December 8, 2019
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The Future of Latino Theology: Peter Casarella, Associate Professor of Theology

What is the idea of God that emanates
from the grassroots when we look at Latin America and we look at Latino
communities in the United States. How is that rooted in biblical realities? How is it
rooted in sacramental realities? What is the idea of beauty? What is the idea of justice in that idea of God? I have done a lot of work on medieval Christianity, important figures from the medieval past, but I want to try a new step forward in
Mestizo Christianity in looking at cultural dialogue and cultural
difference that brings the traditions from the past: the church fathers, the
medieval doctors, the Mystics, the lay women of the church, into conversation
with Latino theology and brings Latino theology into conversation with this
whole tradition. The US Catholic Church is now somewhere between 35 and 40%
Latino. Christianity, on the globe, is about 50% Spanish speaking.
In order to move forward there’s going to have to be a greater awareness of the
question of the diversity of the Latino experience. So, to see the richness within
Latino Catholicism and the richness of, kind of, intercultural dialogue in the
United States and in the world today all of those conversations are going to
contribute in exciting ways. I think the public witness of Catholicism bring
together the element of liturgy or beauty and bringing it together the
element of preferential option for the poor and the question of social justice
they’re fused together in a very distinctive way in Latino Catholicism. On
the processions associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe or other latino devotions
people go out into the streets. People make their Catholicism public. That is a
very different model than the kind of assimilationist model that we’ve had up
to now as a kind of dominant model for American Catholicism which tends to be
more private, individualized. I’d like to raise that to the fore to talk to my
colleagues in Political Science and Development Theory in Latin Americans,
college students and so forth about the public witness of Latino Catholicism. My
whole career has involved teaching on all levels. I love being able to mix
discourses and calibrate what I’m saying. Not just to make people hear what they want to hear but so I am challenged to listen to what people are
saying. As I embark on new research projects I listen to what my freshman
and sophomore students in the Notre Dame classroom are asking me to clarify in my
thinking or to open up a new question that I hadn’t considered before. One
reason for coming to Notre Dame was to train the next generation of Latino
doctoral students. The work that we have to do is enormous. The tasks are really
large but it’s also very exciting. Notre Dame is the place where Latino
theologians can learn not just about Latino theology but the whole of the
Christian tradition and many different methodological approaches and many
exciting things are going on in the church and the dialogue with the social
sciences and many different fields of inquiry. So Notre Dame is the perfect
place for doing what I want to do.

Otis Rodgers



  1. Jonathan Michael Posted on November 11, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Thank you for posting this, ND College of Arts and Letters.