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Online Learning

Course Number: STD 625
Course Title: Inter-Religious Dialogue from a Catholic Perspective
Term:  Fall 2014  (Version July 9, 2014)

Professor

Dr. Cynthia Toolin

EMAIL: ctoolin@holyapostles.edu

1. COURSE DESCRIPTION

This course is an examination of inter-religious dialogue between Catholicism and (primarily) the other four major world religions of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. The Catholic understanding of inter-religious dialogue is studied, especially in light of the call to evangelization.

This course is constructed to partially fulfill the Holy Apostles College and Seminary mission statement “to cultivate lay, consecrated and ordained Catholic leaders for the purpose of evangelization.”

To be able to evangelize, a future leader must have a working knowledge of Church doctrine. This course exposes the student to four major non-Christian religions, as well as several “newer” religions. In this course, the student is required to demonstrate knowledge of each religion through twelve weekly postings.

But to be able to evangelize, knowing about the Church’s basic doctrine on other religions is not enough. The evangelizer must be able to recall the doctrine and interpret it in a manner applicable to the situation. Rarely will the leader be asked to present formal lessons on a document. More often the situation will be one where the leader needs to explain or support the doctrine related to inter-religious dialogue, by formulating a correct answer to a question, or contrasting true Church teaching with erroneous teaching. In this course, the student is challenged to develop such answers in a series of two real-life scenario papers and a term paper.

This course concerns the dialogue that occurs between Catholicism and the major world religions. To that end, we examine the nine topics listed below with the expectation that the student will become conversant with the information and be able to apply it to the mission of evangelization.

  1. The definition of religion and the various meanings that are attached to that one significant word,
  2. The distributions of religions across the globe,
  3. The distinctions between inter-religious dialogue and ecumenism,
  4. Some of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's work on classifying religions,
  5. Catholic dialogue with the other two great monotheisms - Islam and Judaism,
  6. Catholic dialogue with the two great mystical religions - Hinduism and Buddhism,
  7. The new "modern" religions,
  8. The necessity of mission, and
  9. The work of the Pontifical Council on Inter-Religious dialogue, of the World Council of Churches, and of the United Nations.

A question that must be of great concern to us in each of these topics is, how can this subject matter contribute to evangelization? The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in their Declaration, On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church (#2), says: "Inter-religious dialogue, which is part of the Church's evangelizing mission, requires an attitude of understanding and a relationship of mutual knowledge and reciprocal enrichment, in obedience to the truth and with respect for freedom." See the footnotes for that quote. Please consider that question as you do your reading, posting and writing. It is the focal concern of this material.

A Word About the Web

You will be exposed to many websites during this semester. They are not equally representative of their subject matter. You must learn to weigh what the writers of the sites are saying; also be aware that for many people, these sites are the only way that people learn about these topics. For these reasons, it is important you are exposed to as many religious sites as possible.

2. ENVISIONED LEARNING OUTCOMES

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to define major concepts in, and recall overarching themes of, each religion.
  2. Students will demonstrate the ability to recognize and paraphrase the doctrine of the Church concerning inter-religious dialogue and interpret it in various circumstances.
  3. Students will demonstrate the ability to distinguish between authentic Catholic doctrine and erroneous understandings of that doctrine, and construct supporting arguments defending the former and justly judging the latter.

3. TEXT MATERIALS

All of the readings in this course are available on the Internet. Links are available in the Lessons Tab of Populi.

4. WEEKLY SCHEDULE OF TOPICS

IMPORTANT NOTES: EACH WEEK BEFORE YOU COMPLETE YOUR WORK ON POPULI, GO TO THE DASHBOARD TO SEE IF ANY NOTICES HAVE BEEN POSTED. THE DASHBOARD IS THE WAY I POST IMPORTANT INFORMATION.

ALSO, MAKE SURE YOU USE ONLY YOUR HOLYAPOSTLES.EDU E-MAIL TO COMMUNICATE WITH ME AS THAT IS AN INSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT.

Week 1

This week you will learn about the different definitions of the word "religion" and the importance of denominations.

Readings:

Here are some websites with interesting definitions of the word “religion”. Read these definitions and note what you think are interesting points.

