppola, dancer Suzanne Farrell, actors John Lithgow and Denzel Washington, Microsoft software architect Ray Ozzie, and jazz musician Sonny Rollins.

Curran joined SMU in 1991 and is a moral theologian and ethicist revered on campus for his scholarly reputation. He is considered by fellow theologians to be one of the greatest moral theologians of the 20th century.

“Curran is certainly one of the leading teachers and scholars in Christian ethics in North America,” says Robin Lovin, the Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics and former dean of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology. “Through his many books and his work as a teacher, he has made a whole generation of Protestants more aware of Catholic moral traditions, and he has introduced Catholic scholars to a more ecumenical approach.”

He has served as president of three national academic associations: The American Theological Society, Catholic Theological Society of America, and the Society of Christian Ethics. He also has been named The New York Times Man in the News and ABC TV Person of the Week. He has authored and edited more than 50 books in the area of moral theology.

'Catholic Moral Theology in America' book coverCurran’s research and teaching interests include fundamental moral theology, social ethics, the role of the Church as a moral and political actor in society and Catholic moral theology. His latest book, Catholic Moral Theology in the United States: A History, won the 2008 American Publisher’s Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence in Theology and Religion. Other publications include Loyal Dissent: Memoir of a Catholic Theologian (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2006); The Moral Theology of Pope John Paul II (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2005); and Catholic Social Teaching 1891-Present: A Historical, Theological, and Ethical Analysis (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2002).

The newest members of the Academy include scholars, scientists, jurists, writers, artists, civic, corporate, and philanthropic leaders who have won of the Nobel, Pulitzer, and Shaw Prizes; MacArthur and Guggenheim fellows; and Grammy, Tony, and Oscar Award winners. The current membership includes more than 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners. A complete list of the 2010 class of new members is located at the Academy’s website (PDF format).

Established in 1780 by John Adams and other founders of the nation, the Academy undertakes studies of complex and emerging problems. Its membership of scholars and practitioners from many disciplines and professions gives it a unique capacity to conduct a wide range of interdisciplinary, long-term policy research. Current projects focus on science and technology; global security; social policy and American institutions; the humanities and culture; and education.

For the Record: March 19, 2009

'Catholic Moral Theology in the United States' book coverCharles Curran, Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values, has won the 2008 American Publishers Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (PROSE Award) in Theology and Religious Studies for his book Catholic Moral Theology in the United States: A History (Georgetown University Press). Presented by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers since 1976, the PROSE Awards “annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in over 35 disciplines,” according to their website.

Elaine Heath, Perkins School of Theology, has been elected to the Executive Council of the Wesleyan Theological Society.

Randall Griffin, Art History, Meadows School of the Arts, has been named to the Student and Emerging Professionals Committee of the College Art Association for 2009-12. He is also a member of CAA’s Board of Directors.

Faculty in the News: April 25, 2008

Charles Curran, Elizabeth Scurlock University Professor of Human Values, participated in a Q&A in The Dallas Morning News April 20, 2008, concerning the significance of the first U.S. visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

William Lawrence, Theology Dean, spoke about the issues facing the United Methodist Church during its General Conference in Fort Worth with The Dallas Morning News April 23, 2008.

Al Niemi, Business Dean, discussed the factors that have allowed Dallas to surpass New York City as home to the most Fortune 500 companies in BusinessWeek magazine April 22, 2008.