DSPT Events

Dumb Ox Theology Forum

For more information about the Dumb Ox, see Student Activities.

Friday, April 11, 2014 - Fr. Thomas Joseph White, OP -  Aquinas on Imperfect Happiness: Nature, Grace and the Final End of Man

Both Karl Barth and Henri De Lubac provided powerful, compelling visions of the relationship between the grace of God and human nature. However, their visions are in many respects opposed and incompatible. In his reading of Aristotle, Aquinas focuses on the imperfection of all natural human happiness, and on the natural desire for God. How does his vision provide a potential bridge between the diverse theologies of Barth and De Lubac?

March 19, 2014 - DSPT Fellow, Dana Gioia - The Catholic Writer Today

DSPT Fellow, Dana Gioia - The Catholic Writer Today

DSPT Fellow, Dana Gioia, will be at DSPT for a presentation and conversation on his essay "The Catholic Writer Today," an abridged version of which was published in December 2013 in First Things. Dana Gioia is a poet, writer, and Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at USC. He has served as the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Mr. Gioia has generously sent DSPT bound copies of his full essay for those who wish to participate in the evening gathering. Please read it in advance, as it will facilitate a richer and more fruitful conversation. The copies are available for pick-up from the DSPT receptionist. We have 40 copies. Should you be unable to swing by DSPT to pick up a copy in advance of the event, you can read the shorter version of the essay here.

February 20, 2014 - DSPT Chair of Philosophy, Fr. Anselm Ramelow, OP - On Miracles

This talk will not discuss particular miracles (except by way of illustration); rather,it will investigate some fundamental principles and implications of miracles:What are miracles? Can they violate laws of nature? How can we know that they have occurred? What do they tell us about God, about the world and ourselves?How about miracles in other religions? We will consider objections and see how one might respond to them. 

DSPT Dumb Ox Theology Forum - Fr. Raymond Gawronski, The Unexpected Mission

November 19, 2013 - DSPT Visiting Scholar, Fr. Raymond Gawronski, SJ - The Unexpected Mission

Twenty years ago, I felt a call to leave the Russian Mission for which I was preparing in Europe to serve the renewal of the Church in the United States. My theological mentor von Balthasar would periodically write accounts for periods of his life – “Rechenschaft” – and as Visiting Scholar at DSPT, I would like to use this first talk as a “reckoning” of the past twenty years of service in the Church in America.

November 12, 2013 - Dr. Donald S. Prudlo jsu.edu , Associate Professor of Ancient and Medieval History, Jacksonville State University - Canonization and Infallibility: An Historical, Canonical, and Theological Investigation

Ever since the definition of Papal Infallibility at the First Vatican Council, there has been a lively debate in the Church about its meaning. This talk will address the roots of that doctrine in the middle ages, and in particular trace its development in the practice of the canonization of saints.
DSPT Dumb Ox Theology Forum - Canonization and Infallibility: An Historical, Canonical, and Theological Investigation Papal canonization did not really begin to take off until the 12th century. The challenge quickly became how to understand it apart from local and episcopal canonizations. At the same time various groups of heretics were beginning to challenge the doctrine of the Communion of saints, as well as the cultic practices of Christianity surrounding the tombs of its holy ones. In the 13th century the papacy and the new Mendicant orders established a symbiotic relationship that saw the elevation of Franciscan and Dominican saints. Some of these had been intimately involved in the suppression of heresy. Criticism of the cult of saints moved from the general to the particular, as individual saints came under attack. This forced the papacy and the Mendicant theologians to examine more closely the doctrine of papal canonization. By the end of
the thirteenth century, the difference had been established: papal canonizations enjoyed infallibility.
Canonization lies at the root of the personal infallibility dogma, and this will be the subject of the lecture.

November 5, 2013 - DSPT Student, Nick Senz- Servant of the Secret Fire: Catholicism in the Life and Works of J.R.R. Tolkien pt.2

Last semester, DSPT student Nick Senz (concurrent M.A.) presented on the ways in which elements of the Catholic faith are present in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, "folded in" to the story, as Tolkien said. As a follow-up, Nick gave a brief presentation making the case that the basic notions of the evangelical counsels (poverty, chaste celibacy, and obedience) are present in the Lord of the Rings, both in a positive and negative form. Ample time was be allowed for those present to share their thoughts and questions.

