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Dialogues on events
that shape our world
A place where roads meet. A time of change.
Msgr. Lorenzo ALBACETE
Theologian, Author, Columnist

Fr. Julián CARRÓN
President of the Fraternity of
Communion and Liberation

Dr. Robert POLLACK
Professor of Biological Sciences
Columbia University

Dr. Joseph WEILER
Joseph Strauss Professor of Law
New York University
A Discussion on Faith,
Knowledge, and Experience in
Light of Msgr Luigi Giussani’s
New Book
Is It Possible To Live This Way?
(in collaboration with
Communion and Liberation)
Sunday, January 20, 2008, 4:00PM
The Jack H. Skirball Center for the
Performing Arts
New York University
566 LaGuardia Place at Washington Square
South, New York
One of the great themes of
discussion of the last few
years has been the
relationship between faith and
reason, science and religion.
There has been a strong trend
in our culture to identify
reason with the methods of the
natural sciences, and to
dismiss all other forms of
knowledge as necessarily
subjective and irrational. This
tendency to diminish the scope
and depth of human reason
has been one of the great
concerns of Pope Benedict
XVI, who has repeatedly called
for a “ broadening of reason,”
pointing out that even science
builds on philosophical
foundations that it does not
give itself. In order to address
this important issue, the
Crossroads Cultural Center will
hold a panel discussion on
January 20, 2008 at 4:00pm at
the Skirball Center for the
Performing Arts at New York
University. The topic of the
discussion will be precisely
how faith broadens reason in
its capacity to know reality.  
The participants in the
discussion entitled Can Faith
Broaden Reason? will be Fr.
Julian Carron, President of the
Fraternity of Communion and
Liberation, Dr. Robert Pollack,
Professor of Biological
Sciences at Columbia
University, and Dr. Joseph
Weiler, Professor of Law at
New York University, and with
Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete as the

This event will take place only
a few months before Benedict
XVI's visit to New York City. It is
also timed to coincide with
publication of the latest book
in English by Msgr. Giussani,
Is it Possible to Live This Way?
(McGill-Queens University
Press). This work by Giussani
is very relevant to the topic
under discussion because it
explores in detail the
relationship between faith and
reason, pointing out how
under certain conditions faith
is indeed a method of
knowledge. Crossroads is very
honored to have on this panel
Fr. Julian Carron, a great
expert on Msgr. Giussani’s
thought and also his chosen
successor as President of the
Fraternity of Communion and

New York symposium examines whether faith can
broaden reason

By Angelo Stagnaro
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- In the flurry of excitement
anticipating Pope Benedict XVI's visit to New York City,
some Catholics might have overlooked an important
meeting of the minds.

Though science and religion look at the world in different
ways, science can learn a great deal from religion,
concluded panelists at a Jan. 20 symposium titled "Can
Faith Broaden Reason?" at New York University's
Skirball Center.

The panel was comprised of two Jewish scholars and two
Catholic priests, both of whom are leaders of the
ecclesial group Communion and Liberation.

Mgsr. Lorenzo Albacete, a theologian, physicist, author
and columnist, opened the symposium by quoting Pope
Benedict's March 24, 2007, address on the 25th
anniversary of Communion and Liberation's pontifical
recognition: "The great contribution of Communion and
Liberation derives from being a movement that carries a
great human culture, theological but also general."

In addition to Msgr. Albacete, the other panelists were
Robert Pollack, professor of biology at Columbia
University in New York; Father Julian Carron, president
of Communion and Liberation in Milan, Italy; and Joseph
Weiler, a New York University professor of law.

The symposium drew an overflow crowd of 960 people.
Nearly a hundred others were turned away at the door.

It was co-sponsored by the Crossroads Cultural Center,
a local project of Communion and Liberation, and the
university's Catholic Graduate and Law Student

Communion and Liberation was founded in Milan in 1954
by Msgr. Luigi Giussani. He envisioned it as an informal
group motivated to help re-establish a Christian culture
and presence in the world in which authentic spiritual
liberation can occur and flourish, and one dedicated to
the spiritual development of its members.

Though the symposium wasn't originally meant to be an
interfaith dialogue, it became one in which both Jewish
and Catholic panelists shared their thoughts on
spirituality, morality, faith, reason, human rights, science
and scientism, encroaching secularization and what they
said is an increasing hostility toward Christianity in the
Western world.

Instead of a debate, there was a free and open
exchange of the speakers' subtly different viewpoints.

Pollack compared religion and science, saying both
made irrational and rational choices. Like religion,
"science can also experience awe, joy, fear and wonder,"
he said.

The professor then asked a thought-provoking question
of the assembled crowd: "If everything science does is
rational, where does scientific inspiration, unbidden and
unplanned by the rational mind, come from?"

"Revelation takes the form of ... being overwhelmed by
sheer feeling, arising without reason or cause," he
continued. "Both religious revelation and scientific insight
are inexplicable and untestable by empirical means and
neither is reproducible or provable. Further, both
science and religion are completely dependent upon

Weiler then spoke of the danger of the secularization of
Western society and the resultant threat to human rights
and the subsequent loss of the need for personal
sanctity and morality.

Father Carron described the general current European
view of religion as "a sign of abandonment of ideals of
reason and rationality."

"In Europe," Father Carron said, "religion is treated as
the equivalent of believing in ghosts."

He continued his presentation describing the nature of
faith in our lives. "Faith is an act of the intellect. ... It's an
act of knowledge that grasps the presence of something
that reason would not know how to grasp, but that
reason has to affirm nonetheless, otherwise something
that is within our experience would be eluded."

Due to time restrictions, Msgr. Albacete, a U.S. leader of
Communion and Liberation, couldn't present his entire

With the time available to him, he commented on the
threat to rational discourse and faith in what he said was
a prejudicial and imprudent decision of some faculty
members and students at Rome's Sapienza University to
protest a planned appearance there by Pope Benedict.
Msgr. Albacete noted the irony in the fact the university's
name means "wisdom" in Italian.

The pope canceled the visit after 67 professors objected
to it, saying the pope was "hostile to science," and after
a group of students threatened to demonstrate while he
was speaking.

Msgr. Albacete explained that there is an anti-intellectual
and presumptuous arrogance behind scientism that
insists the only thing worth knowing is science.

Scientism teaches that "anything we cannot know
through science just becomes a matter of opinion, belief
and faith and shouldn't be a subject of methodologically
rigorous reflection," he said.

"A real danger in accommodating scientism," Msgr.
Albacete added, "is that Christians might feel
increasingly pressured to reduce Christianity to a mere
esoteric spirituality and a collection of moral maxims."

Among those in attendance was Vlad Kuzman, 21,
leader of Communion and Liberation's 130-member
youth group and a junior majoring in comparative
literature at Jesuit-run Fordham University.

"This conference addressed important issues of the
state of the Western world and the place of faith and
reason in our daily lives," Kuzman, a convert to
Catholicism, said afterward.

Communion and Liberation "advocates for
values-centered education which speaks to a
transcendental, transformative truth and the path to real
happiness in life which, I believe, is found in Christ," he