Surprising Invitation for the McManus Lecture at CUA

The Eighth Annual Frederick R. McManus Memorial Lecture at the School of Canon Law of Catholic University of America will be delivered this October 30th by Duncan G. Stroik. Stroik, professor at Notre Dame, is associated with the “Reform of the Reform” which seeks to move the direction of liturgical renewal since Vatican II in a more traditional direction. The title of Stroik’s talk is “Church Architecture Since Vatican II.”

StroikStroik is founding editor of Sacred Architecture  journal, author of The Church Building as a Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence and the Eternal, and co-editor of Reconquering Sacred Space


McManusMsgr. Frederick McManus was a peritus (expert) at Vatican II, he presided at the first English Mass in the U.S. in 1964, and he was a leader in the implementation of the liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council. He served president as of the Liturgical Conference, was instrumental in establishing the FDLC   , and was a member of ICEL from its founding in 1963. He was dean of the School of Canon Law at Catholic University of America.

Previous speakers in the McManus lecture series include Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Kevin Seasoltz, Bishop Donald Trautman, John Baldovin, Bob Taft, Thomas Kroskicki, and Alan Detscher. Speakers in the series are selected by the School of Canon Law, which does not include liturgy professors at CUA.




  1. Is this surprising because we think there should be an ideological test for giving named lectures? I am sure that Lord Gifford would be appalled by many, if not most, of the people who have given the lectures that are named for him (the closest thing in theology to winning a Nobel Prize), including Jews, atheists, and (gasp) Catholics. Now if Duncan Stroik were someone with no track record in the field of liturgy then that would be a surprise.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #1:
      Very good point. FGWIW, I first wrote “interesting choice” and then I changed it at the last minute to “surprising.” I think it is surprising because the speakers have all been in one direction so far (we all know what that is) and now it is clearly in another. That is very newsworthy, and I wanted to capture the ‘excitement’ of that. Headline writers go for drama to pull people in. As to the philosophy of the series or who should be invited, that is for the Canon Law school to decide. I just try to report when their decision is interesting and surprising, which I think this one is.

  2. I think the idea of an ideological test isn’t the point, really. I’d be surprised if climate scientists had a convention and asked someone to address them who doesn’t believe in global warming. I’d be surprised if a gathering of evolutionary biologists invited a creationist to address their gathering. I’d be surprised if the American Enterprise Institute invited a socialist speaker. You could argue that creationism is an opinion that evolutionary biologists need to hear, I suppose. But I don’t think it would be persuasive to very many of them. That’s not ideology, it’s a reflection of a shared position, a scholarly or intellectual consensus on certain points that frame a debate.

    Now, in the area of theology and church history, we also have people who stake out claims that many regard as divergent from the general consensus. And then we have subgroups for which the general consensus is regarded as all wrong. We also have questions on which there is no consensus.

    What is interesting about this invitation is that we don’t know which it is. Does the canon law faculty invite a reform of the reform advocate because it wants to signal that it now is regarding the opposing view (opposed to the general trend of all the previous speakers) as the one that has merit, or are they interested to hear someone with whom they will likely disagree but who will make an articulate presentation, or does this suggest they believe that there is no consensus?

    Bear in mind that having a consensus doesn’t cash out to 100% agreement in everything but involves accepting a general set of assumptions — in this case about the Council and its implementation.

  3. I’ve read a good deal of personal correspondence from Msgr. McManus before, during, and after the Council that relate to matters of liturgical architecture. CUA couldn’t have picked anyone further from McManus’ views on such things.

    1. @Chase M. Becker – comment #4:
      I’m all for listening to all points of view, but the McManus lecture is in honor of my uncle and his work for the Church. Our family has believed that those who have funded the lecture intend it to present his thought and perspective no matter what the current climate in the Church. The rationale for inviting a person who differed with him should, at the very least, be clear to the audience.

      1. @Mary McManus Bagley – comment #8:
        Mary, thank you for writing. Your comment adds two dimensions that I had not reflected upon so vividly: the donors’ intentions in establishing the lecture, and the concerns of family and friends who knew the honoree while living.

        The historical proximity of the person whose name is attached to the lecture — that is to say, any number of those present may have known him in this life, and they certainly know his work and what he stood for — creates a sensitive situation, far different from a lecture that might be given generations later.

  4. It should be noted that the CUA School of Canon Law hosts both the McManus Lecture (Fall Semester) and the Provost Lecture (Spring Semester). Many in CUA’s Caldwell Hall commented regarding the surprising choice for the last Provost Lecture — Cardinal Burke.

  5. The talk, as it turns out, was enriching, enlightening and worthwhile. Stroik made the terribly retrograde — nay, Neanderthal — points that churches’ designs should draw our attention to God and not to the architect, and that church design fashions of the past century have frequently been driven by streams of thought independent of — and not in sympathy with — the thinking of the Church. The results have been regrettable.

    He showed slides, including one of a church, said to be Catholic and highly acclaimed by architects, that resembled nothing so much as a dealership for expensive automobiles. He regarded it as flawed, church-wise, and explained why. I am glad the future leadership of the Church was there to hear him.

  6. I’m not sure about the nature of the presentation. Will Mr. Stroik preside over a panel discussion? Are there respondent(s) to his lecture?

    If there are respondents, then I do not consider any lecture, even in the name of a benefactor with certain liturgical views, to be strictly out of bounds. If there is a balance between the perspective of the lecture and a variety of respondents with different points of view, then I would likely consider the presentation well-rounded and informative.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *