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Diverse Black Catholic theologians on display tonight in simultaneous (if not competing) Philly events

Two events tonight featuring Black Catholic theologians will explore, independently, how to bring theology into politics and how to bring conservative Catholicism into theology.

Tonight in Philly, two very different events featuring Black Catholic theologians from Villanova will take place in Philadelphia, representing the discipline of political theology on the one hand and theological fundamentalism on the other.

Dr. Vincent Lloyd, a Black Catholic theology professor and director of Africana Studies at Villanova University, will moderate at 7pm ET the inaugural event for the school’s new Center for Political Theology, in which he serves as director.

Entitled “What is Political Theology? A Conversation”, the event will feature an international slate of speakers, including moral theologian Dr. Luke Bretherton of Duke University and anthropologist Dr. Valentina Napolitano of the University of Toronto, alongside Fr. Kevin DePrinzio, OSA, Villanova's Vice President for Mission and Ministry.

Moderating will be Lloyd, the author of “Black Natural Law” and five other books covering topics ranging from prison abolition to Black secularism. His forthcoming “Black Dignity: A Philosophy” will delve into the Black Lives Matter movement.

In Bretherton and Napolitano, the event features members of the Political Theology Network, an interdisciplinary group of scholars and students co-founded by Lloyd and which is being incubated in Villanova’s new center.

Their event tonight will be held on campus at the Driscoll Hall auditorium and will be livestreamed.

Across the way, in downtown Philly’s Catholic Philopatrian Society, an event covering a similar topic—in its own sort of way—will commence at the same time, entitled “What is Catholicism?” and led by a former Vatican doctrine chief, the archconservative Cardinal Gerhard Müller.

The address, sponsored by the society’s literary institute and the Collegium Institute, will preview his upcoming book by the same name, and will be followed by comments from Dr. Jessica Murdoch, a Black Catholic theologian specializing in Thomism, papal teaching, marriage, and the family.

She was appointed to the USCCB’s National Advisory Council in 2015 and continues to serve therein, as well as in catechesis for Sacred Heart Church, a suburban parish in the Philly metro. She is also the sole African American on the advisory council of the Catholic Women’s Forum, a conservative group affiliated with the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC.

Much like Müller, Murdoch has been critical of Pope Francis in her writings for First Things—particularly upon the release of his groundbreaking papal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” in 2016.

The cost for the Müller event is $25.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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