The Chesterton Speaker Series

These regular events sponsored by the Seattle G. K. Chesterton Society take place at the Catholic Newman Center at the University of Washington, located at 4502 20th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105. Please see the map available here.

In Brief

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2013 – 2014 Season

Thursday, October 24, 2013, at 7:30 PM, UW Newman Center

Did the Founding Fathers Intend to Separate Church from State?

Dr. Vincent Phillip Muñoz
University of Notre Dame

Is “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional? Can the Ten Commandments be posted on public property? Did the Founding Fathers intend to separate church from state or religion from politics? Dr. Muñoz will address these questions by exploring the church-state principles of James Madison, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and by explaining how the Founding Fathers might help us resolve contemporary church-state controversies.

Vincent Muñoz received his doctorate from Claremont Graduate School in 2001, and is the Tocqueville Associate Professor of Religion and Public Life and Associate Professor of Law, at the University of Notre Dame. His recent research focuses on the theme of religious liberty and the American Constitution. His award-winning first book, God and the Founders: Madison, Washington, and Jefferson, is being followed by a sequel, and by a third book: Religious Liberty & American Constitutionalism.

Thursday, November 21, 2013, at 7:30 PM, UW Newman Center

Religious DNA: Is Islam More than a Christian “Heresy”?

Dr. Peter Beaulieu
Author and independent scholar

Today, with 1.4 billion Muslims and 2 billion Christians sharing a compact world, historic origins arouse our curiosity.  In respecting Christ only as a prophet—while omitting his divinity—was seventh-century Islam a subtractive Christian heresy, as Hilaire Belloc thought?  Or was it instead an additive, syncretic event?  The possibilities for dialogue become highly problematic when the Western mind begins with distinctions such as that between divine and natural law, while the Islamic mind (especially after the ninth century) sees first the oneness of the divine and asserts the unitary Mosque-state. What, then, might be the “grammar” for interreligious/intercultural discourse?

Peter D. Beaulieu holds a doctorate in multidisciplinary urban/regional studies from the University of Washington.  He is author of the recently published scholarly study, Beyond Secularism and Jihad: A Triangular Inquiry into the Mosque, the Manger & Modernity (University Press of America, 2012).  He is the executive director of the Seattle Chesterton Society, a member of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, and the Pastoral Council of the Archdiocese of Seattle.  His recent articles have appeared in Gilbert Magazine and Second Spring, and his published letters have appeared in First Things, National Catholic Register, and Inside the Vatican.

Thursday, January 23, 2014, at 7:30 PM, UW Newman Center

“I heard a word I could not unhear.”
Theological Reflections on Having a Personal Encounter with Jesus

Dr. Tom Curran
My Catholic Faith Ministries

Please join Tom Curran as he reflects on the concept of having a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Tom will explore the way that Scripture and our Catholic Tradition describe meetings with Jesus as specially graced moments. He will show ways that encounters with Jesus Christ are at the heart of conversion, worship and mission.

Tom Curran is Executive Director of, a Catholic ministry dedicated to bringing to life the hidden riches of the faith that have remained buried for many Catholics. The author of several books, Tom is in high demand as a speaker across North America. In the past twenty years, he has given over 1,800 presentations to more than 350,000 people in 35 states and 6 countries. Dr. Curran’s weekday radio program, Sound Insight, is one of the most listened to programs on Sacred Heart Radio, 1050 am Seattle.

Dr. Curran received his PhD in systematic theology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., a graduate degree in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, and has an undergraduate degree in philosophy. Tom lives in Federal Way with his wife, Kari, and their nine children.

