Post by Admin on Mar 4, 2018 16:40:57 GMT
Gerhard Albert Baum OC (1923–2017), better known as Gregory Baum, was a German-born Canadian, priest and theologian in the Roman Catholic Church. He became known in North America and Europe in the 1960s for his work on ecumenism, interfaith dialogue, and the relationship between the Catholic Church and Jews. In the later 1960s, he went to the New School for Social Theory in New York and became a sociologist, which led to his work on creating a dialogue between classical sociology (Marx, Tocqueville, Durkheim, Toennies, Weber, etc.) and Christian theology.
In the 1970s, he welcomed the insights of the Theology of Liberation that came from Latin America and other societies. He also became interested in the work of Karl Mannheim and developed an program of ideology critique that he hoped would eliminate the ideological elements in religion, especially those elements that preached contempt for others and allowed Christians to remain unmoved by the suffering of the victims of social injustice and structural violence.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Baum continued his study into ideology critique by integrating the work of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory. He connected the Frankfurt School's concept of "the end of innocent critique" with the Catholic Church's "preferential option for the poor". Both concepts extended his interest in ideology critique. Since Baum has always been interested in social ethics, he also studied the work of Karl Polanyi, with whom he sympathized greatly. It was also in the late 1980s that Baum moved to Quebec and developed an interest in Quebec Catholicism, which he saw as more progressive and contextual than its English Canadian and American counterparts.
Born on June 20, 1923, to a Jewish mother and a Protestant father, in Berlin, he came to Canada from England as a war refugee.
He arrived by boat in Quebec in 1940 with other Germans, most of them Jewish, and they were interned in refugee camps, under military control. After some transfers between Quebec, Trois-Rivières, New-Brunswick and Farnham, he was finally interned to Sherbrooke, Quebec.
Only 17 years old at this time of his internment, he considered this period of his life as an incredible adventure. Among the refugees, some intellectuals hastened to set up inside the camps educational systems of which he took advantage. Although Canada had no law for the refugees at this time, Emma Kaufman, member of the wealthy Kitchener, Ontario family, who met them in these camps, pressured the government so that some could complete their studies outside of camps with financial aid (scholarships) that she had collected.
Baum was the professor of theology and sociology at University of Saint Michael's College in the University of Toronto and, after 1986, professor of theological ethics at McGill University's Faculty of Religious Studies. In Montreal, he was associated with the Jesuit [Centre justice et foi] until his death in 2017.
During the church council Vatican II he was a peritus, or theological advisor, at the Ecumenical Secretariat, the commission responsible for three conciliar documents, On Religious Liberty, On Ecumenism, and On the Church's Relation to Non-Christian Religions.
In particular, he advocated the position, as a response to the Holocaust, of the rabbi and philosopher Emil Fackenheim regarding the cessation of efforts to convert the Jews, famously stating: "After Auschwitz the Christian churches no longer wish to convert the Jews. While they may not be sure of the theological grounds that dispense them from this mission, the churches have become aware that asking the Jews to become Christians is a spiritual way of blotting them out of existence and thus only reinforces the effects of the Holocaust." He composed the first draft of the conciliar document Nostra aetate, the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions, that was later expanded to address all the world religions. It was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965.
From 1962 to 2004, he was the editor of The Ecumenist, a review of theology, culture and society, which is now published by Novalis. He continued contributing to "The Ecumenist," serving as editor of one issue per year until his death. He was also a member and frequent editor of the international Catholic review Concilium. In 2012 he signed the Catholic Scholars' Declaration on Authority in the Church.
After retirement, Baum developed an interest in Islam, especially the work of Tariq Ramadan, the European reformer, and in Fernand Dumont, the French Canadian sociologist, philosopher, theologian, and poet, both of whom he admired greatly.
Throughout his life Baum maintained warm and cordial friendships with people from diverse horizons. Canadian author Michael Higgins, who first met Baum in 1968 writes "Politeness, ingenuousness, and collegiality are the personal as well as professional qualities that have defined his life and vocation no matter the setting—university, chancery, parish hall, retreat house, or activist cell."
In 1946, while studying mathematics at McMaster University, a friend gave him a copy of Augustine's Confessions. Shortly after he became a Roman Catholic. In 1947 he entered the Augustinian Order and was ordained to the priesthood. In 1978, after leaving the Augustinians, he married his close friend Shirley Flynn and lived with her until her death in 2007. A strong supporter of gays and lesbians in the Church, Baum had been aware since adolescence of his own attraction to men. After moving to Montreal in 1986, he fell in love with a former priest of whom he says, "his unwavering love, which has given stability to my life as a theologian, has been a gift from God." Baum died in hospital in Montreal on October 18, 2017, surrounded by his friends. His funeral was held at his Montreal parish church, Saint Pierre-Apôtre.