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The Lumen Christi Institute

Catholic Talk

The Lumen Christi Institute for Catholic Thought was founded by Catholic scholars at the University of Chicago in 1997 to bring the light of Christ and the Catholic intellectual and spiritual tradition to the secular academy and the general public. On this station we make available our many lectures and programs, as well as interviews with visiting scholars. To support our work, visit


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The Lumen Christi Institute for Catholic Thought was founded by Catholic scholars at the University of Chicago in 1997 to bring the light of Christ and the Catholic intellectual and spiritual tradition to the secular academy and the general public. On this station we make available our many lectures and programs, as well as interviews with visiting scholars. To support our work, visit






The Vocation of a Theologian: The Legacy of Pope Benedict XVI

A webinar discussion with Russell Hittinger (Lumen Christi Institute), Tracey Rowland (University of Notre Dame, Australia), and Fr. Thomas Esposito, O.Cist. (University of Dallas), moderated by Fr. Andrew Summerson (University of Toronto; Lumen Christi Institute). Originally recorded May 7, 2023. Presented by the Lumen Christi Institute, The Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, First Things, and The Portsmouth Institute for Faith and Culture. -- From his role as a key peritus at the Second Vatican Council, a professor in Germany, to his tenure as prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Ratzinger was a part of almost every Catholic theological conversation in the latter half of the 20th century. As pope, he brought his lifetime of learning to bear on his preaching, encyclicals, and continued publishing. In this webinar, our panel looks back upon Pope Benedict’s theological vocation and offers perspectives on his enduring legacy and witness.


Race and Justice In America

A panel discussion with Herschella Conyers(University of Chicago Law School), Darren Davis (University of Notre Dame), andBrandon Viadyanathan (Catholic University of America), moderated by Judge Thomas More Donnelly (Cook County). This event is part of the Lumen Christi Institute's Catholic Criminal Justice Reform Network. --- National conversation about racial bias in law enforcement has become increasingly polarized over the last year. Some deny the existence of any widespread discrimination, while others see systemic racism as an inextricable part of American criminal justice, and call for defunding or even abolishing police forces. Professor Brandon Vaidyanathan says that racial bias in the criminal justice system is more complicated. A number of factors, including personal prejudice, laws and policies with racist origins, and broader cultural disparities that reflect the history of American racial discrimination, all contribute to a system that is neither irredeemably racist nor free from racial bias. Recognizing this complex interplay of problems, says Vaidyanathan, can help us move toward solutions. Join Brandon Vaidyanathan, Herschella Conyers, and Darren Davis for a conversation moderated by Cook County Judge Tom Donnelly, as they discuss race in contemporary American criminal justice and a path to equality in a fractured nation. This event is cosponsored by the Institute for Human Ecology, and was originally broadcast as a live webinar June 23, 2021.


René Girard, Conversion, and the Present Media Moment

An online panel discussion with Professor Grant Kaplan (Saint Louis University), Carly Osborn (University of Divinity), and Fr. Steve Grunow (Word on Fire), moderated by Cynthia Haven (National Endowment for the Humanities). While social media has become a source of meaning and identity formation for many, its dangers have become clear in recent years, from promoting disinformation to algorithm-aided polarization. Despite these dangers, can social media be a medium for the Gospel? Does a model for discipleship within social media exist? René Girard’s theory of mimesis or imitation provides a powerful diagnostic for analyzing aspects of human behavior and culture that contribute to the current media climate, including rivalry, escalation, and scapegoating. It also points towards the fragile possibility of positive mimesis: imitation of Christ. This panel draws together Girard scholars and Catholic media experts to explore how Girard’s analysis can inform our understanding of the current media climate and how we might approach social media as a space for evangelization and conversion. Originally broadcast May 27, 2021


The Crisis of Mysticism: Quietism in 17th Century Spain, Italy, and France

A webinar conversation with Bernard McGinn (University of Chicago), David Tracy (University of Chicago), and Sandra Schneiders, IHM (Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University), moderated by Willemien Otten (University of Chicago). The Crisis of Mysticism (Herder & Herder, 2021), by Bernard McGinn is the first book in English in seventy years to give a full account of the struggle over mystical spirituality that tore the Catholic Church apart at the end of the seventeenth century, resulting in papal condemnation of some mystics and the decline of mysticism in Catholicism for almost two centuries. Join Professors McGinn, David Tracy, and Sandra Schneiders for a conversation on "The Crisis of Mysticism," moderated by Professor Willemein Otten. Originally broadcast May 6, 2021. This event was co-sponsored by the Collegium Institute, the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion, and Herder & Herder.


