Loyola University Maryland

Committee on Catholic Social Thought

Luncheon Discussion Archives


Below is a running list of the Committee of Catholic Social Thought's luncheon discussions by year. We have done our best to preserve the original messages that were sent by Dr. Graham McAleer, Fr. John Conley, S.J. and/or Lisa Flaherty. In some cases, addenda have been added which include updates to the original message.

Lunchtime Discussion Series Spring 2019

Pope Francis, the Technocratic Paradigm, and the Planetary Emergency: Readings and Reflections on His Holiness’ encyclical Laudato Si’ 

If I may begin by thanking Fr. John Conley, S. J. for his many years of service on the Committee.  Fr. John has decided to step down but gave us a good number of erudite years and guided on thinking on CST.  I am delighted the Committee now includes Dr. Theresa Nguyen (Chemistry) and Dr. Daniel Castillo (Theology)    

For Spring 2019 we have chosen a theme from Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment On Care of Our Common Home (Laudato Si’ online).  In Section 3 of the encyclical, Francis takes up the topic of what he calls the technocratic paradigm.  In this case, a paradigm is an ethos, a spiritual temper, but a negative one, a manner of control and management damaging to cura personalis.

The Committee on Catholic Social Thought will post short readings on our website but also bring copies to the lunches so people can follow along with the selected passages for discussion.  

Presenters speak for no more than 15 minutes, just to get the ball rolling, and then it’s open discussion of your thoughts/questions about the readings/topic.  

Our three meetings are:

Noon until 1:15pm in Room 114 College Center (or right behind the Starbucks!).

  • Thursday February 21st
    Dr. Paul Scherz (CUA) 
    Reading: Laudato Si’, n. 101¬114.
  • Thursday March 14th
    Dr. Theresa Nguyen (Loyola)
    Reading: Selected passages from Section 3 of Laudato Si’.
  • Thursday April 11th
    Dr. Daniel Castillo (Loyola)
    Reading: Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, 111–144 (focus on 114–124).

Fall 2018

Hopefully many of you are excited to learn that Loyola’s Committee on Catholic Social Thought is finally offering lunchtime reflections on the hugely popular The Hobbit by the great Catholic author J. R. R. Tolkien.  In the past, we’ve had some tremendous sessions on Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and Dorothy Sayers Gaudy Night to name just two.
The Hobbit should provide plenty of amusement and thought.  Bilbo Baggins, who, odd for a hobbit, is bookish, sets off on an adventure.  Along the way he meets Dwarves, Elves, Trolls, a dragon, and a most peculiar being, Gollum.  Returning home, he has a new mithril shirt and a ring… but that’s a story for another time.  
The Committee on Catholic Social Thought will buy books for people but, as in past years, people often bring their own well-worn copies of the books we are reading.  Just let me know if you need a copy and we’ll be happy to get one to you.
Presenters blend old and new as we host Tolkien scholar Joshua Hren from Belmont Abbey.  Presenters speak for no more than 15 minutes just to get the ball rolling and then it’s open discussion of your thoughts/questions.  We’ll split the reading into thirds:

  • Friday, September 21, 2018 Sue Abromaitis, professor of English at Loyola and huge fan of Tolkien.   Room 107 College Center (or right behind the Starbucks!) at noon.
  • Friday, October 12, 2018 Prof. Joshua Hren, Assistant Director of the Honours College, Belmont Abbey, and author of Middle-earth and the Return of the Common Good: J.R.R. Tolkien and Political Philosophy (Cascade Books, 2018). Room 107 College Center at noon.
  • Friday, November 2, 2018 Graham McAleer, professor of philosophy at Loyola and Tolkien fan.  Room 107 College Center at noon.

Spring 2018

After the Easter break we will have three luncheon discussions devoted to a text by John Paul dealing with a particular social issue:

Tuesday, April 10  On Work: Laborem Exercens; discussion led by Father John Conley, SJ

Wednesday April 18  On Women: Mulieris Dignitatem; discussion led by Dr. Sue Abromaitis

Thursday, April 26  On Art: Letter to Artists; discussion led by Dr. Brian Murray

The luncheons will begin around noon in College Center Conference Room 113.
Please encourage students who would benefit from this to attend.
You are most cordially welcome to a JP II spring.

Spring 2017

Natural Law

Natural law is the traditional bedrock of Catholic moral theology.  It is also easily misunderstood.  The American Jesuit political philosopher John Courtney Murray once quipped that philosophers and theologians often congratulate themselves on burying natural law only to discover they have buried the wrong corpse.

