Perspectives on Truth in the Dominican Tradition


Ruth Caspar, OP


Here are Ruth's notes from her presentation, Perspectives on Truth in the Dominican Tradition: Unique Perspectives on Truth from Contemporary Representatives of Dominican Friars, Nuns, Sisters and Laity, given at Ohio Dominican University on 10 Feb 2011. This presentation outlines some significant thoughts and contributions to theology of five dominicans from different branches of the Dominican family working today, highlighting the richness that Dominicans bring to the world in their diversity.

“Truth is like a baobab tree:  one person’s arms cannot embrace it.”

(African Proverb)


  • b. Lima, Peru 1928, a mestizo of Hispanic and Quechuan parents; having experienced polio as a child, initially studied medicine at the National University, Lima, Peru (BS 1950).
  • Discerning a call to the priesthood, (ordained 1959); sent by the Peruvian diocese for studies in Europe:  philosophy and psychology at l’Université Catholique de Louvain; PhD from the Université Catholique de Lyon (1985).
  • While studying in Europe, Gutierrez engaged in scholarly work with Dominicans Yves Congar, Edward Schillebeeckx, and Marie-Dominique Chenu.
  • Returning to Peru, he chose to live among the poor and oppressed of Rimac, a Lima slum, where he founded the Bartolomé de Las Casas Center.  Through his pastoral work and publications he became known as one of the founding Fathers of the movement known as Liberation Theology.
  • In his public speaking and publications (12+ books, most translated into several languages; hundreds of articles) he has persistently advocated the needs of the poor, called the Church to create social structures of solidarity, and promoted what has come to be called the “preferential option for the poor.”
  • In 1999, in his 70s, he requested admission into the Order of Preachers, completing his studies at the novitiate in France.
  • In addition to continuing pastoral work, he has held positions as professor at the Pontifical University of Peru as well as visiting professor at major universities in North America and Europe.
  • Awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government for his tireless work for human dignity and life, as well as his consistent advocacy in behalf of the oppressed in Latin America and the Third World; appointed O’Hara Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame in 2001, where he spends part of each academic year.


Father Gutierrez addresses the theme of his life’s work:

“I am firmly convinced that poverty—this sub-human condition in which the majority of humanity lives today—is more than a social issue.  Poverty poses a major challenge to every Christian conscience and therefore to theology as well . . . . No serious Christian can quietly ignore this situation. . . .The faces of the poor must now be confronted.  And we also understand the causes of poverty and the conditions that perpetuate it.  There was a time when poverty was considered to be an unavoidable fate, but such a view is no longer possible or responsible.  Now we know that poverty is not simply a misfortune; it is an injustice.” (Interview, America, Feb 3, 2003).


Principal Publications (among hundreds):

A Theology of Liberation:  History, Politics, Salvation (Spanish edition, 1971, English 1973).

Las Casas:  In Search of the Poor of Jesus Christ (Spanish edition 1992, English 1993)—a work on which the author devoted 20 years.


  • b. South Croydon, UK 1964; Academic degrees in Engineering Management:  BA, (1986); MEng (1987); and PhD (1992), Cambridge University. 
  • Theology courses, Black Friars, Oxford (1994-6); studies toward Licentiate, Sacred Liturgy, Sant’Anselmo, Rome (1996); and toward Licentiate in Morals, Angelicum (1999).
  • Entered novitiate, Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena, Newcastle, 1994; Profession,1996.
  • Consultor, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 2004 to present.
  • Appointed to Faculty of Social Sciences, Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome (Angelicum), 1996 to present.
  • Elected Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences 2001; re-elected 2004, 2007, 2010 (3 year terms).
  • Member, Editorial Boards of Journal of Catholic Social Thought, Finance and the Common Good, Transforming Business, OIKONOMIA: Journal of Ethics and Social Sciences.
  • Developed and co-directed Masters Program in Management and Corporate Social Responsibility with LUMSA (Libera Università  Maria Santissima Assunta), Rome (2002 to present).
  • Developed program:  Ethical Leadership in Business and Politics,  15-week Spring Semester, senior year undergraduate and graduate program, based in Rome; a study-abroad program aimed at undergraduate majors in business and political science from Catholic universities in the US and other countries.  See:

Helen Alford reflects on her position as the first woman to hold the position of Dean of a Pontifical University:

“It was a very happy day for me when I was elected dean of this university, but being a woman posed no problem.  The Angelicum is a pontifical university and its statutes come from the Vatican, but the Dominicans are pretty independent in how they run the university.  Because the Order has been open to men and women from the beginning, the idea of a woman in that position was kind of pushing against an open door.  Although until I came along it had always been held by a man.”  (Transcript of an interview for a Flemish Catholic TV program, “The best kept secret of the Church,” that aired 16 January 2011).