United by Their Loves: Deciphering Augustine’s Understanding of a People

A webinar discussion with Jennifer Frey (University of South Carolina), Russell Hittinger (Lumen Christi Institute), and Fr. Michael Sherwin, OP (University of Fribourg). Originally broadcast as a live webinar May 1, 2021 The president in his inaugural address quoted Augustine of Hippo’s definition of a people as “a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.” This surprising event offers us the occasion to consider Augustine’s definition and its implications for our understanding of life in society: what role do our loves play in fashioning us as people? Can disparate loves divide a people? What does Augustine think we should love in order to belong to the people who inhabit the City of God? Join us for a moderated conversation between Profs. Russell Hittinger, Michael Sherwin, O.P., and Jennifer Frey on Augustine and the loves that form a People. This event is cosponsored by America Media.


Beauty and Justice in the City: the Restoration of St. Adalbert's, in Pilsen

A webinar conversation with Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado (University of Scranton), and Juan Soto (Gamaliel), moderated by Peter Casarella (Duke University). Originally delivered May 11, 2021. Part of a Lumen Christi Institute webinar series on Hispanic Theology. Latinx Theology has always had a dual focus on the beauty of the symbols of Popular Catholicism and the cry of the poor in urban settings. In this session, one of the premier Latina voices on beauty and justice, Dr. Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, will have a discussion with a long-time community activist in Chicago about the application of this dyad to the concrete setting of Latinx Catholic life in the city of Chicago. The ongoing discussion of the proposed restoration of St. Adalbert’s will serve as a case study for thinking about how “God lives in the city” (Pope Francis).


Claudia Herrera and Jose Matos Auffant - Latino Youth and Evangelization

A webinar conversation with Claudia Herrera (ACHTUS) and Jose Matos Auffant (St. Mary's University). Originally delivered May 4, 2021. Part of a Lumen Christi Institute webinar series on Hispanic Theology. There are complex dynamics to account for when examining the intersectionality of religious identity, social context, and the lived experience of young Latinx in the U.S. Current research shows that almost half of Catholics in the United States self-identify as Hispanic, and that more than half of those Hispanic Catholics are young. To better understand the religious dynamics of young Latinx, we first must identify those who are affiliated as Catholics and examine how they understand their relationship with the faith. This requires a process of listening, reflection and participatory-action. There is a large group of young Latinx who self-identify as Catholics and no longer affiliate nor participate in a local church or any form of pastoral activity. In some cases, their faith identity and daily practice as Catholics is a pilgrimage where the Church is the streets, their home, and other everyday spaces, and the practices of their everyday life represent Catholicism. This conversation aims to provide both practical and theological insight emerging from the particularities of pastoral and research work with young Latinx and their familias/comunidades. There is a great need to open concrete spaces in which young Latinx are listened to and are affirmed as active agents in the sharing of the good news of the Gospel.


Was Something Lost? Thomas Aquinas, Intellectual Disability, & the 16th c. Spanish Colonial Debates

A webinar lecture with Miguel Romero (Salve Regina University). Originally delivered April 27, 2021. Part of a Lumen Christi Institute webinar series on Hispanic Theology. In the 16th century, there was a subtle shift in the way the Spanish Dominican interpreters of Thomas Aquinas spoke about the anthropological and moral significance of our rational faculties. Historical and textual markers, indicating both the origin and development of this interpretive shift, present amid the fierce engagement of the Spanish colonial debates. Much has been written on the specific topic of those debates: i.e., the allegations concerning the rational status and moral aptitude of the Amerindian peoples and, by extension, the justice or injustice of the Spanish colonial enterprise in the Americas. However, it is difficult to find any scholarly work on the subject of the Spanish colonial debates: i.e., the anthropological and moral questions relevant to persons who seem to “lack the full use of reason.” Bearing that distinction in mind, between the topic and subject of the debates, this presentation for Lumen Christi is focused on persons who actually (and not allegedly) lack the full use of reason. Key interpretations, appropriations, and arguments about Aristotle and Aquinas—in the writing of John Mair, Francisco de Vitoria, and Bartolome de las Casas—will be retraced to show how Aquinas’s way of thinking about the intellectual dignity and inalienable contemplative aptitude of persons who “lack the use of reason” came to be displaced from the main currents of Thomistic theological discourse.


David Lantigua - Fratelli Tutti and the Latino Social Teaching of Pope Francis

"Globalization from the People: Fratelli Tutti and the Latino Social Teaching of Pope Francis" A webinar lecture with Prof. David Lantigua (University of Notre Dame). Delivered April 20, 2021, as part of a webinar series on Hispanic Theology, presented by the Lumen Christi Institute. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a flash point for globalization as a sign of the times, revealing the best and worst of our interconnected human family. Released during the pandemic, Pope Francis’s Fratelli tutti speaks directly to the political crisis of globalization, following the worldwide financial and ecological crises addressed in the previous two social encyclicals of the twenty-first century. Despite the public conversation about Fratelli tutti, very little attention concerns the Latino theological and political imagination of Pope Francis’s social teaching. This talk examines the new encyclical of the first Hispanic Pope from the global South as someone formed in a teología del pueblo. Among the relevant topics raised in Fratelli tutti, we will explore the peculiar relationship between neoliberalism and universal human rights, and the providential role of popular movements for promoting global solidarity in sharp contrast to populism.


David Meconi S.J. - Ambrose and Augustine on Christian Holiness

While Saints Ambrose and Augustine never define Christian holiness, this was the pursuit that fueled all of their writings, all of their sermons, and directed their everyday lives. By examining the writings of these two pillars of the Western Church, today's talk seeks to show how Ambrose and Augustine understood holiness and what that might mean for our lives today. Originally presented as a live webinar April 17th, 2021. Presented by the Lumen Christi Institute and the Bollandist Society as part of a webinar series on the saints.


Hosffman Ospino - Teaching Catholic Doctrine en Español

Language matters, and it matters much when sharing the best of our faith convictions with one another. Without language there is no communication, understanding or community. Sharing faith in the United States of America in an increasingly Hispanic church demands that we take questions associated with language seriously. Nearly fifteen million Catholics in the U.S. are Spanish-speaking immigrants. Many are raising their children “in Spanish.” Even though the vast majority of Hispanics are U.S. born and English-speaking, Spanish constantly shapes their cultural and religious imagination. In this presentation, we will reflect on the intersectionality of language, culture and religious identity among U.S. Hispanic Catholics at the time of sharing the faith and reflect theologically. To teach Catholic doctrine “en español,” literally or metaphorically, is an invitation to embrace the many creative ways in which God calls us to be church in the twenty-first century. This lecture with Professor Hosffman Ospino (Boston College) was originally presented as a live webinar lecture April 13, 2021. This event is part of a webinar series on Hispanic Theology, made possible by a generous grant from the Our Sunday Visitor Institute.


The Origins of Mass Incarceration: The Courts and the 1960s Criminal Procedure Revolution?

A discussion with Judge Stephanos Bibas (3rd Circuit, Court of Appeals) and William Pizzi (University of Colorado Law School), moderated by Cook County Judge Tom Donnelly. American principles of justice and equality lead our culture to value the criminal trial as a fair hearing for the accused and vindication for the victims of crime. But the reality of the U.S. justice system falls far short of this ideal, making criminal trials the rare exception amidst a wave of plea bargains. When trials do take place, judges are often forced to impose mandatory sentences that do not fit the unique context of a given case. Join Judge Stephanos Bibas from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, and author of The Machinery of Criminal Justice (Oxford University Press, 2015), and Professor William Pizzi, as they discuss Pizzi’s new book, The Supreme Court’s Role in Mass Incarceration (Routledge, 2020). Pizzi provocatively argues that the Supreme Court’s attempts to expand defendants’ rights in the 20th century unexpectedly led to the mass incarceration crisis today. He points to Canada as a beacon of hope, where an unelected, professional judiciary customizes sentences to fit the actual case. Unlike American courts, where judges are forced by repeat-offender laws to sentence defendants to decades for a minor offense, Canada's judiciary freely metes out proportionate sentencing. This event is part of the Catholic Criminal Justice Reform Network, a new initiative of the Lumen Christi Institute. This event is co-sponsored by Georgetown University Law Center, Notre Dame Law School, Boston College Law School, the University of St. Thomas School of Law, the Catholic Lawyers Guild of Chicago, Catholic Prison Ministry Coalition, Kolbe House Jail Ministry, Seattle University, the Seattle University Crime and Justice Research Center, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, Fordham University School of Law, the Institute on Religion, Law and Lawyer’s Work at Fordham University School of Law, The Center on Race, Law, and Justice (Fordham University School of Law), the University of Denver College of Law Federalist Society, and the University of Colorado Federalist Society


