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Leon Hooper, S.J.

hooper1Leon Hooper, S.J., Head of the Woodstock Theological Center Library

Ph.D., Boston College. Research Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center (1986—  ); Director of the Woodstock Theological Center Library (2003—  ); book review editor of Theological Studies (2005—  ). Publications include The Ethics of Discourse: The Social Philosophy of John Courtney Murray (1986); Religious Liberty: Catholic Struggles with Pluralism (ed.) (1993); Bridging the Sacred and the Secular (ed.) (1996). Areas of interest: Bernard Lonergan's influence on Murray's ethics and systematic theology; the use of Roman Catholic theological and common good languages in public argument; mystical rhetorics and systematic ethics. Current projects: a website of all J.C. Murray’s publications; gluing Dorothy Day and John Courtney Murray together by means of mystical rhetorical analysis and a reconfigured H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and culture typologies.  See: "Citizen Murray" and "A 'Little Way' Toward a Just Society."

Selected Activities as a Woodstock Fellow

During January to March of 2005, Leon Hooper, S.J., was in Mainz, Germany, in late February to give a paper entitled "Murray on Loving One's Enemies," one of eight presentations, for a conference entitled "Faith after Modernity: German American Intellectual Discourse." The conference moves from Karl Rahner, Bernard Lonergan, and John Courtney Murray at their 100th birthdays to the new shape of theological discourse. He then went to Berlin for a single address on Murray and religious freedom.

During July to December of 2004, Leon Hooper, S.J., followed up a talk on the 100-year-old John Courtney Murray, S.J., that he gave at this year's Catholic Theological Society of America dinner, with another presentation along with Walter Burghardt, S.J., John Haughey, S.J., and Mark Williams (a nephew of Murray) at the Woodstock Library, with many Murray family members in attendance. Leon also presented a paper entitled "Murray on Loving One's Enemies" and led a faculty discussion on the Murray legacy at Seattle University.

During July to December of 2002, Leon Hooper, S.J., (as new library Director) has been learning the technical and financial aspects of the Woodstock Library, but, more interestingly, has begun exploring the extensive 16th through 19th century materials of Woodstock's Special Collections - with an eye toward cataloging and making those resources available for international scholars and research. In mid-November he gave a talk to the Benedictines of St. Mary's Abbey on John Courtney Murray's notion of human dignity, in part based on a critical reading of Murray's 1967 "The Dangers of the Vows." He also received a $6,000 grant from Loyola Foundation to develop a searchable web site of Murray's written works.

During July to December of 2002, Leon Hooper, S.J., has submitted the final version of an article, "Cups Half Full: John Courtney Murray, S.J.'s Skirmishes with Christian Realism" as a chapter in a forthcoming volume, The Christian Realists: A Re-Evaluation, edited by Dr. Eric Patterson at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Murray is the only "non-realist" taken up, mostly for contrast. Hooper's article deals primarily with Murray's reactions to Reinhold Niebuhr, and their eventual similarities. The book should be available in the spring. Work continues on a Murray website.

During April to June of 2002, J. Leon Hooper, S.J., is gathering together John Courtney Murray's publications and some unpublished materials, and having them digitalized, for eventual inclusion in a searchable web site at Georgetown University of all Murray's works - and he is looking for funding to pay for development of the site. He is also working with John Farina on defining and funding a three-year project on civic renewal and Catholicism, a project anchored in the social approaches of Murray and Dorothy Day, while taking account of current changes in both religious participation in civic renewal and in the public credibility of American Catholicism. He also organized and delivered a paper for Woodstock's March 14th Forum on "Being Radically Religious in Public Life."

During January to March of 2002, J. Leon Hooper, S.J.'s, study of Dorothy Day's adaptation of the spirituality of the enclosed, tubercular Little Flower to the slums of Depression New York will appear as "Dorothy Day's Transposition of Therese's 'Little Way'" in Theological Studies 63 (March 2002).

During March to June of 2001, J. Leon Hooper, S.J., has an article in the New York Province insert in the spring 2001 Company magazine on John Courtney Murray's notion of "civility," written in light of recent calls for political civility, and an article, "The Grace that Saves," on Pope John Paul's notion of union with God within our contemporary social world in the spring issue of BC Magazine.  He has finished a collection of essays on Murray and Dorothy Day.