 DSPT Dumb Ox Theology Forum - Servant of the Secret Fire: Catholicism in the Life and Works of J.R.R. Tolkien pt.2  

May 14, 2013 - DSPT Student, Ankido Sipo - Church of the East: Catholicity and Liturgy

Ankido Sipo, a seminarian for the Chaldean Rite, visiting from John Paul the Great University, will be discussing the history of the Church of the East (the Uniate Church called the Chaldean Catholic Church with her Patriarchate in Iraq) from apostolic times to the modern day, going over ecclesiology, theology, and political issues. Then he will spend some time on the Liturgy, focusing especially on the anaphora which dates to Apostolic times.

DSPT Dumb Ox Theology Forum - Church of the East: Catholicity and Liturgy

DSPT Dumb Ox Theology Forum - Dana Gioia "What is a Catholic Poet?"

March 19, 2013 - DSPT Fellow, Dana GioiaWhat is a Catholic Poet?

Dana Gioia is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet. Former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Gioia is a native Californian of Italian and Mexican descent. He received a B.A. and a M.B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University.

Gioia has published four full-length collections of poetry, as well as eight chapbooks. His poetry collection, Interrogations at Noon, won the 2002 American Book Award. An influential critic as well, Gioia's 1991 volume Can Poetry Matter?, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, is credited with helping to revive the role of poetry in American public culture.

March 12, 2013 - Nick Senz - Servant of the Secret Fire: Catholicism in the Life and Works of J.R.R. TolkienDSPT Dumb Ox Theology Forum: Servant of the Secret Fire: Catholicism in the Life and Works of J.R.R. Tolkien

"Is Frodo really Jesus?" "Are elves really angels?" "What is the 'Secret Fire?'"
Many a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien's works, knowing him to have been a Catholic, will readily find all sorts of connections to his faith in his writings. While this sort of
speculation is not unwarranted, it can often go astray into places that would surprise and even shock the author himself.

In his talk, Nick will give a brief biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, then present excerpts from Tolkien's personal letters and essays which will illuminate 1) Tolkien's own faith and spiritual practice; 2) Tolkien's philosophy on good storytelling; and 3) the ways in which Tolkien himself said his faith influenced his writing. This will provide a baseline for an informed discussion about the Catholic vision in Tolkien's works, particularly The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.

March 5, 2013 - Scott Fennema - Mediaeval Latin Christology - Peter Lombard's "Internal" Affirmation of Hypostatic Union per "Persona Composita" Theory

DSPT Dumb Ox Theology Forum - Mediaeval Latin Christology In his presentation, Scott sought to challenge the contemporary scholarly reading that Peter Lombard, per his own explicit words, is “indifferent” or “aloof” towards which theory of the hypostatic union—(a) assumptus homo, (b) composite hypostasis, (c) habitus—correctly renders the mystery of the incarnation. He will first present all three theories according to Lombard’s own exposition of them and then he wi...ll show how Lombard, both prior to discussing these theories and within the discussion of these theories, on the contrary does articulate which theory he believes to be the orthodox rendering of the incarnation. Thus by doing a more nuanced reading of his writings, Lombard will be shown to affirm the composite hypostasis theory, though it be an ever so meek affirmation, and as a result can also be placed in the same orthodox trajectory as John of Damascus and Thomas Aquinas on this matter.

November 13, 2012 - DSPT Fellow, Gil Bailie - Raising the Ante: Recovering an Alpha and Omega Christology

Ecce HomoPope Benedict XVI has challenged us “to reinvest with some concrete and particular meaning theological statements about the uniqueness and the absolute value of Christianity.” To take up this challenge and to proclaim afresh the unique, history-altering meaning of the Christian Gospel, we must learn to account for Christian truth in ways that are faithful to Church doctrine, intellectually cogent, morally rigorous, anthropologically sound, and courageously undeterred by the timidity, doctrinaire equivocation, and moral agnosticism of our age. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger pointed the way to accomplishing this by suggesting that collaboration between theology and anthropology can lead to“the truly most exciting part of Christian faith.”

Drawing on both the rich theological tradition for which Benedict XVI is today's preeminent exponent and René Girard's extraordinary insights into the anthropological and cultural uniqueness of Christianity, this presentation is an effort to bring “the truly most exciting part of Christian faith” to bear on the challenges facing the Christian vocation in our time.

October 30, 2012 - Fr. Hilary Martin, OP - Does Theology Change Anything?