Publications (Selective)

Helen J. Alford and Michael J. Naughton, Managing As If Faith Mattered:  Christian Social Principles in the Modern Organization, 2001 (Translated into Spanish, Russian, Hangarian and Chinese). (ODU Library:  658 A288m)

Francesco Compagnoni and Helen Alford, Eds.  Preaching Justice:  Dominican Contributions to Social Ethics in the Twentieth Century, 2007.


  • b. 1927.  After serving in navy, and 2 years at Notre Dame, entered OPs (Central Province, USA) 1947; ordained 1954;  JCD (Angelicum)  1958;  STM (OP) 1983 (for dedication and excellence in writing and teaching).  Director—Medical-moral affairs, CHA 1973-77; VP Medical-Moral Affairs, CHA 1977-79; Director, Center for Health Care Ethics, SLU 1979-99.  Current position as Professor at Nieswanger Institute for Bioethics and Health Policy, Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University (Chicago).
  • Creation of Center for Health Care Ethics at St. Louis University
  • Numerous books (11+) incl. esp. Health Care Ethics:  A Theological Analysis (with Benedict Ashley, OP); five editions, from 1978-2006 (fifth edition with Ashley and Jean deBlois, CSJ) and articles (50+).  This comprehensive, frequently revised book has served as a resource for clinicians, administrators, board members, ethicists, pastoral care providers and many others in Catholic hospitals over the past 30 years.
  • Consultation on landmark cases regarding life-support:  Quinlan (1975); Cruzan (1987), and many others.
  • Consultant to Pontifical Commission for the Apostolate of Health Care Workers (Vatican), 1986-96.

Father O’Rourke reflects on the social responsibility of medicine: (1999)

“If medicine takes its social responsibilities seriously, some difficult decisions must be made in the near future in regard to distributing scarce resources. More importantly, adequate access to health care for all citizens is also an acute contemporary ethical issue. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not have some form of universal health insurance . . . .. Whenever someone mentions the excellent health care available in the United States, the best reply is: ‘Yes, if you can pay for it, and as the care becomes more excellent, fewer people are able to pay for it.’"  (“Kevin O’Rourke Resigns as Director of the Center for Health Care Ethics”, 1999—see Domcentral website below)

Selective Bibliography:

Entire issue:  Health Progress,  March-April 2007 (Vol. 88, #2).  Collection of articles celebrating Father O’Rourke’s 80th birthday.

“Dominican Contributions to Bioethics in the USA:  Benedict Ashley and Kevin O’Rourke,” Ruth Caspar, OP; in Preaching Justice:  Dominican Contributions to Social Ethics in the Twentieth Century.  Francesco Compagnoni, OP and Helen Alford, OP Eds. Dublin, Dominican Publications, 2007.

Articles on Phoenix Hospital Case in America (Jesuit weekly):

“What Happened in Phoenix?” (blog) June 21, 2010;

“Complications:  a Catholic Hospital, a Pregnant Mother and a Questionable

Excommunication”, Aug. 2, 2010

“From Intuition to Moral Principle,” Nov. 15, 2010

Articles by O’Rourke on Dominican Central Province web-page:



  • b. 1946, Coventry, U.K.; PhD University of Leicester, 1972; Canonical Licentiate, Theology, Centre Sèvres, Paris, 1996; Canonical doctorate, Theology, University of Fribourg (Switzerland), 2000.
  • University teaching 1971-91; with special training at The Open University (Birmingham, Leicester), in the pedagogy of distance teaching.
  • Entered Dominican Monastery of Mary Mediatrix (Herne, Belgium), 1995.
  • Served as French/English interpreter at various international meetings of the Dominican Order.
  • Founding Director of S.H.O.P.  Project (Association of Sister Historians of the Order of Preachers), 2007,  based in Fanjeaux, France.
  • Transferred affiliation to Monastery of the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary, Fatima (Portugal), 2010, with continuing ministry with S.H.O.P. in Fanjeaux.

