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Major Jesuit topic of church-state lecture

Jan. 29, 2004

By Jessica Barton, reporter

As a part of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies' Brown Bag Lunch Lecture Series, Dr. Thomas Hibbs, dean of the Honors College, spoke on 'Catholics in the Public Square: The Murray Project Reconsidered' Wednesday in Carroll Library.

Hibbs' lecture discussed influential Jesuit theologian John Courtney Murray's 1960 book We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition.

'Murray is probably the most influential Catholic source on church-state studies since the time he wrote this,' Hibbs said. 'I think that the debates in Catholic theological circles ... still have a good deal to do with Murray.'

Hibbs was appointed dean of the Honors College and distinguished professor of ethics and culture last July.

Hibbs is the first permanent dean of Baylor's Honors College.

Before becoming a member of the Baylor faculty, Hibbs served as a professor and department chair of philosophy at Boston College.

Hibbs has written many novels, including Virtue's Splendor, Wisdom, Prudence, and the Good Life and Shows About Nothing: Nihilism and Popular Culture from the Exorcist to Seinfeld.

According to Hibbs, Murray saw the key to 'pluralism of creeds' as uniting people of different denominations not in churches, but in universities.

'The right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the church or society or the state but in the very dignity of the human person,' Murray said in We Hold These Truths.

In his novel, Murray discussed such issues as funding for parochial schools, censorship and the morality of war.

According to Hibbs, despite differences between denominational theories, the point that Murray made in We Hold These Truths is that 'every nation is under God.'

'The deeper problem with the Murray Project is that it cannot substitute for political theory and political prudence,' Hibbs said.

Hibbs' lecture was the second Brown Bag Lunch Lecture of this school year.

The Brown Bag Lunch Lecture Series is organized by Dr. Francis J. Beckwith, associate director of the J.M. Dawson Institute and associate professor of church-state studies.

According to Beckwith, Hibbs was chosen for this lecture series because he is a new ture series because he is a new dean and because it made it possible for him to interact with some of the students in the institute.

The lecture series is an 'opportunity for students and faculty to hear from faculty on campus or a speaker on campus and to get them to come by and share their insight or research,' Beckwith said.

Typically, these lectures are presented to groups of 15-20 faculty and graduate students, according to Beckwith.

The 2003-2004 school year was the first year for Beckwith to organize the Brown Bag Lunch Lecture Series, and there will be at least two more lecturers sponsored by the institute this school year.

The next Brown Bag Lunch Lecture will feature Barry Harvey, assistant professor of great texts. His speech on just war theory and pacifism will be Feb. 11.

The J.M. Dawson Institute, established in 1957, is the oldest and most well established facility of its kind, according to the institute's Web site.