This semester Loyola’s Committee on Catholic Social Thought offers a boot camp on natural law.  As our discussions will be about morality and how to know what is moral, they are bound to be vibrant.  Our three quite varied lunchtime sessions are:  

  • Monday, February 20th seminarian and Loyola grad Brendan Fitzgerald (Mount St. Mary’s) guides “Natural Law 101” at 12.00.  Room 114 College Center (or right behind the Starbucks!) download the Lecture Handout (pdf)
  • Thursday, March 23rd Loyola professor Graham McAleer guides “St. John Paul II’s Account of Natural Law in Veritatis Splendor” at 12.00.  Room 113 College Center
  • Friday, March 31st Loyola Marymount professor Scott Roniger guides “Pope Francis and Natural Law in Laudato Si’” at 12.00.  Room 113 College Center

Fall 2016

Pope Francis and the Family: A Discussion of Amoris Laetitia

Catholics find Francis both lovable and frustrating.  Amoris Laetitia, his Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family, fits that bill.

It is long, really long.  Coming in at over 250 pages it is the longest papal addition to the tradition of Catholic social thought and it contains some puzzling passages.  It is also full of joy, love, and concern.  Pure Francis!

The family is a recurring theme in papal writings.  This is not merely because the story of Jesus is a family story but because the family is a cause for concern.  Family life is often fraught with worry, conflict even, and yet it is basic to building communities of care and trust.  Politically it is a lightening rod: some think the integrity of the family, once lost, cannot be restored by state agencies.  Others see talk of the family as a problematic constraint upon the fluidity of personal identity.

We will discuss these topics, and more, during three lunch time sessions guided by three speakers we are excited to host:

Friday, September 23rd: Dr. Alexander Rosenthal (Johns Hopkins) at 12.00.  Room 114 College Center (or right behind the Starbucks!) Dr. Rosenthal will focus on Chapter 8

Friday, October 21st: Prof. David McPherson (Creighton) at 12.00.  Room 114 College Center Dr. McPherson will focus on Chapter 5 

Friday, November 11th: Prof. Paige Hochschild (Mount Saint Mary’s) at 12.00.  Room 114 College Center.  Dr. Hochschild will focus on Chapters 4 & 5

Lunch is served and all are welcome to join in the broad, open, and convivial discussions that are the hallmark of the luncheons sponsored by Loyola’s Committee on Catholic Social Thought.  http://www.loyola.edu/department/ccst/events

The text itself is available at the Vatican website.  It is huge so you may just want to read the relevant chapters online.

Should you have questions, please write to me at gmcaleer@loyola.edu.

Spring 2016

Discussion of Albert Camus’s The Plague.

Though famous as an existentialist or philosopher of the absurd, Camus also thought of himself as a fellow-traveller with Catholic thought.  His books always have religious themes and usually some climatic scene when the protagonist has a decisive encounter with a priest. 

Written in 1947, Albert Camus’s The Plague imagines a modern, unexceptional city succumbing to the bubonic plague.  It is a riveting story and opens cinematically: a doctor leaves his apartment for work one morning and going down the stairs sees a rat lying on one of the steps dead.  Puzzled, but not overly, he side steps the rat and goes about his day.  The doctor’s everyday circumstances are about to change utterly. 

Camus’s novel will be food for fascinating lunchtime discussions on themes dear to the tradition of Catholic social thought: hope, solidarity, fortitude, friendship, sacrifice, and more. 

I am delighted our discussion leaders are:

February 3rd: Prof. Andre Colombat (Loyola) at 12.00 in CT*M114

Director of Study Abroad and professor of French literature at Loyola, Dr. Colombat will explain Camus’s standing in France today, as well as his role postwar in shaping French intellectual life.

March 17th: Lauren Weiner at 12.05 in CT*M114

Speechwriter and literary editor of the Law and Liberty online forum, Ms. Weiner is an expert in literature and political theory. She will explore with us the social and political ideas of the novel.  

April 15th: Fr. John Peck, S. J. at 12.00 in CT*M114

Formerly of Loyola College, Fr. Peck is currently at Georgetown Parish Church and will soon begin advanced studies in philosophy as part of his Jesuit formation. He will address the theology present in the novel.  

Lunch is served and all are welcome to join in the broad, open, and convivial discussions that are the hallmark of the luncheons sponsored by Loyola’s Committee on Catholic Social Thought.

Persons with disabilities who may require special services should contact the Office of Disability Support Services at 410-617-2062 at least 48 hours prior to the event.



