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Welcome to Nexus

by Michael P. Murphy, Hank Center Director

Nexus: Conversations on the Catholic Intellectual Tradition is a digital-age journal that amplifies and publishes scholarly dialogue taking place in the Hank Center—whether in symposia and conference proceedings or in the research of its several faculty working groups. Cultivating the Jesuit principle of finding God in all things, Nexus fosters a wide scope of interdisciplinary scholarship, reflection, and public engagement—theological, philosophical, artistic, scientific, literary, historical, political, and more—forms that constitute this vital tradition. Nexus is robust space to encounter and explore the "living tradition" of Catholic thought and practice in order to be leavening to the scholarly community of Loyola University Chicago, to the Church, and to our local, national and international partners and audience. Nexus is published annually by the Hank Center.    


This inaugural issue of Nexus takes St. John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesiae (1990) as its main text of engagement and consideration. The hope was to have a two-day conference, Ex Corde @ 30, in August 2020—and then publish the proceedings—but these plans were scuttled by COVID convulsions.   


But what happened instead was perhaps better. A group of philosophers had assembled a reading group on the current state Catholic higher education. Yours truly was invited in and we decided to turn our attention to considering Ex Corde as a resource from which to engage our questions and to reflect on them in shorter, more digestible ways. What you have before you is a series of compelling fresh takes on Ex Corde, and an introduction that frames the volume with care and insight.   


It is most interesting to note at least two things about these essays. First, with the exception of one contributor, all essays were written by philosophers—a fact that would no doubt please the philosopher Karol Wojtyla and his unique brand of Thomist phenomenological personalism. Second, with the exception of one contributor, all writers were raised and trained in a decidedly post-conciliar setting. This is no small detail as the reception of Ex Corde Ecclesiae in the 1990s, especially in the U.S., was fraught with controversy. To a degree unprecedented, so many in the Catholic academy in the U.S. were profoundly alienated by Roman curial authority and American bishops who were perceived to have overstepped their scholarly expertise in their implementation of the General and Transitional Norms articulated in the document. For Jesuit theologian, Michael Buckley, these interventions were “quite troubling” and fed into the “most insistent attacks on the very possibility of a Catholic university” impeding it as a needed force in the secular sphere. But he also counseled sobriety and goodwill: “denying a sympathetic hearing to the central summons of Ex Corde Ecclesiae would be tragic,” he declared in 1998, counseling instead that “the voice and this summons to a more definitive understanding of the Catholic university deserve to be heard.”  


With our inaugural volume of Nexus, we are pleased to present such voices. The constructive imagination that has historically characterized the Catholic intellectual tradition—from Irenaeus to Hildegard and Bonaventure, from Simone Weil to Dorothy Day and Jean Bethke Elshtain—are alive today; and, under the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit, these voices will continue to celebrate, complicate, and assimilate the enterprise of the Catholic intellectual tradition with the dynamics of the current moment. The essays collected here are superb, and I am grateful for the work of our contributors and volume editors.  


With the publication of Nexus, the Hank Center’s mission to connect, communicate, and research the intellectual and cultural heritage of Roman Catholicism is delivered in a new platform. But no matter the media, the message remains consistent—and it is one that comes from the heart of Loyola University Chicago: the Catholic intellectual tradition provides both a content and a method of scholarship. It is a unifying habit of mind and imagination that approaches the transcendental mysteries of the true, good, and beautiful with creativity and consequence. This work is the lifeblood of the University and we are delighted to present it to readers of goodwill so as to share needed insight and engender constructive conversation.  

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Michael P. Murphy

Michael P. Murphy is Director of Loyola’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage. His research interests are in Theology and Literature, Sacramental Theology, and the literary/political cultures of Catholicism—but he also thinks and writes about issues in eco-theology and social ethics. Dr. Murphy, a Senior Lecturer in the Theology Department, is a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow. Mikes' first bookA Theology of Criticism: Balthasar, Postmodernism, and the Catholic Imagination (Oxford), was named a "Distinguished Publication" in 2008 by the American Academy of Religion. His most recent scholarly work is an edited volume (with Melissa Bradshaw), this need to dance/this need to kneel: Denise Levertov and the Poetics of Faith (Wipf and Stock, 2019). Mike was also the second Director of Loyola University Chicago’s Catholic Studies Interdisciplinary Minor Program (serving from 2012-2021). He is currently at work on a monograph entitled The Humane Realists: Catholic Fiction, Poetry, and Film 1965-2020. 

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