- The Promise of and Challenges for Interreligious Dialogue in the Twenty-first Century:A Review Essay on the Work of Catherine Cornille
The five volumes of this series invite comment on their achievements as well as about their wider significance. The two sections of this review essay first examine the books, together and separately, and then assess their contributions in light of the whole and vis-à-vis developments in the broader sphere of scholarship on interreligious dialogue. [End Page 255]
interreligious dialogue: the series and the books
Catherine Cornille has long established herself at the vanguard of theologians and theoreticians of the interreligious dialogue. Starting with her 1989 PhD thesis on Roman Catholic theology in the Hindu-Indian context at the Catholic University of Leuven1 and continuing with a number of other titles in Dutch, including one on women in world religions,2 Cornille has worked consistently on this topic, culminating, for the moment at least, with recognition of her monograph The Im-Possibility of Interreligious Dialogue3 by the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies’ Frederick J. Streng Book Award for 2010. All along, over the last two-and-a-half plus decades, she has been busy editing a dozen other collections of essays, in English and Dutch, on interreligious dialogue and closely related topics, the most recent and expansive being the near to comprehensive The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Inter-Religious Dialogue (2013).4
Not too long after transitioning to full-time faculty status in the Department of Theology at Boston College in 2005—Cornille has since rotated on as chair of the department and also was appointed Newton College alumnae chair and professor of comparative theology—plans were initiated to strengthen the department’s program in comparative theology and a series of symposia on interreligious dialogue was initiated. Cornille served as the primary organizer of five meetings early in the fall terms from 2008 to 2012, with each symposium gathering a group of experts on a specific aspect of interreligious dialogue. It was from out of these events that five books were edited and produced, which are the focus of this review essay. The import of the symposium and related volume themes seem obvious enough, and there is some comment on their contemporary relevance in Cornille’s introductions to each of the books. To be sure, other foci could have been chosen for probing the opportunities and challenges confronting the task of interfaith encounter today, which would have led, naturally, to books on other topics.
As director of the symposia and lead editor for each of the books, Cornille has also involved doctoral students in the comparative theology program as co-editors of volumes 2–5, although their voices are not otherwise distinct therein. The volumes each follow a similar format: an short essay by Cornille laying out the themes and introducing the chapters, the papers presented at the conference and revised accordingly (numbering from ten to fifteen chapters, depending on the volume), and the contributors pages at the end. Unfortunately there are no indexes at all.
Only the first and third volumes are organized into various parts. The former, on criteria for discernment, is divided into five sections (two Jewish, three Christian, three Muslim, two Hindu, and three Buddhist essayists), while the latter on the world market consists of “religious perspectives” (eleven chapters that include outlooks from the various world religions and also indigenous traditions) and “economists’ responses” (four articles). The other books on hermeneutics, cultural change, and women...