Center For Ethics and Culture hosts 15th annual Fall Conference


Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture organizes a host of events each year, including a number of conferences, lecture series, and student programs, but its biggest event by far is its annual Fall Conference.

The Fall Conference is an opportunity for scholars from across the country to convene and discuss some of the most pressing ethical questions facing our society today.  The three-day conference includes keynote presentations, panel discussions, and colloquium sessions aimed at unpacking these complex questions from a variety of different viewpoints and disciplines.  According to the Center’s website:

“Each year on the campus of Notre Dame, the Center hosts its interdisciplinary Fall Conference, the most important venue for truly fruitful dialogue and exchange among the world’s leading Catholic thinkers, as well as those from other traditions, on pressing and vexed questions of ethics, culture, and public policy.  The Conference attracts five hundred to six hundred participants annually and features more than one hundred paper presentations in disciplines ranging from philosophy, theology, political theory, and law to history, economics, science, and the arts.”

Each year, the Center for Ethics and Culture chooses a central theme to guide conference discussion.  Conference themes in the past have included “A Culture of Life,” “Joy in the Truth,” “The Family,” and last year’s theme, “The Body and Human Identity.”  This year’s conference is titled, “Your Light Will Rise in the Darkness: Responding to the Cry of the Poor.”

As the Center’s website describes, this year’s theme for the Fall Conference was inspired by the pontificate of Pope Francis and takes its mission from a line of Francis’ in his address to the Archbishop of Canterbury, “Among our tasks as witnesses to the love of Christ is that of giving a voice to the cry of the poor.”  The Center’s site continues, “In our customary interdisciplinary fashion, this conference will take up a host of questions related to the human meaning of poverty and how to care rightly for the poor.”

This year’s Fall Conference will take place over Halloween weekend, from Thursday, October 30, to Saturday, November 1.  The conference will begin with an opening Mass in the Basilica on Thursday, celebrated by Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, and will conclude with a closing reception on Saturday evening.

This year’s conference features a diverse group of keynote speakers.  The group includes James Heckman, a Nobel Laureate in Economics from the University of Chicago, Gerhard Cardinal Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Notre Dame’s own Alasdair MacIntyre and John Finnis.

Junior Domenic Canonico, a Sorin Fellow with the Center, told theRoverwhat he was most looking forward to at this year’s conference:

“There’s a lot to be excited for, but one session that I think sounds particularly interesting is Saturday’s session on ‘Why the Poor Need Beauty.’  It features Notre Dame architecture professor Duncan Stroik and former Center Remick Fellow John Haldane, and they will be talking about architecture and the houses of the poor.  I think it’s an interesting but perhaps under-appreciated aspect of poverty; we think often about meeting the basic human needs of the poor, but sometimes we may forget to include beauty as one of those needs.  I’m excited to hear their thoughts.”


Kathryn O’Callaghan, a sophomore Sorin Fellow, described to theRoverher thoughts about the upcoming conference:

“I’ve been to several Fall Conferences, including last year’s conference on The Body and Human Identity.  I really enjoy the chance to hear distinguished academics and professionals speaking about such important topics and getting to meet them as well.  Everyone should be excited about the fall conference this year because it’s a great opportunity to hear some amazing people speak on poverty and really challenge your thinking on the issue.”

Canonico echoed this excitement, affirming the great value of the Fall Conference:

“I think the best thing about the conference is that attendees will get a wide variety of serious, thoughtful perspectives coming at the issue of poverty from a faithfully Catholic perspective.  It is an opportunity to see the richness and depth of thought within the Catholic tradition on the meaning of poverty.  In particular, I think it will be valuable to hear what speakers have to say about the special dignity of the poor; poverty is obviously something that we want to eradicate, but at the same time the poor hold a special place in God’s eyes.  Hopefully attendees will gain insights into the beauty of a true poverty of spirit this weekend, and hope to bring that about in our lives.”

Michael Infantine is a junior PLS major who enjoys the occasional crewneck sweatshirt.  He can be reached at