Many other websites offer additional definitions. Find and browse through at least five others.

Discussion Posting Assignment:

  • Construct and post your own definition of religion by Wednesday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.
  • Discuss the positive and negative aspects of the various definitions with your classmates. Then discuss how these definitions vary from what you think of as a Catholic understanding of religion.
  • Read and comment on the summaries of five other students by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Week 2

This week you will learn about the world-wide distribution of religions.

Readings:

Check out these websites about the distribution of religions.

  • Religion Map Caption
  • World Religions, Religion Statistics, Geography, Church Statistics

Discussion Posting Assignment:

  • Discuss with your fellow classmates what you see as significant trends in the distribution of religions. How can this information be used to determine approaches to evangelization?
  • Read and comment on the summaries of five other students by Saturday, 11:59, Eastern Time.

Week 3

This week you will learn about the similarities and distinctions between inter-religious dialogue and ecumenism.

Readings:

These are interesting documents to read from Vatican Council II

  • Nostra Aetate
  • Unitatis Redintegratio

Discussion Posting Assignment:

  • Distinguish between inter-religious dialogue and ecumenism using the Vatican II documents. Discuss these distinctions as well as the relationship between the two. This must be completed by Wednesday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.
  • Read and comment on the summaries of five other students by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Week 4

This week you will learn about classifications of religions and how they relate to inter-religious dialogue.

Readings:

  • Paul VI – Ecclesiam Suam
  • Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions. “The Unity and Diversity of Religions” and “Interlude”, pp.15-54.
  • Since your first paper is due this week, you do not have a posting assignment. Email your paper to me at ctoolin@holyapostles.edu by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Scenario Writing Assignment 1

  • Imagine you are approached by a faithful Catholic who does not know the Church's teaching on other religions. He argues it is silly to be tolerant of other religions because Catholics have the fullness of faith. Write a five page paper, using dialog with him, to address his argument.

Week 5

This week you will learn about similarities and differences between the three Abrahamic religions, and how they relate to inter-religious dialogue.

Readings:

  • Using the Moral Language of Cultures to Dialogue
  • Abrahamic Religions, Outreach World
  • Islam and the Trialogue of Abrahamic Religions by Lenonard Swidler
  • Global Connections. Religion - PBS

Discussion Posting Assignment:

  • As you examine the websites, select some similarities and differences between these three religions that particularly interest you. Post some of your thoughts. This must be completed by Wednedsay, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.
  • Discuss with your classmates how the similarities can be used to promote inter-religious dialogue. Read the included PDF (Using the Moral Language of Cultures to Dialogue). Respond to the posts of at least five other students by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Week 6

This week you will learn about the Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

Readings:

  • Select and read at least five documents from the Vatican.va website which contains indexes of some historical information about Catholic-Jewish relationships and dialogue since Vatican II. Select and read at least five of the documents.

Discussion Posting Assignment

  • Post some of the information you have found interesting in the reading. This must be completed by Wednesday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.
  • Discuss with your classmates at least three major aspects of the historical Catholic-Jewish dialogue since Vatican II. Respond to the posts of at least five other classmates by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Week 7

This week you will learn about similarities between Catholicism and Islam.

Readings:

This is an index of a site for the Pontifical Council on Inter-Religious Dialogue. Read the annual “Message for the End of Ramadan”.

Discussion Posting Assignment:

  • What major points of agreement between Catholicism and Islam do you see itemized in these messages? Do you think they are important points? Post this information by Wednesday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.
  • Respond to the posts of at least five other classmates concerning what they saw as important points in these messages. This must be completed by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Week 8

This week you will continue to learn about similarities between Hinduism and Buddhism and how they relate to inter-religious dialogue.

Readings:

As your second paper is due this week, you have no posting assignment. Email your paper to me at ctoolin@holyapostles.edu by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Scenario Writing Assignment 2

  • Imagine that you are approached by a Catholic who tells you he has decided to leave the faith and practice Buddhism. Write a five page paper, using dialogue with him, in which you frankly address his decision.

Week 9

This week you will learn about points of agreement between Hinduism and Catholicism.

Readings:

  • This is an index of a site for the Pontifical Council on Inter-Religious Dialogue. Read the annual “Message to the Hindus on the Feast of Diwali”.