Pope Francis’s encyclical (click link for Laudato Si' .pdf) on the environment was published summer 2015 to massive media attention.  It was perceived as endorsing the current scientific approach to environmental questions.  Popes have always been careful to keep a distance from current ways of talking and thinking about social problems.  Is Francis breaking with tradition then?  Is he trying to push CST in a new direction of practical engagement with secular thinking?  The Church has a long history of encounters with science, how do science and theology meet in his letter?  How does this encounter link with his prior dramatic comments about contemporary business and consumer patterns? 

laudato-si-pictureThese will be fascinating lunchtime discussions on a major new contribution to the tradition of Catholic social thought.  I am delighted our discussion leaders are:

  • September 24th: Prof. Dan Castillo (Loyola) at 12.05 in CT*M114
    Prof. Castillo is a specialist in theology and environmentalism, and in particular the mental world of Latin American theology.
  • October 15th: Brendan Fitzgerald (Mt. St. Mary’s) at 12.05 in CT*M114
    Awarded the Ayd Medal for best philosophy student at Loyola College, Brendan is currently pursuing graduate studies in philosophy as part of his formation for the priesthood.
  • November 19th: Fr. John Peck, S. J. at 12.05 in CT*M114
    Formerly of Loyola College, Fr. Peck is currently at Georgetown Parish Church and will soon begin advanced studies in philosophy as part of his Jesuit formation.  

Lunch is served and all are welcome to join in the broad, open, and convivial discussions that are the hallmark of the luncheons sponsored by Loyola’s Committee on Catholic Social Thought. 

Should you have questions, please write to me at gmcaleer@loyola.edu.  




Evangelii Gaudium

Luncheon discussions of Evangelii Gaudium, the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis that caused a huge media stir before Christmas. The text is found at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

As always, we will have a wide-ranging discussion of the documents themes and what the document tells us about the state of our civilization and the life of the Church. It's a really super text.

Themes, amongst many, include: What is the future direction of the Church? What should be the nature of parish life? How are the poor to be rightly served? How corrosive is capitalism? What is the future role of the papacy? How does Francis relate to previous popes? Does the Exhortation confirm the media portrayal of Francis?

Each session will be led by someone from the college to facilitate discussion, or a guest.

Thursday, February 27 at 12:15 p.m.
College Center CT M430 i.e. The Sellinger VIP Lounge.
Discussion leader: Graham McAleer. Read sections 1-76.

Thursday, March 20 at 12:15 p.m.
Humanities# 221
Discussion leader: Fr. John Conley, S.J.

Thursday, April 24 at 12:15 p.m.
College Center CT M107
Discussion leader: Robert Miner, Baylor University

A good quality lunch is served, so please come hungry for food and knowledge!


This semester Loyola’s Committee on Catholic Social Thought invites you to a four-part series of lunchtime discussions on marriage and the family.  Lovely food served! 

Taking our cue from Pope Francis, who this autumn hosts a synod of the Bishops on the topic of marriage and the family, we invite you to join:

  • Dr. Carolyn Barry, Department of Psychology, Loyola University, who will guide discussion on the state on marriage and family in the USA today.  
    Date: Thursday, September 18th, 2014 at 12.15 pm.
    Location: CT*M114   
  • Fr. Charles Borges, S. J., Department of History, Loyola University, who will guide discussion on the state of marriage and family in India today. 
    Date: Thursday, October 16th, 2014 at 12.15 pm.
    Location: CT*M113

The Directors of Loyola’s Committee on Catholic Social Thought will host two other meetings on the topic:

  • Fr. John Conley, S. J., Knott Chair of Theology, Loyola University, will guide discussion on the questions to be addressed at the upcoming synod:

Over the last two months we have discussed the character of the family in India and the USA and now it is time to add some of the theoretical ideas the Church is mulling as it seeks to help families in the modern world.   

Useful documents to read are:

The closing remarks of Pope Francis:


And what is called the relatio synodi, or the final document emerging from the deliberations of the bishops.


Date: Monday, November 10th, at 12:00 pm.
Location: CT*M114 

  • Dr. Graham McAleer, Department of Philosophy, Loyola University, will guide a discussion on how the questions of the autumn synod differ or amplify the themes and doctrine found in Saint John Paul II’s 1981 Familiaris Consortio, the Church’s reflection from its previous synod on the topic.


Date: Thursday, December 4th, 2014 at 12.15. 
Location: CT*M113

Any questions, please write: gmcaleer@loyola.edu


Natural Law

Wednesday Sept. 18 at noon: Tracey Rowland (JP II Institute for Marriage and the Family, Melbourne, Australia) will give her thoughts about the contemporary significance of natural law and guide discussion.  Tracey Rowland is arguably the leading theologian of her generation. I am so thrilled she'll be at the College. 

Wednesday October 16th: Fr. John Conley, S. J. (Theology Dept. Loyola College), will guide discussion. 
At noon, room CTM113. 

Thursday November 14th: John Peck, S. J. (Jesuit Theologate Boston College) will guide discussion. 
At noon, room CTM113.