Elizabeth Lev - A Good Man Is Hard to Find: St. Joseph in Art

A webinar lecture with Elizabeth Lev(Duquesne University). This event is co-presented by the Harvard Catholic Forum and the Lumen Christi Institute. St. Joseph was an unassuming latecomer to the history of art, but once discovered, his images evolved rapidly to serve the Catholic Church during challenging times. From model for the papacy, to symbol of marriage and fatherhood, to guide for a good death and advocate for the worker, St Joseph's many guises have made him one of the Church's greatest spiritual treasures. Following Pope Francis' dedication of 2021 to St. Joseph, this talk will look at Giotto, Raphael, Murillo and others as we uncover the many faces of this quiet saint. This event co-sponsored by the Saint Benedict Institute, the Nova Forum, the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, the Ars Vivendi Arts Initiative of the Collegium Institute, the St. Paul’s Catholic Center, the St. Lawrence Institute for Faith and Culture, and the New England Chapter of the Patron of the Arts Vatican Museums.


Fr. Thomas Esposito, O.Cist - How to Be a Corinthian

A webinar lecture with Fr. Thomas Esposito, O.Cist (University of Dallas). This event is cosponsored by Calvert House Catholic Center. The first recipients of St. Paul's letters did not keep their letters to themselves; as part of the organic life of the Church that Catholics call "Tradition," the letters of Paul were collected together and incorporated into the New Testament. One amazing consequence of this Tradition at work is that everyone who reads these letters, regardless of time or place, becomes a Corinthian, or a Roman, or an Ephesian, thanks to the unifying power of the Holy Spirit. This conference will reflect on how the early Church received these letters, and highlight specific texts that reveal how the voice of St. Paul still reaches us, both individuals and the Body of Christ collectively, today.


Fragile Democracy: Technocratic Takeover and Popular Renewal

A panel discussion with Charles Taylor (McGill University), Patrizia Nanz (German Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management), and Jason Blakely (Pepperdine University), moderated by Fr. Patrick Gilger, SJ (New School for Social Research). We are experiencing a crisis of democracy more powerful than anything seen in a generation: inequality continues at a galloping pace; policing is increasingly racialized and militarized; political decision-making appears remote and divorced from the lives of ordinary people. This panel discussion—including renowned philosopher Charles Taylor--will consider sources and solutions to the present crisis of democracy by drawing on two recent books: "Reconstructing Democracy" by Charles Taylor, Patrizia Nanz, and Madeleine Beaubien Taylor and "We Built Reality" by Jason Blakely. Both works identify within our political and cultural crisis the loss of democratic participation and the rise of top-down technocratic, managerial rule. This event is co-presented by the Lumen Christi Institute and the Nova Forum and co-sponsored by America Media, the Collegium Institute, the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago, and the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies.


Fr. Mark Rotsaert, SJ - Spirituality and the Saints

A webinar lecture with Fr. Mark Rotsaert, SJ, President of the Bollandist Society. This event was co-presented by the Lumen Christi Institute and the Bollandist Society. Originally broadcast as a live event March 13, 2021. In this presentation, Fr. Mark Rotsaert, SJ will look to sanctity as a gift of the Spirit and reflect on the different ways one can become a saint and the universal call to holiness according to Pope Francis’ exhortation Gaudete et exsultate. Do saints have a specific kind of spirituality? Is sanctity the same as perfection? Are the saints perfect?