Discussion Posting Assignment

  • Post the major points of agreement you see between Catholicism and Hinduism as itemized in these messages. This must be completed by Wednesday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.
  • Post a response to at least five other classmate on what they saw as major points of agreement. This must be completed by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Week 10

This week you will learn about points of agreement between Buddhism and Catholicism.

Readings:

Discussion Posting Assignment:

  • Post the major points of agreement between Catholicism and Buddhism as itemized in these messages and your analysis of them, by Wednesday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.
  • Respond to the posts of at least five other classmates on their thoughts, by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Week 11

This week you will learn about some New Religious Movements (NRM) and how Catholicism can dialogue with them.

Readings: (First six readings from Archive.org)

  • People's Temple
  • Heaven's Gate 
  • The Aetherius Society
  • Cult Apology: A (Modest) Typological Proposal
  • Religious Movements in the United States: An Informal Introduction
  • Religious Group Profiles
  • A Christian Reflection on the "New Age" (on Vatican website).

Discussion Posting Assignment:

  • Of the new religious movements you read about, compare them with each other on similarities and differences. Post your comparison by Wednesday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.
  • Discuss their comparisons with at least five other classmates. Then discuss how Catholicism could approach NRMs in dialogue. This must be completed by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Week 12

This week you will learn why evangelization continues to be necessary in spite of inter-religious dialogue.

Readings:

Discussion Posting Assignment:

  • Post your understanding of why missionary activity is still required in spite of inter-religious dialogue. This must be completed by Wednesday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.
  • Post your response to the thoughts of at least five of your classmates by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Week 13

This week you will learn about the initiatives of the Pontifical Council on Inter-Religious Dialogue.

Readings:

Discussion Posting Assignment:

  • What do you think are the importance of the initiatives taken by the Pontifical Council on Inter-Religious Dialogue? Post you thoughts by Wednesday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.
  • Post your response to the thoughts of at least five of your classmates by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Week 14

This week you will learn similarities and differences between the Catholic, the World Council of Churches, and the United Nations approaches to inter-religious dialogue.

Readings:

Discussion Posting Assignment:

  • Itemize what you think are the similarities and differences between the Catholic, the World Council of Churches, and the United Nations approach inter-religious dialogue. This must be posted by Wednesday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.
  • Post your response to at least five other classmates thoughts by Saturday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Week 15

This week you must turn in your Term Paper. There are no reading or posting requirements this week. Make sure you emial your Term Paper to me at ctoolin@holyapostles.edu by Friday, 11:59 pm, Eastern Time.

Term Paper: Imagine you are having dinner with two Catholic friends. One is a fully Catholic person, but is not well acquainted with Catholic teaching on inter-religious dialogue. The other is a good person, but a nominal Catholic with secular leanings. He interprets Church teaching on inter-religious dialogue as seeking for commonalities and ignoring differences. Using the knowledge you have obtained in reading this semester, develop a well thought out, intelligent, cogent argument articulating the Church’s teaching on this matter. Remember that as a future Catholic evangelist and leader, you must answer arguments politely, defining terms, using themes people can remember, taking into account the information the others have in their possession.

5. COURSE REQUIREMENTS

1. Discussion Postings.

In weeks when a discussion post is required, you must post your summary, questions, and answer by Wednesday, 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time.

Initial Post, Part I: Your initial post should be not more than 500 words long, with enough information to enable you to important points and themes in each. Make sure you include important definitions in your summary (e.g., What is religion? What is an Abrahamic religion?)

Initial Post, Part 2: Questions and Answer: Continue the post as follows. Select one important statement from the reading. (Note that in weeks where more than one reading is assigned, select one for this portion of the post.) Construct one to three questions from the statement you have selected. Answer the question as if you were speaking to a nominal Catholic. Keep in mind your role as a future Catholic evangelist and leader. Remember your audience so that you will formulate questions and answers appropriate to the person you are addressing! Use dialogue.

You must address the questions and answers of at least five (5) other students by Saturday, 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time.

You must post using the following procedure:

  1. Select "add" next to the Discussions header to the right of this page
  2. Use the following convention in Title: First and Last name, Week #
  3. Type in your summary, questions, and answer in Topic (I strongly suggest you  copy/paste this so you will not lose your work. DO NOT attach the work; copy and paste it.) This must be completed by Wednesday, 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time.
  4. Save when finished
  5. Read and respond to at least five peers and their posts. This must be completed by Saturday, 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time. 

The posting part of the course addresses Learning Outcome 1.

Exceptions to post after the 11:59 p.m. due dates will only be granted for serious cases, i.e. serious health/family issues… not for vacations. You must contact your professor for consideration of any exceptions. Thus, if permission is given to post beyond the weekly due date, you cannot receive full credit for the posting of that week.

For ease of reading, you will be adding your own discussion areas to post your summaries. Instructions on how to post your own discussion will be provided for you in each weekly lesson container. Please do not add your summary response as an attachment. I do not comment on postings unless a student has posted an error, an interesting point for further discussion, or a direct question. I do, however, read every post.

Note that 50% of your discussion posting grade is based on your summary, questions and answer and 50% is based on your responses to the questions and answer of five other students.

2. Complete all reading and writing assignments.

Reading assignments are listed in the lessons tab under the appropriate week.

You will have two written homework assignments to email to me at ctoolin@holyapostles.edu during the semester. They will be due on Saturday, 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, of Week 4 and Week 8. The topics for those papers are listed in the Lesson tab. You will not have a Discussion Posting assignment those two weeks.

The writing assignments should be double spaced, Times New Roman Font 12, five pages long. In addition to five pages of text, there should be a title page, footnotes and a bibliography of at least five sources you have used in constructing your answer.

Do not list Wikipedia, a dictionary, the Bible, or the 1912 online Catholic Encyclopedia, as sources in your bibliography. Use magisterial or academic references. You may use class readings in your bibliography, but they will not count as any of the five sources. Note: these are research papers.

If you need an extension on a writing assignment, please request it via email at least one week before the due date. If I do not receive a request, I will reduce the grade of the writing assignment by 1/2 grade each day that it is late. Thus an A writing assignment that is two days late could not receive a grade higher than B+. I am willing to grant extensions for serious reasons, such as health. However, if you need an extension for every writing assignment, you should probably postpone enrolling in distance learning courses until you have more free time."

The two written assignments address Learning Objective 2.

Research Paper 1: Imagine you are approached by a faithful Catholic who does not know the Church's teaching on other religions. He argues it is silly to be tolerant of other religions because Catholics have the fullness of faith. Write a five page paper, using dialog with him, to address his argument.

Research Paper 2: Imagine that you are approached by a Catholic who tells you he has decided to leave the faith and practice Buddhism. Write a five page paper, using dialogue with him, in which you frankly address his decision.

3. Term Paper

You will have a term paper to email to me at ctoolin@holyapostles.edu by Saturday, 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time, of week 15.

The paper should be double spaced, Times New Roman Font 12, at least ten pages long. In addition to at least ten pages of text, there should be a title page, endnotes and a bibliography of at least five sources you have used in constructing your answer.

Do not list Wikipedia, a dictionary, the Bible, or the 1912 online Catholic Encyclopedia, as sources in your bibliography. Use magisterial or academic references. You may use class readings in your bibliography, but they will not count as any of the five sources. Note: this is a research paper.

The term paper addresses Learning Outcome 3.

Term Paper: Imagine you are having dinner with two Catholic friends. One is a fully Catholic person, but is not well acquainted with Catholic teaching on inter-religious dialogue. The other is a good person, but a nominal Catholic with secular leanings. He interprets Church teaching on inter-religious dialogue as seeking for commonalities and ignoring differences. Using the knowledge you have obtained in reading this semester, develop a well thought out, intelligent, cogent argument articulating the Church’s teaching on this matter. Remember that as a future Catholic evangelist and leader, you must answer arguments politely, defining terms, using themes people can remember, taking into account the information the others have in their possession.

6. GRADING

  • Discussion Postings: 30%
  • Written Assignments: 33%
  • Term Paper: 37%

My grading practice has developed over the last few years. In Populi, you will see grades for Posting Summary, Posting Response, and Term Paper. When you receive your grades in Populi, you will see each is worth 100 points. Instead of giving a letter grade, all your work will be graded numerically. At the end of the semester the posting grades will be averaged and count for 50% of your final grade and the grade for your term paper will count for 50% of your final grade.

7. DISABILITIES ACCOMMODATIONS POLICY

Holy Apostles College & Seminary is committed to the goal of achieving equal educational opportunities and full participation in higher education for persons with disabilities who qualify for admission to the College. Students enrolled in online courses who have documented disabilities requiring special accommodations should contact Bob Mish, the Director of Online Student Affairs, at rmish@holyapostles.edu or 860-632-3015. In all cases, reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure that all students with disabilities have access to course materials in a mode in which they can receive them. Students who have technological limitations (e.g., slow Internet connection speeds in convents) are asked to notify their instructors the first week of class for alternative means of delivery.

8. ACADEMIC HONESTY POLICY

Students at Holy Apostles College & Seminary are expected to practice academic honesty.

Avoiding Plagiarism

In its broadest sense, plagiarism is using someone else's work or ideas, presented or claimed as your own.  At this stage in your academic career, you should be fully conscious of what it means to plagiarize. This is an inherently unethical activity because it entails the uncredited use of someone else's expression of ideas for another's personal advancement; that is, it entails the use of a person merely as a means to another person’s ends.

Students, where applicable:

  • Should identify the title, author, page number/webpage address, and publication date of works when directly quoting small portions of texts, articles, interviews, or websites.
  • Students should not copy more than two paragraphs from any source as a major component of papers or projects.
  • Should appropriately identify the source of information when paraphrasing (restating) ideas from texts, interviews, articles, or websites.
  • Should follow the Holy Apostles College & Seminary Stylesheet (available on the Online Writing Lab’s website at http://www.holyapostles.edu/owl/resources).

Consequences of Academic Dishonesty:

Because of the nature of this class, academic dishonesty is taken very seriously.  Students participating in academic dishonesty may be removed from the course and from the program.

9. ATTENDANCE POLICY

Even though you are not required to be logged in at any precise time or day, you are expected to login several times during each week. Because this class is being taught entirely in a technology-mediated forum, it is important to actively participate each week in the course. In a traditional classroom setting for a 3-credit course, students would be required, per the federal standards, to be in class three 50-minute sessions (or 2.5 hours a week) and prepare for class discussions six 50-minute sessions (or 5 hours) a week. Expect to devote at least nine 50-minute sessions (or 7.5 quality hours) a week to this course. A failure on the student’s part to actively participate in the life of the course may result in a reduction of the final grade.

10. INCOMPLETE POLICY

An Incomplete is a temporary grade assigned at the discretion of the faculty member. It is typically allowed in situations in which the student has satisfactorily completed major components of the course and has the ability to finish the remaining work without re-enrolling, but has encountered extenuating circumstances, such as illness, that prevent his or her doing so prior to the last day of class.

To request an incomplete, distance-learning students must first download a copy of the Incomplete Request Form. This document is located within the Shared folder of the Files tab in Populi. Secondly, students must fill in any necessary information directly within the PDF document. Lastly, students must send their form to their professor via email for approval. “Approval” should be understood as the professor responding to the student’s email in favor of granting the “Incomplete” status of the student.

Students receiving an Incomplete must submit the missing course work by the end of the sixth week following the semester in which they were enrolled. An incomplete grade (I) automatically turns into the grade of “F” if the course work is not completed.

Students who have completed little or no work are ineligible for an incomplete. Students who feel they are in danger of failing the course due to an inability to complete course assignments should withdraw from the course.

A “W” (Withdrawal) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the first week of a semester to the end of the third week. A “WF” (Withdrawal/Fail) will appear on the student’s permanent record for any course dropped after the end of the third week of a semester and on or before the Friday before the last week of the semester.

11. ABOUT YOUR PROFESSOR

I am a Professor of Dogmatic and Moral Theology at Holy Apostles, where I have worked since 1997. I hold a Ph.D. and an M.A. in sociology from the University of Massachusetts, an S.T.L. in moral theology from Dominican House of Studies, and a ninety credit M.A. in theology from Holy Apostles.

(860) 632-3010