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Stu­dents and faculty from Hillsdale traveled to the Uni­versity of Notre Dame for the annual Center for Ethics and Culture’s fall con­ference. From left: junior Jonah Davey, junior Teddy Birkofer, senior Natalie Taylor, senior Colleen Prince, and Razi Lane ’18. Colleen Prince | Courtesy

Nearly 800 people, including Hillsdale stu­dents and pro­fessors, gathered at the Uni­versity of Notre Dame this weekend for the 19th annual Center for Ethics and Culture fall con­ference.

The theme of the con­ference, held on Nov. 1, was rooted in Russian philosopher Alek­sandr Solzhenitsyn’s teachings on the proper rela­tionship between God, the human person, and the state.

Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of English Dwight Lindley said the title of the con­ference, ‘Higher Powers,’ came directly from a quote by Solzhen­itsyn.

“Solzhen­itsyn is saying if man forgets he has a rela­tionship to the divine that tran­scends pol­itics, then he’s going to actually mess up pol­itics,” Lindley said, “And that was a reason for the conference’s exis­tence.”

He said most of the lec­tures about the phi­losophy of Solzhen­itsyn were great reminders to him about things he has studied before, and the lec­tures gave him a deeper appre­ci­ation and under­standing for the life and works of Solzhen­itsyn.

Sophomore Joshua Goeltz, a member of the Catholic Society, said some of the lec­tures about Solzhen­itsyn were dis­cussed in the context of World War II.

“One of the talks was about suf­fering and how suf­fering can lead you to God, and it’s usually for a good purpose,” Goeltz said. “Through suf­fering, you come more into accor­dance with what’s good and just, and you better under­stand your rela­tionship with the world so you can be in accor­dance with God.”

Goeltz said St. Max­i­m­ilian Kolbe, a Polish friar whom Nazis killed in a con­cen­tration camp, was por­trayed as an exem­plary model for the spir­itual rewards of suf­fering.

“Max­i­m­ilian Kolbe sac­ri­ficed himself so a man with a wife and kids could live. He was an example of somebody taking on suf­fering for the greater good,” Goeltz said, “And seeing the way that related back to Solzhenitsyn’s phi­losophy and text peaked my interest in the phi­losophy of suf­fering.”

In addition to Solzhen­itsyn, Lindley said another great lecture was given by Alasdair Mac­Intyre, a famous American philosopher from Notre Dame, according to Lindley.

“His lecture was like the ones about Solzhen­itsyn,” Lindley said, “but it wasn’t rad­i­cally new; it reminded me of some things and deepened my appre­ci­ation for those things.”

Senior Colleen Prince, also a member of the Catholic Society, said Mac­Intyre gave the most impactful lecture of the weekend. She said Mac­Intyre is rev­o­lu­tionary in engaging modern culture with Aris­totelian phi­losophy.

“His lecture was absolutely incredible,” Prince said, “His focus, the big crescendo at the end of his pre­sen­tation, was on how we need to create good, strong com­mu­nities, even in places where it’s most dif­ficult, like a city, a very inter­na­tionally well-known city.”

Prince said the com­munity of South Bend embraces the teachings of Mac­Intyre and allows like-minded people with the same fun­da­mental values to engage in deep con­ver­sa­tions with one another.

“The com­munity is astound­ingly unique; It’s every­thing Alasdair Mac­Intyre would want,” Prince said. “Don’t graduate without going to the con­ference; I don’t care what major you are.”

Lindley said the best thing about the con­ference is that it brings together many dif­ferent people with the same values.

“I made new friends who I really value, and I saw a lot of old friends, including a good number of alumni who came back from their various places around the country to come to this,” Lindley said. “In all my spare time, I was having lunch or dinner with friends, stu­dents, alumni, and that kind of fra­ternity is in some ways, the best part of the con­ference.”

Prince said she has attended the con­ference mul­tiple years and com­pared the weekend to a family reunion.

“Everyone’s coming there; most people are Catholic, if not High Church, so I think that since we all have very fun­da­mental sim­i­lar­ities that sprouts much more spe­cific con­ver­sa­tions, which actually chal­lenges your core beliefs,” she said.

Most people in atten­dance came from con­ser­v­ative Catholic col­leges in America, according to Lindley. He said there were rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Europe, pri­marily Spain and Italy, and also from South America.

Despite an inter­na­tional presence, Lindley said he was struck by the desire from young Catholics for radical changes in the United States gov­ernment.

“The really sur­prising thing was this inte­gralist position, which is pretty unusual,” Lindley said, “Yet it’s fairly popular among certain kinds of people, espe­cially among a certain crowd of young Catholics on Twitter, on so-called ‘Catholic Twitter.’”

Lindley said inte­gralism is a new political teaching in certain Catholic circles that advo­cates for some­thing similar to the col­lapse of church and state. He said it’s essen­tially the sub­or­di­nation of the pol­itics to religion.

According to Lindley, inte­gralism became the subject of dis­cussion in the final panel dis­cussion between four well-known scholars.

“It was an eye opener but also helpful to see what people were thinking about,” Lindley said.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    looks like an inter­esting con­ference and would have been fun to attend. At the same time, how about a con­ference on the ethics of abusing children and then hiding the per­pe­trators by shuf­fling them around to new posts?