Learning Poverty and Education Pluralism: The Global Catholic Education Report 2021

Catholic schools serve close to 62 million students globally at the preschool, primary, and secondary levels, with in addition more than 6 million students enrolled at the post-secondary level. By managing the largest non-governmental network of schools and universities in the world, the Catholic Church plays an important role in efforts to achieve SDG4, especially in low-income countries. In 2020, OIEC released the first Global Catholic Education Report. The second edition of the report for 2021 under the new collaborative Global Catholic Education project ( focuses on learning poverty, education pluralism, and the implications of the COVID-19 Crisis. The report explores the impact of the crisis on educational attainment and learning across countries, as well as the issue of education pluralism, suggesting that education pluralism should be taken into account when considering state support for nonprofit faith-based schools and universities. The report also discusses regulatory framework for Catholic schools and universities, as well as interventions that could improve educational outcomes. Finally, the report includes an updated statistical annex on enrollment trends in Catholic schools and universities in more than 100 countries. After a presentation summarizing the main findings from the Global Catholic Education Report 2021, panelists will share their views on how Catholic schools and universities globally could improve the education they provide and confront some of the most pressing challenges they face. This event is organized with the Catholic Research Economists Discussion Organization (CREDO), Global Catholic Education, Global Researchers Advancing Catholic Education (GRACE), the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU), the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), and the International Office of Catholic Education (OIEC). This event is cosponsored by America Media, and the Roche Center for Catholic Education.


Patrick Geary - Pledges of the Saints: The Cult of Relics in the Catholic Tradition

Lecture with Patrick Geary (Institute for Advanced Study), delivered Feb 13, 2021. This event was co-presented by the Lumen Christi Institute and the Bollandist Society, and co-sponsored by America Media, the Collegium Institute, the Harvard Catholic Forum, the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, the Nova Forum, the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC, the Saint Benedict Institute, and the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage. --- The physical remains of saints are often referred to as pignora, that is, as security deposits or pledges of the continued concern that the saints, although in heaven, continue to show for those who venerate them. In this lecture will discuss the origin of the cult of relics, the process by which these cults, originally concentrated on the tombs of saints, became mobile, and how the veneration of saints led to the dismemberment of saints’ bodies and the distribution of relics throughout Christendom. It will also consider the resulting anxieties about relics’ authenticity, the efforts to control and regulate the cult of relics, and the competition that relics have received from other types of sacred or sanctified objects.


Russell Hittinger - Yves Simon on Natural Law

Review and lecture from a master class with Russell Hittinger, Delivered in December of 2020. The tradition of natural law is one of the foundations of Western civilization. At its heart is the conviction that there is an objective and universal justice which transcends humanity’s particular expressions of justice. It asserts that there are certain ways of behaving which are appropriate to humanity simply by virtue of the fact that we are all human beings. Recent political debates indicate that it is not a tradition that has gone unchallenged: in fact, the opposition is as old as the tradition itself. By distinguishing between philosophy and ideology, by recalling the historical adventures of natural law, and by reviewing the theoretical problems involved in the doctrine, Simon clarifies much of the confusion surrounding this perennial debate. He tackles the questions raised by the application of natural law with skill and honesty as he faces the difficulties of the subject. Simon warns against undue optimism in a revival of interest in natural law and insists that the study of natural law beings with the analysis of “the law of the land.” He writes not as a polemicist but as a philosopher, and he writes of natural law with the same force, conciseness, lucidity and simplicity which have distinguished all his other works.


Fr. John O'Malley, SJ - Humanism as an Educational Ideal

A lecture by Fr. John O'Malley, SJ (Georgetown University), followed by Q&A. The ideal of educating the total human person – the project that took on the name “humanism” - became a widespread norm for education in the Christian world of early modern Europe, whence it spread to North and South America. This humanist ideal has competed for influence with other educational ideals, most especially with those pursued by universities. Fr. John O’Malley examines the sources of the humanistic style of learning, the place of that style in Catholic culture, and, more broadly, in the world in which we live. He examines the courses of study that came to characterize it, how humanism has developed and adapted over time, and what may be its prospects in the future. Originally presented as a live webinar lecture February 6, 2021. This event was co-presented by the Harvard Catholic Forum and the Lumen Christi Institute, and co-sponsored by the Saint Benedict Institute, the Collegium Institute, the Nova Forum, the Institute for Faith and Culture, the St. Paul's Catholic University Center, and the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.