Thursday, February 20, 2014, at 7:30 PM, UW Newman Center

Keystone of Society: The Family according to Chesterton

Dr. Pia de Solenni
Diotima Consulting

The most important things we can discover are often things we already know. G.K. Chesterton is a voice for the present moment and for the New Evangelization, in the central place he gives to things local and particular and especially the family. What does he remind us about the family as the indispensable cell and building block of any real society? And as the hearth for nurturing mature human beings destined for an eternity that is even bigger than anything “global”? In his autobiography Chesterton recalls how his grandfather (a local “monument and a landmark”) “kept up the ancient Christian tradition of singing at the dinner-table.” Also at the table, we find John Paul II and his Familiaris Consortio (the Community of the Family, 1981), with the invitation that “the future of humanity passes by way of the family.” What more is on Chesterton’s serving tray?

Pia de Solenni earned a B.A. in Liberal Arts-Great Books from Thomas Aquinas College, a B.A. in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, a Sacred Theology Licentiate and a Ph.D. in Sacred Theology summa cum laude from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. For her doctoral work, Pope John Paul II personally conferred on Dr. de Solenni the 2001 Award of the Pontifical Academies. As an ethicist and cultural analyst, Dr. de Solenni owns her own consulting firm, Diotima Consulting, and specializes in issues relating to women’s health, life issues, the new feminism, Catholicism, and culture. She has appeared on as several national radio and television talk shows, and her writing has been published in the Wall Street Journal Europe, the Washington Post, National Catholic Reporter, Our Sunday Visitor and National Review Online.

Thursday, April 10, 2014, at 7:30 PM, UW Newman Center

Catholic Education for the 21st Century:
Expanding Access to Build Inclusive Communities of Faith

Dr. Luis Ricardo Fraga
University of Washington

It is estimated that at least 1,400 Catholic schools have closed in the United States from 2000 to the present.  As a result, there are now 500,000 fewer seats available in Catholic schools.  In 2007-2008 there were 691,000 empty seats in Catholic schools throughout the country.  Additionally, only 24% of self-identified Catholics attend Mass at least once per week.

Do Catholicism and Catholic education have a future in the United States? How will that future be structured by the dramatic shifts in the demographic profile of practicing Catholics in the U.S. over the last two decades? What is the place of an educated Catholic in the “modern” world, who wants to be a contributor to the ongoing American experiment? As a prominent and widely respected figure in higher education who has also worked directly on Catholic education in the Seattle Archdiocese, Dr. Fraga will offer his insights regarding Catholics, Catholic education, and the the role educated Catholics in society and the public square.

Luis Fraga received his doctorate in Political Science from Rice University in 1984 and his A.B., cum laude, from Harvard in 1978. Now at the University of Washington, he is the Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement, Russell F. Stark University Professor, Director of the Diversity Research Institute, and Professor of Political Science. He has been on the faculty at Stanford University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Fraga has authored and co-authored five books and has published widely in scholarly journals and academic volumes. He has received fifteen awards for his teaching, mentoring, and advising. In 2011 he was appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. In 2012 Dr. Fraga was recognized as a Champion of Catholic Education by the Archdiocese of Seattle Fulcrum Foundation.

Thursday, May 15, 2014, at 7:30 PM, UW Newman Center

Some Very Good Theories on the Meaning of Life

Dr. Phillip Goggans
Morehead State University

It was once widely held that there was an objective meaning of human life. Now it is commonly said that life is meaningless or that it has only whatever meaning one gives it. One reason for the new skepticism is the presumed absence of a plausible theory. It seems that any theory specific enough to provide direction to anyone in particular could not possibly hold for everyone. Any theory that could hold for everyone would not give direction to anyone. But this is wrong. Some philosophically defensible theories have clear application to life. So how do we choose between them? This is not a problem, since any one of such theories is true if and only if all of them are true.

Phillip Goggans earned his B.A. in Biblical Languages from Asbury College, magna cum laude in 1985, an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Kentucky in 1987, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Syracuse University in 1993. He has written on topics in ancient philosophy, the history of ethics, metaphysics and political philosophy. Dr. Goggans taught philosophy at Seattle Pacific University from 1993 until 2006. He is now an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Morehead State University. Last but not least, Dr. Goggans is a beloved former president of the Seattle G. K. Chesterton Society.

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