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Pontifical Conference at Franciscan University Strengthens Ties With North America

This was the first in a series of conferences designed to promote faith and culture in North America

Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2009

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Pontifical Conference Attendees
Conference Attendees: Some of the attendees at the From Sea to Shining Sea Conference. From left, bottom row: His Excellency, Most Reverend R. Daniel Conlon, bishop of Steubenville; His Excellency, Most Reverend Glen Provost, bishop of Lake Charles, Louisiana; Steubenville native, His Eminence, Most Reverend Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston; His Excellency, Most Reverend Allen Vigneron, archbishop of Detroit; His Excellency, Most Reverend William Friend, former archbishop of Shreveport Louisiana, and member emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Middle Row: Dr. Margaret Hogan, McNerney-Hanson Professor Emeritus of Ethics, professor emeritus of philosophy, University of Portland; Mr. Mark Ryland, president & senior fellow, Institute for the Study of Nature; Dr. Pia de Solenni, Diomita Consulting, LLC; Miss Lisa Wheeler, executive vice-president, The Maximus Group; Monsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca y Alameda, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Back Row: Dr. Max Bonilla, vice president for Academic Affairs, Franciscan University, and coordinator of the From Sea to Shining Sea Conference; Mr. Richard Rouse, official of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

STEUBENVILLE, OH—In an unprecedented move designed to strengthen Vatican dialogue with North American audiences for years to come, the Pontifical Council for Culture held its first From Sea to Shining Sea: Faith and Culture in North America Conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

From December 2-4, 2009, conference members gave major public addresses on faith and culture, preached at student Masses, and devoted long work sessions to mapping out a series of meetings in North America on the arts, political life, science, music, secularization, atheism, economics, and other topics.

“This first meeting serves as the launching pad for what in years to come will be known as an important point of reference among influential members of society disposed to engage in an open, respectful, and intense conversation concerning the truth of our world and our place within in it,” said Dr. Max Bonilla, conference coordinator and vice president for Academic Affairs at Franciscan University.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, Dr. Max Bonilla
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston gestures during a panel discussion while Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit and Dr. Max Bonilla, vice president for Academic Affairs at Franciscan University listen.

Bonilla said that future From Sea to Shining Sea conferences will be held at various locations in North America, to which “learned individuals of all faiths or of no faith at all” will be invited to dialogue with council members and other leading Catholic intellectuals. “What unites us is a sincere desire for truth and to support the common good,” he said.

Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca y Alameda, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, presented one of two public talks—the Henkels Lecture, “The Church’s Engagement With Science After Darwin and Galileo: Overcoming Cultural Icons.”

He said that over the centuries the secular media and some members of the scientific community have portrayed Galileo and Darwin as “victims of the Church’s relentless persecution of science.” Msgr. Sanchez said the historical evidence leads to a different conclusion.

In the case of Darwin and his theory on the origin of species and evolution, Sanchez said, “The indisputable facts, shown in recent research conducted in the archives of the Holy Office, is that the Vatican authorities never condemned the theory of evolution.” That some of Darwin’s works were put on an index of prohibited books falls short of the “heretical label,” he said, and was in fact a prudent move, given broad skepticism toward the theory at the time from the broader scientific community.

Monsignor Melchor Sanchez Pic
Msgr. Melchor Sanchez speaks in Christ the King Chapel during the From Sea to Shining Sea Conference.

As to the Church’s reaction to Galileo’s theory that the earth revolved around the sun, Sanchez said that while the Church initially labeled Galileo’s theory as heretical and placed him under house arrest, “As soon as the scientific arguments grew stronger, theological resistance decreased.” The heretic label was dropped, with the Church adapting in step with scientific analysis.

He called both cases “unique” and not representative of the Church’s ongoing relationship with science.

Sanchez said the secular scientific community often points to the Galileo and Darwin affairs to block the Catholic Church from commenting on euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and other contemporary bioethical issues. “In the case of euthanasia and experimentation of human embryos we’re dealing with a person who cannot be reduced to the category of an object,” Sanchez said. “These issues concern the totality of man as a person with immediate consequences of an ethical nature. They can’t be compared to the Galileo affair.”

In a second public talk, Council for Culture official Mr. Richard Rouse underscored the importance of the From Sea to Shining to Sea conferences. "The council now aims to strengthen the dialogue between faith and reason in North America…whose cultural mentality has a huge effect on the rest of the world.” Rouse added, “I don’t think Europe is aware of the great work being done in America on the life issues.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo at Mass
Steubenville native, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo preaches a homily during Mass in Christ the King Chapel during the From Sea to Shining Sea Conference.

Council for Culture members and invited guests who participated in the conference included Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of the Archdiocese of Detroit, retired Bishop William Friend of the Diocese of Shreveport, Louisiana, and Bishop Glen Provost of the Diocese of Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Cardinal DiNardo, who was born in Steubenville, preached on the evangelistic mission of St. Francis Xavier at the December 3, Mass for the University community. Archbishop Vigneron and Bishop Friend also celebrated Mass and gave homilies to the student body.

Dr. Bonilla said Franciscan University “was honored to serve as the host site for what, with God’s blessing, will be a strong network of communication for a fruitful dialogue in this area of the world for years to come.”

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