During July to December of 1999, J. Leon Hooper, S.J., along with 25 ethicists and activists, participated in an October conference, "Common Ground: Faithful Ground?," jointly sponsored by the Aspen Institute and Common Ground for Life and Choice. From within a variety of religious and moral traditions, participants tried to clarify to those outside their traditions their own theological justifications for seeking common ground with those with whom they religiously and morally disagree. He is developing a bibliography on the role of electronic media in the new "globalization" of the economy, with special focus on its cultural impact.

During April to June of 1999, J. Leon Hooper, S.J., will teach a two-week course this summer at the Washington Theological Union entitled "John Courtney Murray and Dorothy Day on Working for the Social Good." The course is more broadly a study of American Catholicism, given that together Murray and Day were the most influential American Roman Catholic thinkers of this waning century. Hooper will examine the distinctly Roman Catholic perspectives and approaches they shared, but also their differences that in mid-century divided-and continue to divide-their followers.

During January to March of 1999, J. Leon Hooper, S.J.'s, biographical essay on "John Courtney Murray" was published in Vol. 16 of the American National Biography (New York, Oxford University Press, 1999). A paper entitled "A 'Little Way' Toward a Just Society" will appear on the Woodstock web site in April. It is an analysis of Dorothy Day's study, extension, and correction of the social dimensions of Therese of Lisieux's (the Little Flower's) spirituality. The paper will be presented and discussed at the June convention of the Catholic Theological Society of America. It is part of a larger study on the Roman Catholic features of Day's and Murray's religious ethics.

During April to December of 1998, J. Leon Hooper, S.J., delivered a paper entitled "Theological and Philosophical Grounds for Catholic Cooperation with Non-Catholics" to the annual conference of Common Ground for Life and Choice, and continues to participate in the discussions of a local chapter of Common Ground. He also helped shape and facilitated discussion groups for a Campaign for New Community-sponsored conference in November entitled "Building Better Communities: A National Dialogue on Collaborating for Successful Siting of Housing & Service Programs."

During July to December of 1997, J. Leon Hooper, S.J., participated in a panel discussion at Boston College after the Thanksgiving holidays. The discussion concerned the modern memoir genre of personal writing and will eventually appear in BC Magazine (Boston College alumni magazine). For the discussion Fr. Hooper read Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes and The Liar's Club by Mary Karr. However, mostly he spoke from highly personal autobiographical writings of mystics such as Teresa of Avila and Dorothy Day (whom he has been studying for their social content) and the modern moves toward human interiority and popular spirituality that the memoir genre echoes.

During January to March of 1997, J. Leon Hooper, S.J., delivered two lectures this winter that presented arguments advanced in his recently published collection of secondary Murray essays, John Courtney Murray and the Growth of Tradition (Sheed & Ward, 1996). His major effort, however, remains focused on a line of inquiry suggested in the closing essay of that volume, namely, the possibility of bringing richer languages of the Christian tradition to definitions of and work toward the public good. After having traced through the mutually constructive interplay between the more socially explicit Catholic mystics (such as Teresa of Avila and Dorothy Day) and modern notions of human dignity, Hooper is now trying to tease out the social dimensions in the more individualistic writers such as Meister Eckhart. The book in the making remains conscious of links between these mystical traditions and some of the deeper impulses behind Murray's and Lonergan's notions of the human drive to know human social nature and, ultimately, God.

During April to June of 1996, J. Leon Hooper, S.J., continues through June of this year at Boston College to search out the social dimensions of mystical thought. In April he delivered a lecture for the Jesuit Institute entitled "Transcending the Human Condition: The God of Teresa of Avila, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Dorothy Day." His analysis of the changing metaphors for God's social presence in the theological writings of Murray, entitled "The Theological Sources of John Courtney Murray's Ethics," appeared in the March issue of Theological Studies. In June he will be on a panel on church/state relations at the Catholic Theological Society of America annual meeting in San Diego.