Barbara Beaumont reflects on her ministry:

TRUTH AND HISTORY ? There must surely be a close relationship between the search for truth that is the ideal of the Order of Preachers and the study of history. What is a historian if not someone who, within his or her limitations seeks to know and to understand the truth of what happened in the past?  For history is essentially a key to identity – no human being exists in isolation or in the void, we are made up of a tissue of interrelationships with people and places. And so history, in the sense of needing to understand where we come from, is an integral part of knowing who we are and where we are going. That is to say our history is part of our personal and collective identities. We are all made up of superimposed layers of history: personal, family, ethnic, regional, national and of course religious. Studying these histories therefore is part of the on-going process of self-knowledge, a vital ingredient in human experience as in religious life.

Publications (Selective)

The Road from Decadence – from brothel to cloister – selected letters of J.K.Huysmans,

London, Athlone University of London Press, 1989

La restauration des monastères de Dominicaines en France après la Révolution, 2002

Dominican Historical Institute (Angelicum), Rome. (Doctoral thesis)

Guide des lieux dominicaines, Horay, Paris 2004 in collaboration with Fr Guy Bedouelle.

Ste Marie de Prouilhe – 800 ans d’histoire dominicaine, éditions du Signe, Strasbourg, 2006 in collaboration with Fr Elie Pascal Epinoux.  English edition:  Sainte-Marie de Prouilhe: 800 Years of Dominican History.


  • b. Dumbarton, Scotland; holds  degrees in language (Glasgow University), with additional studies in Würzburg, and Masters of Theology and Developmental Studies from New College, University of Edinburgh.
  • Following his first degree, he held a position researching Scottish Gaelic dialects for the Historical Dictionary of Scottish Gaelic (Celtic Dept. U. of Glasgow); then became a researcher in the House of Commons, a position than led him to take up humanitarian and development work.
  • He worked for Caritas International for 25 years:  first as director of Scottish Caritas; in 1995 he came to Rome as Head of International Relations at the General Secretariat for the Vatican.
  • In 1999, at the General Assembly of Caritas International in Vatican City, Duncan was elected Secretary General of the world-wide organization, a position he held until 2007.
  • He currently holds a position as Lecturer at the Australian Catholic University (Faculty of Arts and Sciences, MacKillop Campus, North Sydney), where he is Coordinator of the University’s Refugee Program on the Thai-Burma border.
  • In the mid-80s he became a Lay Dominican and co-founded a lay group in Glasgow with a focus on justice and peace.  Has held positions on the boards of Dominican Volunteers International and the Order’s Preaching Commission.
  • He lectures and speaks on Catholic Social Teaching, humanitarian and development topics, Catholic identity, and what it means to be a Dominican.

Duncan MacLaren reflects on his position at Caritas:

“Caritas Internationalis is the Confederation of 164 Catholic aid and development agencies. It is huge, with a paid and voluntary staff of over one million people, helping twenty-four million people a year and worth collectively about US$5.5 billion. Each agency is an autonomous member of its Bishops’ Conference but, as Secretary General, it was my job to secure the coordination of the Confederation’s response to any major disaster.”

Principal Publications and Presentations:

Co-author:  Peacebuilding:  A Caritas Training Manual.  Vatican City:  Caritas, 2002 and 2006.

Conferences and Presentations, as representative of OP Laity:

Address to European Lay Dominican Congress, Fognano, Italy, May 2001.

Attended in 2007 the meeting of the international commissions of the Order to celebrate the 800th anniversary of St Dominic’s founding in 1206 of the monastery at Prouilhe, near Fanjeaux, France.

Addressed the gathering of 161 Dominican prioresses general at the Fifth General Assembly of Dominican Sisters International (DSI) April 30 – May 4, 2007.

Attended the 2007 Bogotá General Chapter of Provincials of the Order of Preachers, representing the Dominican Laity.