The Catholic University of America

Nov. 20, 2009

Faith and Its Contribution to the World Discussed at Forum

Cardinal Francis George and Philosopher Charles Taylor Kick Off Research Project



Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I.

More than 300 people attended the public forum at Catholic University featuring Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., of Chicago and scholar Charles Taylor on Thursday, Nov. 19. The forum was created to offer insight into a 15-month research project that will re-examine religion and faith for both the spiritual seeker and all the faithful in this secular age. (Click here to watch the forum.)

The forum began with a discussion between Cardinal George, archbishop of Chicago and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Taylor, the Board of Trustees Professor of Law and Philosophy at Northwestern University, winner of the 2007 Templeton Prize and author of A Secular Age.

This project builds upon the findings of a recent Pew Foundation report, which found that young people who leave the Church do not so much abandon their beliefs as reflect them in an attitude of "personal search" rather than of institutional commitment.

"When I talk to people in their 20s and 40s, they want a stable point of reference and they want the Church to be that stable point of reference, even if they don't want to be in it," Cardinal George said.

In discussing faith and culture and the dialogue between the two, Cardinal George emphasized that this dialogue between the two is "essential."



Philosopher Charles Taylor


"Both are normative systems and both tell us what's important and how to think," he said. "And if there is too great a clash between faith and culture, then of course believers will be persecuted. If there's no clash at all, then you've confused your culture with the kingdom of God, which it never is."

In his 2007 book, A Secular Age, Taylor examines how a society in which it was virtually impossible not to believe in God has become one in which faith is one human possibility among others. The book is both a history of this transformation and a philosophical look at its implications.

"We live in a world of seekers … people who feel they're not quite there, but are on the way to some kind of reconnection with God or connection to God," Taylor said. "Can we speak to the people? That's the big question."

The research project that will search for answers to this question will involve two teams of scholars from across the country studying at CUA's Center for the Study of Culture and Values and the Jesuit Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.



Rev. George McLean, O.M.I.,

One team will work with Rev. John Haughey, S.J., research fellow at the Jesuit Woodstock Theological Center, to study the individual search for meaning. At the forum, Father Haughey brought up the issue of how greatly technology has changed the sense of a person's identity. He said there are humans today who are "techno-sapiens," they are so imbued with technology they no longer know who they are.

The other team will work with William Barbieri, associate professor of theology and religious studies at Catholic University, to study the role of the spirit in the socio-political global order. Barbieri told the audience to think of all those who are public believers, but private seekers. "There are different ways perhaps that the Church can welcome those who are seeking."

The forum and the research project that will follow were organized by Rev. George McLean, O.M.I., president of the Council for Research in Values and Philosophy and director of CUA's Center for the Study of Culture and Values. Each fall he organizes a seminar to gather international scholars for discussions on faith. The previous two discussions have focused on the sacred and the secular.