Liberal Democracy & the Catholic Church in a Change of Era


Location: Hesburgh Center for International Studies, Auditorium (View on map )

What is the relevance of the Catholic Church amidst a rapidly changing global order? How can the Christian world’s largest denomination play a constructive role as a conduit for the peace and prosperity of all peoples and all nations amidst growing great-power rivalry? According to President Biden, the world is locked in a death match between autocracy and democracy. How does Global Catholicism relate to this duel? John McGreevy, provost of Notre Dame, concludes his latest book with echoes of a shadow match within the Church mirroring the geopolitical challenge: “Gauging what requires central control and what requires decentralized experimentation is not easy.” The synodal process led by Pope Francis—culminating in a “Synod on Synodality this past October—has generated hope for some that positive change is coming, but apprehension for others that the Church is losing its moral compass, amidst polarizing culture wars. Mary McAleese, a devout Catholic and world leader, has attempted to find a balance by advocating for progressive reforms from the margins while drawing on the mechanism of the synod established by the center. Join us for this exciting conversation between Mary and John, moderated by global religion expert and dean of the Keough School, Scott Appleby, about the future of the Catholic Church, a future that the pope describes not as “an era of change, but a change of era.”

John T. McGreevy is the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost and the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. He served as chair of the Department of History from 2002–2008 and dean of the College of Arts and Letters from 2008–2018. His previous books include Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth-Century Urban North (Chicago, 1996), Catholicism and American Freedom: A History (W. W. Norton, 2003), and American Jesuits and the World: How an Embattled Religious Order Made Modern Catholicism Global (Princeton, 2016). Along with his books, McGreevy has written widely for the academic and popular press, with articles and reviews appearing in publications including the Journal of American History, New York Review of Books, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Commonweal, and The New Republic. In 2010, he served on the Pulitzer prize jury for History, and since 2018 he has been the co-chair of the Commonweal Foundation board.

Mary McAleese served as the eighth President of Ireland, 1997 – 2011, and was the first Irish President born in Northern Ireland. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin, she received her law degree from Queen’s University of Belfast. Prior to her distinguished term as President, she held several positions in higher education, including Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin and Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies and Pro-Vice Chancellor at Queen’s University of Belfast. McAleese described the theme of her Presidency as "Building Bridges”, which was reflected in her efforts towards reconciliation and peace building with Northern Ireland. Her ideas and work in this arena were presented in Love in Chaos: Spiritual Growth and the Search for Peace in Northern Ireland; President Mary McAleese: Building Bridges - Selected Speeches and Statements (forward by Seamus Heaney). Following her Presidency, McAleese pursued a Doctorate in canon law from Gregorian University (Rome); her studies resulted in Quo Vadis?: Collegiality in the Code of Canon Law, which was released in 2012.

Food and refreshments will be available following the formal portion of the event program.

Since its establishment in 2005 by University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., each year the Notre Dame Forum invites campus-wide dialogue about issues of importance to the University, the nation and the larger world. This year's Forum is on The Future of Democracy and this conversation is a part of that forum.

This event is organized by the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion and co-sponsored by Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies. 


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