Fairfield University's 16th Annual Christopher F. Mooney, S.J. Lecture to feature James Alison

Image: James AlisonJames Alison, Ph.D., one of the most highly regarded theologians in the Catholic world, combines groundbreaking reflection on the theology of atonement with work to help gay Catholics live their faith in a Church which does not seem so welcoming to them. Ultimately, he is trying to reach "people of whatever background negotiating the world of faith in the time of the collapsing closet."

An important and unwavering voice today on being gay and Catholic, Dr. Alison will discuss themes from his groundbreaking books when he delivers Fairfield University's 16th Annual Christopher F. Mooney, S.J. Lecture in Theology, Religion and Society on Tuesday, September 22.

His talk, free and open to the public, is entitled, "Something for Everyone: Gay Catholics as Good News for a Changing Church." It will take place in the Charles F. Dolan School of Business Dining Room at 8 p.m. During his two-day visit to Fairfield he will also lead a seminar for theologians from Fordham University, Yale University, Union Theological Seminary and Sacred Heart University, in addition to a number of Fairfield's own faculty.

Paul Lakeland, Ph. D., director of Fairfield University's Center for Catholic Studies and the Aloysius P. Kelley S.J. Professor in Catholic Studies, invited Dr. Alison to campus in an effort to ensure that the University be a place where religious reflection on the humanity of gay and lesbian individuals is honored and furthered. The Center for Catholic Studies is sponsoring the lecture with the University's Office of Student Diversity Programs and ALLIANCE, a group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and straight allies, which promotes diversity and acceptance on campus.

"The Church needs to take a long, hard look at its positions," Dr. Lakeland said. "Alison's talk will be a good opportunity for a lot of people to begin to think more seriously and in a more intellectually honest way about a poorly-understood set of issues. Whether people agree with him or not is not the principal issue; that they will think about the Church's position and their own attitudes is much more important."

Alison has written extensively about Christian concepts, such as atonement and original sin, in so creative a manner that he has become one of the most prominent of contemporary theologians. Additionally, addressing his reinterpretations directly to his fellow gay Catholics but also to the wider Church community, he has become well-known for his claims that the Bible is too often misused to vilify gay individuals.

In his book, "Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay" (Crossroads, 2001), he wrote: "One of the reasons why the gay issue has become so vastly over-important in Christian circles is because we belong to a generation that is finding it increasingly impossible to read, understand, and not be scandalized by the Bible. So either we stop reading it, or we cover up our scandal by hanging onto an idolatrous literalism which is completely invulnerable to penetration by the living word of God."

Born in Britain, Alison, 49, was a member of the Dominican Order of priests. A self-described itinerant priest, speaker and retreat giver, he has lectured and taught throughout the world.

"(His) books, including Raising Abel (1996), The Joy of Being Wrong (1998), and Undergoing God (2006), treat themes running from Creation to Resurrection, offering what is best described, not as gay theology," wrote Christopher Ruddy in "Commonweal" magazine, "but as Catholic theology from a gay perspective. An abiding personal theme has been Alison's refusal to repudiate the faith that he believes to some extent has repudiated him."

For more information on the lecture, visit www.fairfield.edu/catholicstudies or call the Center at (203) 254-4000, ext. 3415.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 14, 2009

Vol. 42, No. 155

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