2022 Conference

Art, the Sacred, and the Common Good, Scala’s third major conference—hosted on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary on April 30, 2002—brought together scholars, culture creators, educators and students to ponder the challenges and opportunities in connecting art, the sacred and our shared lives and stories. Each session featured a conversation among thinkers, educators and culture creators that brought new audiences the age-old ideas that coalesced around faith communities and national communities. This event showed how those traditions and ways of living, although under threat, are indeed being renewed. We also offered an opportunity to participate in the liturgy of the hours. Our audiences for this event included students, teachers, parents, faith leaders, and concerned citizens who believe that education for beauty, wisdom, and worship are crucial to the foundation of a flourishing society.

Thanks to our Co-Sponsors for making this conference possible!

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* Schedule is tentative. All attendees will receive the final schedule at check-in.

April 30, 2022 | 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM

8:30-9:15        Registration, Coffee and Breakfast


9:15-9:30       Welcome Remarks, Margarita Mooney Suarez, Princeton Theological Seminary


9:30-10:30     Culture & the Common Good: Theological and Philosophical Perspectives on Beauty and Our Life Together

  • Moderator: RJ Snell, The Witherspoon Institute
  • David Corey, Baylor University
  • Fr. Reginald Lynch, Dominican House of Studies
  • Gordon Mikoski, Princeton Theological Seminary


10:30-11:00     Coffee Break


11:00-11:30     Choral Prayer Led by Paul Jernberg and Choir


11:30-12:30     Story, Art, and the Sacred: Possibilities for Transcendence in Literature and Film

  • Moderator: Margarita Mooney Suarez, Scala & Princeton Theological Seminary
  • James Matthew Wilson, University of St. Thomas in Houston
  • Caleb Brown, Screenwriter and CEO of The Story Locker
  • Christopher Beha, Novelist and Editor, Harper’s Magazine


12:30-2:30       Lunch Break


2:30-3:30         Ever Ancient, Ever New: Bringing Traditional Art Forms into Modern Spaces

  • Moderator: George Harne, University of St. Thomas in Houston
  • David Clayton, Pontifex University
  • Paul Jernberg, Magnificat Institute of Sacred Music


3:30-4:00         Break


4:00-5:00         Beauty in the Curriculum: Educating for Artistic Appreciation & Creativity

  • Moderator: Tim O’Malley, University of Notre Dame
  • Elizabeth Corey, Baylor University
  • Jonathan Pidluzny, American Council of Trustees and Alumni
  • Eric Cook, Society for Classical Learning


5:00-5:30         Closing Reception



Dr. George Harne is the Executive Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Harne received his Ph.D. from Princeton University and received master’s degrees from Princeton, St. John’s College, and the University of Washington. While at Princeton, he was active in the Center for the Study of Religion and the Program in Hellenic Studies. Dr. Harne has published and presented papers on ancient, medieval and Renaissance music, as well as the contemporary philosophy of music.

Dr. Elizabeth Corey is the Director of the Honors Program at Baylor University and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Baylor. She has earned several awards for research and teaching and was a 2016-2017 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow. She writes for First Things and serves on the board of the Institute on Religion and Public Life. She has also published in The Atlantic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, National Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, and in a variety of scholarly journals.

Timothy O'Malley

Dr. Timothy P. O’Malley is director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, where he also serves as the academic director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy. At Notre Dame, Prof. O’Malley has a joint appointment in the Department of Theology where he teaches and researches in the areas of liturgical-sacramental theology, catechesis, theological aesthetics, and marriage/family. He is the author of seven books, most recently Becoming a Eucharistic People: The Hope and Promise of Parish Life (Ave Maria Press, 2022) and Real Presence: What Does It Mean and Why Does It Matter? (Ave Maria Press, 2021). Currently, Prof. O’Malley is working on a book on the Eucharistic shape of Catholic higher education with colleagues from Villanova University. In addition to his work at Notre Dame, Prof. O’Malley serves on the board of trustees mission committee at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX.

Christopher Beha is the author of a memoir, The Whole Five Feet, and the novels Arts & Entertainments and What Happened to Sophie Wilder. His latest novel, The Index of Self-Destructive Acts, was nominated for the 2020 National Book Award. He is the editor of Harper’s Magazine.

David Clayton is an internationally known artist, teacher, writer and broadcaster. His artistic training is in both the sacred art tradition of Byzantine iconography; and as a portrait painter in the style of Western classical naturalism, which he studied in Florence, Italy. He has written four books, two of which feature his art; and has illustrated another three written by other authors, one by Scott Hahn. His own books include The Way of Beauty – Liturgy, Education and Inspiration for Family, School and College, published in May 2015; and The Vision for You, How to Discover the Life You Were Made For, published in 2018. He is Provost of www.Pontifex.University, a canonically Catholic university faithful to the Magisterium, which offers online programs.

Dr. James Matthew Wilson is the Cullen Foundation Chair in English at the University of St. Thomas at Houston. He has published ten books, among them four collections of poems, including The Strangeness of the Good. His poems, essays, and reviews appear regularly in a wide range of magazines and journals. The winner of the 2017 Hiett Prize from the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, Wilson also serves as Poet-in-Residence of the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship, poetry editor of Modern Age magazine, and series editor of Colosseum Books, a new imprint that publishes the best contemporary poetry and literary criticism of serious craft and spiritual depth. Wilson was educated at the University of Michigan (B.A.), the University of Massachusetts (M.A.), and the University of Notre Dame (M.F.A., Ph.D.).

