The annual symposium of New Wine, New Wineskins has been formative for many Catholic moral theologians in the past 17 years; it has forged many friendships, (mostly) friendly arguments, and scholarly collaboration. In honor of the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori, patron saint of moral theologians, and the most recent NWNW gathering, I post the following brief history that was written for and presented at the 2015 symposium, ending with an introduction to Bishop Daniel Flores, our senior scholar for that year:
A Brief History of New Wine, New Wineskins
For those who were only a bunch of grapes when New Wineskins was founded
The organization of New Wine, New Wineskins was founded in 2002 when two doctoral students of moral theology at the University of Notre Dame perceived a difficulty faced by young Catholic moral theologians. These two – Bill Mattison and Maria Malkiewicz – recognized that those Catholic moral theologians in graduate school or in the early stages of their careers were in a much different place than their predecessors. Having been born post-Vatican II and post-Humanae Vitae, and, most importantly, having been raised in the midst of pluralism rather than a strict Catholic subculture, the concerns for these newer moral theologians were different than their mentors.
NWNW was founded with two goals in mind for these YCMTs. First, they saw that their generation viewed their work in Catholic moral theology as a vocation, but yet they lacked the formation and nourishment for that vocation. They genuinely wanted to be of service to the Church, and they wanted to explore that with friends that also viewed CMT as a vocation. Secondly, the founders and early participants lamented the divisiveness of CMT, and they desired to avoid reproducing the encamped divisions of their predecessors. They wanted to have serious debates, but a more charitable discourse. They sought to provide a way for YCMTs to debate the issues of CMT without the intimidation of older scholars who misunderstood them and their intentions, and whose presence might inhibit the conversation.
The annual NWNW Symposium was an attempt to address these issues by providing a forum for YCMTs. The founders decided to plan the symposium to coincide with the Feast of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, the patron saint of moral theology. They found a place – Moreau Seminary – that would provide the space, not only for paper presentations, but for daily Mass and ample social time beyond the presentations. They experimented with the format in attempts to facilitate quality conversation and fellowship. For example, there have been barbecues, beach trips, respondents to papers, meals at the local Catholic Worker house, break-out sessions, softball games, and topical discussions.
NWNW has also been a great place for scholarly collaboration. Most obviously, two edited volumes have emerged from the Symposium: New Wine, New Wineskins: A Next Generation Reflects on Key Issues in Catholic Moral Theology (Ed. William Mattison) and Leaving and Coming Home: New Wineskins for Catholic Sexual Ethics (Ed. David Cloutier). Those of you who attended last year know that we are also currently in the midst of putting together a third volume. The catholicmoraltheology.com blog, which many of you probably know (Tom Bushlack is a contributor), also grew out of conversations at NWNW. But beyond these published books, many participants throughout the years – myself included – have benefited enormously from the presentations, discussions, and support of conference participants; there have been many of us that have worked together on scholarly presentations and projects, sometimes even to present opposite views in concert at other conferences.
I snuck in early to NWNW, as I did not technically fit the requirement of being post-comps/ABD. Because of this (combined with my current choice not to pursue a tenure track job), I have ended up being at NWNW for nine consecutive years now. In my first years at NWNW, people used to introduce themselves by including how many years they had been at NWNW. It’s kind of funny to be proud of those years, especially since attendance at NWNW is really not supposed to be a long-term commitment! In fact, there have been moments when people at NWNW have realized they are definitely becoming aged wine – like when Melanie Barrett (in her last year) had to sit through a paper based primarily on her work, where she was quoted extensively! Or Charlie Camosy, who attended for a final time last year. But there also has been a bit of pride in having attended numerous NWNW symposiums.
Perhaps that pride was a result of the consistent camaraderie found at the symposium, which, for those who have experienced it, is hard to forget. And those who have contributed to the camaraderie know it to be a real contribution to the field of Catholic moral theology, as well as a genuine gift in pursuing the vocation of a moral theologian. I’ve heard many very intense debates – usually even more so during the evening and late night social times than during the official sessions. Of course, there has been a great variety of topics for debate, from lying to gun use to racial issues to how to choose where to live. And, the usual fallback, of course, is arguing about sex… or Thomas Aquinas.
Despite the diversity of opinions and intensity of debate, the underlying charity has largely remained. Unlike some conferences where you are expected to check your personal life at the door as you don your “academic veneer” and dress suit, at NWNW, participants tend to express care for one another beyond just the blatant academic errors someone has egregiously made in point three of their paper. I remember in particular one year at NWNW when I was pregnant with my third child, and we were having a late-night conversation about American family’s materialistic consumption habits in relation to family size…and I pointed out that we cannot simply casually dismiss people’s concerns about financial security for their families because kids really do cost money.