Bishops entering St. Peter's for the Second Vatican CouncilMoney matters, but does theology? Power matters, but does theology? Fr. Yves Congar, OP matters. Fr. Yves Congar, a French Dominican spent his life working with theology. Before, during and after Vatican II he worked on the Faith and how to get it across to people. He was not a bishop at the Second Vatican Council, only a Peritus, but had a hand in a lot that went on there. His Journal, or Daybook, shows how deep a hand he had.

Are we different from the way we were, and the way we were from the way we are now?

 September 18, 2012 - Benjamin Drew Griffin - In the Image of the Celestials: The Marvel Universe and the Call to Become Super-Human

Black Bolt - MarvelThe Celestials - MarvelIn the spirit of inter-religious dialogue, join us as we explore the modern mythologies of the mighty Marvel Universe!

In a universe (well, universes) dictated by the evolutionary drive towards super-powerful levels of existence, one must learn the responsibility required to wield such power. While the mystery remains why they were created by the Celestial gods, the denizens of 616 and beyond provide fascinating ruminations on what it means to be 'god-like'.

 April 3, 2012 - Colleen Power - An Icon of Personhood: Icons of the Virgin Mary and the Imago Dei

Platytera Icon from the Holy Monastery of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai Colleen Power, Director of Student Services and Alumna, condensed her thesis into a brief presentation on AN ICON OF PERSONHOOD: How Marian Icons in the Eastern Tradition Reveal that Humankind is Created in the Image and Likeness of God. Orthodox Christians have deep communal and liturgical devotions both to icons and the Virgin Mary. Both are central in the prayer life of the faithful and the Church and connect the faithful to God in a special way that leads toward salvation. Humankind’s journey through life and quest for communion with God and neighbors is centered on contemplation of our being created in the image and likeness of God. Through the aid of icons, hearts and minds are opened so that one can understand personhood. Through the example of the Virgin Mary, clues are unlocked which explain who we are and what we are called to be.

March 20, 2012 - Michele Johnson - When the Life of a Mother is Threatened: Thomistic Moral Considerations on Lethal Termination of Pregnancy

Offering an introduction to her thesis work, Michele will discuss necessary distinctions in the medical circumstances that often elicit the recommendation for lethal termination of pregnancy in order to save the life of the mother. Then, concerning cases where the possibility of survival of the child remains at the sacrifice of the mother’s life, she will demonstrate whether St. Thomas’ understanding of self-defense translates in any relevant way to this contemporary dilemma in Catholic moral theology, and therefore whether lethal termination of pregnancy in these cases is morally permissible.

February 7, 2012 - Fr. Michael Sherwin, OP opwest.org - This Wondrous Malady: Further Reflections on the Psychology of Love

Fr. Michael Sherwin, OP opwest.org, an alumnus of DSPT, holds the Chair in Fundamental Moral Theology at the University of Fribourg unifr.ch.

November 29, 2011 - Benjamin Drew Griffin - That All of Them May Be One

Just as Jesus prayed for the believers in John 17, Meister Eckhart sought to instruct those under his guidance to seek their ultimate end in the Unity of God. To reach this Absolute Unity, however, required such radical detachment that the believer should come to a place where they must “pray to God to be rid of ‘God.'” Such risky language left Eckhart's reputation questionable but undeniable in its orthodox aim.

Focusing upon Eckhart primarily as a preacher, Benjamin Griffin presented a general outline of Eckhart's profound monotheism in terms of its potential spiritual benefit and, despite its difficult presentation, dedicated orthodoxy.

DSPT Student, Benjamin Drew Griffin


October 18, 2011 - Br. Peter Hannah, OP - Nature, God, and the Contraception Controversy

Since its promulgation in 1968, Humanae Vitae vatican.va has elicited perhaps more controversy than any other contemporary Catholic teaching. The debates immediately following its release, however, tended to revolve more around whether Catholics could in good conscience dissent from the teaching, rather than what the theology of marriage underpinning its reasoning was. Br. Peter Junipero examined precisely these underpinnings, surverying both the historical development of the Church's teaching and its modern reception, and articulating some key biblical, philosophical, and theological principles needed to understand it better.

March 10, 2011 - David Buttrick - The Biblical Illustration of William Blake

Blake - Jacob's LadderTwo hundred years ago William Blake wrote, 'I must Create a System or be enslav'd by another Man's.' Though ridiculed and ignored in his own Georgian England, William Blake was a poet, engraver, painter, and self-proclaimed prophet whose work is often said to presage the Romantic movements in both painting and poetry. Yet his absolutely original output can in no way be thought of as preliminary or dialectical; the intellectual "system" he strove to create was complete in his own mind, but difficult for others to fathom fully. This presentation was a brief and informal introduction to Blake by way of the striking biblical-themed artwork of his mature and later years. The wonder and sublimity of his vision, stemming from his conception of the resurrection of the spiritual body, is worthy of deep investigation and consideration by Christians and by all.

