Saturday, March 27, 2010
Thursday evening I had the honor to give the 2010 Prophetic Voices Lecture at Boston College. The annual lecture is sponsored by the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, under the direction of Alan Wolfe. Professor Wolfe was an exceptionally gracious host, and it was a wonderful opportunity to get together with old friends and make new ones. Sitting in the audience next to Professor Mary Ann Glendon was theology professor Frederick Lawrence who, many years ago, tutored me on the epistemology and cognitional theory of Bernard J. F. Lonergan when I attended summer workshops devoted to Lonergan's thought at B.C. (I was, at the time, an undergraduate student at Swarthmore.) Also in the audience was philosophy of science professor Patrick Byrne, to whom I would often go for help when Professor Lawrence's explanations went over my head. Jorge Garcia of the Department of Philosophy was there, as was Peter Skerry of the Department of Political Science. These are two scholars from whose writings I've learned a great deal over the years. Like my host, the audience was very gracious, sitting through my nearly Castro-length speech (almost an hour-and-a-half) without complaint. Before the speech, I had the opportunity to spend a bit of time at the Boisi Center and meet its impressive young staff. The Associate Director, Erik Owen, who completed his Ph.D. under Jean Bethke Elshtain at the University of Chicago, exudes not only competence, but also intellectual and moral seriousness. Professor Wolfe is lucky to have landed such a talent---and he knows it. My Prophetic Voices Lecture was the ninth in a series that goes back nearly to the founding of the Boisi Center. The first was given in 2002 by Fr. Bryan Hehir. Among others who have given the annual lecture are Rabbi David Saperstein, Sister Helen Prejean, Jim Wallis, Rev. Peter Gomes, and Kathleen Townsend Kennedy. For obvious reasons, one of the participants in the lovely dinner held after my lecture referred to me (jokingly---I think) as "the affirmative action prophetic voice." However, that may be, I am grateful to Professor Wolfe and the B.C. community for the honor of speaking in the series, and for their graciousness (and patience).