Religious Liberty in America Today

This semester's topic for our CST discussions is the state of religious liberty in America. Obviously, recent health policy decisions by government have put into focus the degree to which the Catholic Church in America can still be self-governing. It is an age-old problem: The relationship between God and Caesar. Church reflection on state power has been near constant down through the centuries but we will read and discuss modern documents from Rome, the U.S. Bishops, and the Maryland Conference. These will be timely and provocative discussions.

We shall have three meetings this autumn:

Oct. 25: Fr. John Conley, S.J. on Dignitatis Humanae, a 1965 Vatican II document.

Nov. 15: John Peck, S. J. on Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, a 2012 document of the U. S. Bishops.

Dec. 6: Discussion of The Most Sacred Property: Religious Freedom and the People of Maryland, issued by the Maryland Catholic Conference, 2011. We hope to have someone from the Conference come that day and guide the discussion.

As in previous years, we will provide the readings in advance and discussion leaders will introduce basic themes/background but then invite open discussion of the readings/ themes.


Values in a Time of Upheaval

Thank you for the support you showed during our Fall series of discussions on the Song of Songs. Good fellowship and good conversation are wonderful things.

We are excited about our Spring series and Fr. John Conley, S.J. and I are happy to invite you to three lunchtime discussions of Benedict XVI's Values in a Time of Upheaval, an accessible but thought provoking short text on politics, morality and culture.

As usual lunch is provided. I have ordered the books so please just write to me and I will ensure you get a copy. As always, bring your thoughts and impressions and we'll enjoy each other's ideas.

Two good friends of Loyola's Committee on Catholic Social Thought have agreed to lead discussions:

Dr. Paul Seaton, professor of philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary and University, has been reading Benedict for years and will get the first discussion going: Friday February 25th at noon in College Center Conference Room 105. 

As a professor of government at John Hopkins, Dr. Alex Rosenthal is ideally suited to situate Benedict's major themes in the broader culture, and will offer first thoughts Friday March 18th at noon in College Center Conference Room 105. 

The closing meeting will be Friday April 15th with a guest speaker (TBA) but time and place will be the same.

Amazon has let me down! I will have the books shortly but in order for people to do some reading I've decided to push the first date back till Wednesday March 2nd (my birthday!). Kindly, Paul Seaton has been agile enough to switch dates so I hope this works. I have a list of people I need to get books to - expect them very soon-- but if you still want to join us just write to me and I'll get a book you, no problem.

First meeting: 

Room: College Center 113
Time: Noon
Date: Wednesday, March 2nd


Song of Songs

This semester the Committee on Catholic Social Thought is hosting three lunch time discussions of the biblical Song of Songs, a short text of love poetry in the Hebrew Scriptures. 

These discussions work nicely with two University events connected with the Song of Songs, or what is sometimes known as Solomon's Song. One of the world's most eminent theologians, Paul Griffiths, will be on campus to discuss the text (October 21 at 4:30pm in Maguire Hall) and a play, based on the Scripture and written by our very own Fr. John Conley, will be performed (November 10 at 7pm in the Alumni Chapel). 

For our part, the Committee is delighted to announce that Claire Mathews, Loyola's resident expert on Hebrew Scripture, will guide our first luncheon, helping us to understand the setting and meaning of what is a strange and wonderful (and short!) book of the Bible. 

Claire hosts our first discussion Monday, October 18th starting at noon in College Center Conference Room 107. 

As in the past, lunch is provided so just bring your good selves, a Bible or even just the Bible app you have on your smart phones! 

The dates and times of the two other meetings are in flux. However, we expect Sam Sawyer, Loyola's Jesuit Scholastic, to lead one discussion early November: He'll start the ball rolling with some remarks on how Benedict XVI uses the Song of Songs in his theological thinking. In the first week of December, either Fr. John Conley, S.J. or I will start our final session with some words of how John Paul II linked the intimacy of Solomon's Song with broader questions in his social and political reflections. 


G. K. Chesterton's classic story The Man Who Was Thursday

Fr. John Conley, S.J. and I would like to invite you to join us reading G. K. Chesterton's classic story The Man Who Was Thursday. It's a fantastic read. Comic in parts, and basically a detective story, the whole is set against a backdrop of intellectual conflict. Chesterton uses the story to examine the modern intellectual landscape about which he has a rather dark picture.

The format is simple: Come ready to chat about the book and Fr. John and I on occasion will add comments about how Chesterton's themes intersect with Catholic social thought. The main point is to enjoy reading and discussing a great book together.

As usual, the lunchtime meetings run an hour or so, and lunch is served, so just bring your good selves. If you let me know about your basic interest, I'll order you a book and get it to you.

February 23 College Center Conference Room 107
March 16 College Center Conference Room 113 
April 14 College Center Conference Room 113

These are very nice rooms and all meetings start at noon or just after.