I brought up my family’s problem of the moment, which was that we would no longer fit into our compact car when we needed room for three carseats in the back; my husband had just gotten a job and 60% of each of his paychecks was going to our mortgage (JERSEY!!!), such that our budget was usually in the red unless he took on extra classes. What I remember about that conversation was not that we reasoned our way to a solid conclusion on how large families could exist at a lower level of consumption by limiting their materialistic desires, but rather, I remember that later, Kari-Shane Davis Zimmerman approached me, full of compassion and good will, to try to help me brainstorm how we could afford buying a larger vehicle! And then, a year later, Jason King was on duty at the conference helping me with the baby until my husband was able to join me at the conference. That kind of concern – for people’s family lives, job situations, dissertation difficulties, publications (or publication rejections) etc. – have always characterized NWNW for me.
In part because NWNW has recognized that CMTs are people with lives beyond academia, lives that influence their scholarship, as part of their vocation, the symposium has sought to find a way to include the voices of senior scholars in the field, even while officially excluding them from registering for the conference! When Bill Mattison came to speak with us for a session in honor of the tenth anniversary of NWNW, he explained that even at its inception, NWNW sought the advice of senior scholars in the field of moral theology. In the early years, they wrote to respected scholars, asking them if they had any thoughts for YCMTs; they collected and saved the letters they received so they could discuss them as a group. There was no presumption against or hostility toward older scholars, even if the name NWNW might be misunderstood to indicate this. YCMTs realized the value in hearing the perspective of more experienced scholars, both through their academic work and through their lived experience as theologians.
Beginning in 2005, the board of NWNW formalized the intent to include the voices of older scholars by inviting a senior scholar for discussion during the symposium. The discussions with these scholars have presented the opportunity for participants to read and discuss a common text and understand the personal journey of the author. During the last 10 years, NWNW has hosted a number of SSs, including Jean Porter, Paulinus Odozor, Lisa Sowle Cahill, Robert Barron, Stanley Hauerwas, Daniel Finn, Jim Keenan, Bryan Massingale, and Bill Cavanuagh. Conversations with these scholars on their work and their personal journeys as MTs have sparked conversations that lasted throughout the weekend and even into the next year’s symposium.
There was one other particular concern of NWNW’s early participants that has taken some time to work out. As Mattison notes in the introduction to the first NWNW volume, the newer generation of CMTs was raised in the midst of pluralism, and, instead of trying to get away from the Church into the world, the YCMTs were often (with little catechesis or formation) wanting to find a way to be part of the Church, serving the Church through their work as CMTs. They knew that the older generation of CMTs generally had adversarial feelings toward the “official magisterium of the Church,” with the perceived legalism and relegation of CMT to the topic of sin. YCMTs lacked mentors who were also positive models in the relationship with an ordinary, and even in the early years they sought ways to overcome that past animosity and to use their knowledge and work to serve the Church. Although he never came, NWNW invited Bishop D’Arcy of South Bend-Fort Wayne Diocese to visit the conference.
This evening, we have finally managed to forge a formal connection between YCMTs and a bishop -thirteen years in the making!
We are so grateful and honored to have with us tonight Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville. Bishop Flores earned his B.A. and M.Div. from the University of Dallas license, was ordained a priest in 1988, and in 2000 he earned a doctorate in theology from the Angelicum. He was a professor of theology for four years, even teaching Allison Covey! And then he served as rector of the Corpus Christi Cathedral before being appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit at the end of 2006. In 2009, Bishop Flores was appointed as the Bishop of Brownsville. That is a pretty decent intro in terms of his background, but at NWNW – as I mentioned – we like to know more about people than just their degrees and so on. Thankfully, Bishop Flores tells us on his blog that his interests include dinosaurs, freshwater fish, baseball, soccer, and J.R.R. Tolkien. And in the next few hours we will hear more about his interests and his journey! Thank you again for being with us.
Past Senior Scholars:
2005: Jean Porter
2006: Fr. Paulinus Odozor
2007: Lisa Sowle Cahill
2008: Fr. Robert Barron
2009: Stanley Hauerwas
2010: Daniel Finn
2011: Fr. James Keenan
2012: William C. Mattison, III
2013: Fr. Bryan Massingale
2014: William Cavanaugh
2015: Bishop Daniel Flores
2016: Cathleen Kaveny
2017: William Portier
2018: Gary Anderson
2019: Holly Taylor Coolman
Past and Present Board Members:
David Matzko McCarthy
Kari-Shane Davis Zimmerman