February 17, 2011 - Christine Watkins, MTS, LCSW - What Mary is Saying to Us from Heaven

Full of Grace - Christine WatkinsDrawing from the real life struggles of individuals who have discovered hope and healing in a loving God through the Blessed Virgin Mary’s presence and messages in Medjugorje, Christine Watkins invites all to come and learn about the Mother of God’s past and present apparitions on Earth and reflect on her undying love for us all.

Mrs. Christine Watkins, MTS, LCSW, is a graduate of the Jesuit School of Theology. Formerly an anti-Christian atheist, she converted to Catholicism after receiving a miraculous healing from Jesus through Mary, which saved her from death. Moving away from her previous life as a professional ballet dancer with the San Francisco Ballet Company, she began a life of service to the Church and now has over ten years experience as a spiritual director, licensed counselor, retreat leader, and popular inspirational speaker. She has been featured on the radio and the FOCUS Television Network, and her new book Full of Grace: Miraculous Stories of Healing and Conversion through Mary’s Intercession is now a best-seller for Ave Maria Press. For more information on our speaker, or to see a beautiful video of the protagonists in the book, visit: http://www.christinewatkins.com/.

September 16, 2010 - Joshua Kenz & Matthew Miller - The Wages of Justice

DSPT Students Matthew Miller and Joshua Kenz presented on the relationship between minimum wage and living wage as defined in Catholic Social Teaching for the first Dumb Ox Theology Forum of the 2010/2011 school year.

April 22, 2010 - Dr. Grazyna Kolondra - Historical Development of the Ecclesiastical Law that Governs Roman Curia

Dr. Grazyna Kolondra, professor of canon law from Poland who is currently doing a research fellowship at the Boalt School of Law, gave an overview of the history, development, and structure of the Roman Curia, canon law, and the Vatican City State.

The Roman Curia is the complex of offices that helps the Pope in the exercise of his supreme pastoral function for the good and service of the whole Church. The Roman Curia strengthens the unity of the faith and the communion of the people of God and promotes the mission proper to the Church in the world.

March 18, 2009 - Hannah Mecaskey - Women’s Ordination & Popular American Culture: Broaching a Reasonable Discussion of Female Leadership in Catholic Church

Appealing to the Catholic Church’s claim to postulating a reasonable faith, the conversation of women’s ordination is one that requires more than a silencing amongst the concerned faithful. Recognizing equality of believers in the body of Christ, this presentation will seek to probe deeper into the Catholic historical tradition to answer social concerns of equal rights in the economy of salvation. Inviting concerns and insights, this meeting does not seek an answer to the complex question of women’s ordination, but seeks to understand the American context in which the desire for women’s ordination arose. Exploring a feminist ethic valuing difference rather than sameness, conversation of equality will be directed towards establishing a point of conversation between “sacred” and secular feminist ethics.

April 10, 2008 - Daniel Smith, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and GTU doctoral student & Lawrence King, DSPT graduate student - The Joint Declaration on Justification: Do Catholics and Lutherans Really Agree?

March 13, 2008 - Lawrence King - The Future of Religion in the World: Will You Recognize the Christianity of 2100?

February 28, 2008 - Regina Schwerd, UC Berkeley doctoral student - Ekphrasis and the Mystic: Interart Issues in Julian of Norwich's Revelations

November 28, 2007 - Matthew Hysell - The Sacerdotal Office of the Laity: Reflections on Christian Initiation, Orders and Eucharist

November 6, 2007 - Elissa McCormack - Christ-Figures and Self-Sacrifice in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

September 24, 2007 - Jason van Boom, GTU doctoral student - The Political Implications of St. Thomas' Proofs for the Existence of God

April 25, 2007 - Eva Natanya - God, Buddhism, and the Problem of Suffering: Unravelling the Misunderstandings

March 20, 2007- Dr. Alyssa Lyra Pitstick, author of Light in Darkness lyrapitstick.com - Christ's Descent into Hell, and the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar

March 6, 2007 - Elissa McCormack - The Practice of Fasting: Can Catholicism Learn from Islam?

November 13, 2006 - Br. Augustine Hilander, OP - Is Original Sin a Bad Idea?

October 16, 2006 - Elissa McCormack - When Does an Embryo Have a Soul?