MacLean Chair Examines Catholicism in Politics

Friday, October 10, 2008

With the presidential race now entering its final crucial months, Saint Joseph's new Donald I. MacLean, S.J. Chair, Thomas Massaro, S.J., could not be a more appropriate and relevant campus visitor. Massaro is an expert in Catholic social doctrine and its role in American political life; he will be sharing his expertise with the University community throughout the fall semester.

Fr. Massaro was raised in New York but has spent the last 11 years teaching at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., which was recently affiliated with Boston College as its graduate school of Theology and Ministry. Massaro's areas of interest include Christian ethics, sociology of religion, sociology of poverty in the United States, and ethical dimensions of U.S. social welfare policy. He has published six books and numerous articles on these and other topics.

As MacLean Chair at Saint Joseph's, Massaro is teaching the third-level theology course "Religion and American Public Life," which examines the interaction between politics and religion in the United States.

"The course makes the case for religious people to make necessary compromises to account for the pluralism of religions in America," said Massaro. "Only 25 percent of Americans are Catholic, and the course touches on making compromises with other religious groups and being civil to all people."

In addition, Massaro and Rabbi Lance Sussman, Ph.D., in conjunction with SJU's Jewish-Catholic Institute, presented a lecture on Sept. 10 entitled "Religion, Politics and Moral Decision-Making." The lecture offered mainstream Catholic and Jewish views on taking political responsibility seriously and procedures for responsible citizenship in each speaker's respective religion. "Neither Democrats nor Republicans consistently match the Catholic worldview of supporting life and peacemaking," said Massaro. "It is the responsibility of Catholic voters to take their vote seriously, size up the candidate, and examine where he or she stands on the issues. Whom you vote for is ultimately an issue of conscience."

Massaro will give another lecture on Oct. 30 entitled "For God and Country: Patriotism and Religious Identity" at 3 p.m. in the Haub Executive Center.

Massaro is also presiding over daily mass at the Chapel of St. Joseph-Michael J. Smith, S.J., Memorial every Tuesday at 12:05 p.m., and the two Sunday masses before the presidential election, on Nov. 2, at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

After his semester at Saint Joseph's, Massaro will return to Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, where he will continue teaching graduate and doctoral students. In the meantime, he is looking forward to immersing himself in local culture, including bicycling and taking in historic Philadelphia.

The Donald I. MacLean, S.J., Chair is held by members of the Society of Jesus who are accomplished teachers and scholars in the arts and sciences. Established to emphasize that the University's Jesuit identity is inseparable from the finest teaching, scholarship and collegiate discourse, the Chair is named in honor of Saint Joseph's University's 24th president, Donald I. MacLean, S.J.

--Dan Wisniewski

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