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Xavier Magazine | July 28, 2017

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Extra Credit: Joseph Bracken, S.J.

Extra Credit: Joseph Bracken, S.J.

“I’m a theologian interested in science. I have a deep respect for the scientific method and what it has produced. But I think some scientists have exaggerated the power of science to explain everything, because a good part of the human experience is awareness of the divine and the power of interpersonal relationships on a scale that science can’t quantify.”

“In the fall of 1982, I was at Marquette, and Xavier wanted me to join the faculty and do the chairmanship. I did that for three years and have been here ever since.”

“I got my bachelor’s degree at Xavier though I was never on campus. We were at the Milford Novitiate, and in 1953 I was awarded a Bachelor of Literature. I got a Master of Philosophy from Loyola of Chicago in 1960. I did my Doctorate in Philosophy at the University of Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany. My background is philosophy, but I also got a licentiate in theology to become a priest.”

“I was the first occupant of the Beckman Chair in Catholic Theology in 1989. I was invited by president Fr. Albert DiUlio who had a bequest from the Beckman family. I had limited courses and taught only six hours instead of 12, and that was a nice opportunity for further research.”

“I teach theology but more from a philosophical perspective. I follow Alfred North Whitehead, the founder of process theology, which is based on the notion that the God-world relationship is always in a state of evolution. His philosophy is very compatible with much of the scientific understanding of evolution. I’ve written 11 books and more than 100 articles dealing with this approach.”

“I’ve taught courses that dealt with intelligent design versus evolution. Basically I’m on the side of the evolutionist, that intelligent design doesn’t think through the issues carefully enough and makes God intervene when nature will surely produce what they think God has created by working through natural processes.”

“I spent last semester in Africa at Hekima College in Nairobi, a school of theology associated with the Catholic University of East Africa. It was very rewarding to realize I was making an impression on young people who would shape the Church of East Africa. I told them in Africa it’s up to them to shape the African Church and that it would be a mistake to pattern themselves after the Church in Rome because then they won’t have a feel for their native church if they don’t develop an African theology.”

“In Tanzania I stayed at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro and was lucky to see the summit when the clouds parted and saw how Kilimanjaro is losing its snowcap. It’s a reminder we are in a period of rather extraordinary global warming and there will be a price to pay with very hot summers and weather changes that are almost totally unpredictable. We need to change our lifestyle. We’re living during a period where in the U.S. we enjoy a lifestyle everyone wants to imitate, but it can’t happen without mass shortages, so we should help people develop a better lifestyle, but we have to reduce our own. I would begin with energy conservation with our cars and electricity.”

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