Dr. R. J. Snell is Director of Academic Programs at the Witherspoon Institute and editor-in-chief of The Public Discourse. Prior to his appointment at the Witherspoon Institute, he was Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Philosophy Program at Eastern University and the Templeton Honors College.

Eric Cook is the Head of School at Covenant Classical School in Fort Worth, Texas. He also serves as the President of the Society for Classical Learning. Eric has been an educator for over 20 years as a teacher, leader, and speaker. He is a passionate advocate of the classical Christian renewal.

Dr. David Corey is a Professor of Political Science with a focus in political philosophy at Baylor University. He is the author of two books, The Just War Tradition (with J. Daryl Charles) and The Sophists in Plato’s Dialogues. He is currently at work on a book about American domestic politics entitled The Politics of War and the Politics of Peace.

Paul Jernberg is the founder and director of the Magnificat Institute for Sacred Music, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the renewal of sacred liturgical music in the Catholic Church. An accomplished composer, his numerous choral works, including the Mass of Saint Philip Neri, are sung in many parishes throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Sweden.

Father Reginald Lynch, O.P. entered the Dominican Province of St. Joseph in 2007, and was ordained a priest in 2013.  He earned a PhD in theology at the University of Notre Dame, with a major concentration in medieval theology and minor concentrations in patristics and philosophical theology.  He has written on topics in sacramental, systematic and historical theology in journals like The Thomist and Nova et Vetera.  His book, The Cleansing of the Heart: The Sacraments as Instrumental Causes in the Thomistic Tradition (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2017) received the Charles Cardinal Journet Prize in 2018. Currently, he is an assistant professor of historical and systematic theology at the Dominican House of Studies. He is also working on a book on the reception of Aquinas’ Eucharistic theology in the early modern period.

Caleb Brown is a screenwriter, story consultant, and co-founder of The Story Locker, a firm that helps film and tv producers improve their scripts. He got his start in at Warner Brothers, where he contributed to story meetings on films including “The Lego Movie” and “The Gangster Squad.” At Warner Brothers he created and taught a class called “How to Watch a Movie,” which reverse-engineered successful movies in order to understand what made them tick.

He studied screenwriting and producing at Act One, a storytelling collective that aims to train and support Christian filmmakers. And he earned two M.A.s from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California in order to grasp the cognitive and cultural foundations of a meaningful story. He has worked on projects including Christmas on the Coast (2018), Christmas on the Range (2019), and Blue Ridge (2020)

Jonathan Pidluzny joined ACTA in May, 2019, as the Director of Academic Affairs. He is responsible for developing and overseeing ACTA’s academic publications, expanding ACTA’s faculty network, and maximizing the effectiveness of ACTA’s outreach by working closely with trustees, faculty, and administrators on behalf of higher education reform. Prior to joining ACTA, Dr. Pidluzny was an associate professor of political science and the political science program coordinator at Morehead State University, where he won several awards for teaching excellence. A strong advocate of shared governance and prioritizing instructional spending in higher education budgeting, he served as the elected faculty regent on the institution’s governing board from 2017 to 2019. Dr. Pidluzny received his Ph.D. in political science at Boston College and holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Alberta. He is a 2006 Claremont Institute Publius Fellow whose research focuses on the social and civic prerequisites of liberal democracy—at home and abroad. He has recently published papers and book chapters on Alexis de Tocqueville, the American Founding, and the failure of the Arab Spring.

Dr. Gordon Mikoski is an associate professor of Christian education at Princeton Theological Seminary, where his research and teaching interests focus on Christian education, the sacraments, the doctrine of the Trinity, and practical theology. He has written and edited several books, including: Integrating Work in Theological Education, co-edited with Kathleen Cahalan and Ed Foley; Opening the Field of Practical Theology, co-edited with Kathleen Cahalan; Straining at the Oars: Case Studies in Pastoral Leadership, with H. Dana Fearon III; With Piety and Learning: The History of Practical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, 1812-2012, with Richard R. Osmer; and Baptism and Christian Identity: Teaching in the Triune Name. He is the chair of the Department of Practical Theology at the Seminary and the Principal Investigator for the “Imaging Church” grant project. Additionally, he serves as the editor for Theology Today and is an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Margarita Mooney Suarez, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at Princeton Theological Seminary. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Yale University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from Princeton University. Mooney Suarez’s work has appeared in publications such as Real Clear Policy, Scientific American, First Things, Hedgehog Review, National Catholic Register, Plough Magazine, Comment Magazine, Public Discourse, Church Life Journal and the Chronicle of Higher Education. She is the founder of Scala Foundation, and the author of The Love of Learning: Seven Dialogues on the Liberal Arts (Cluny Media, 2021).


Princeton Theological Seminary is easily accessible from local airports, including Newark International and Philidelphia International, via car or public transit. For more information on traveling to the Seminary, click here.

Lodging is available at Princeton Theological Seminary’s Erdman Center starting at $70 per night. Click here for more information.


The conference will be subject to Princeton Theological Seminary’s COVID-19 protocols. Currently, all visitors are expected to be vaccinated (including a booster) and to wear masks indoors except when eating or drinking. Any further updates to this policy will be posted here.

The conference attendance will be limited by Princeton Theological Seminary’s COVID-19 protocols; currently, the maximum attendance is 150. Therefore, we ask that anyone who registers, but discovers that he/she is unable to attend, to please inform William Gonch at william.gonch@scalafoundation.org so he can give the spot to another guest. Further updates will be listed here.


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