Saturday, November 20, 2010

Catholicity in Higher Education

Oy vey ist mir. It's another Catholic-bashing article from Inside Higher Ed!

The article begins with a false premise that sets up an opposition between Catholic teaching and academic freedom by asking "whether allegiance to church orthodoxy trumps the free spirit of inquiry celebrated in academe."

One has to wonder first of all at the bold claim that there exists a "free spirit of inquiry" on today's campuses. But, more to the point, Catholic orthodoxy by its nature never "trumps free inquiry." It promotes it.

Here are three things Pope Benedict XVI said in his 2008 address to Catholic educators at Catholic University of America:

"I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you."

"God's desire to make himself known, and the innate desire of all human beings to know the truth, provide the context for human inquiry into the meaning of life."

And the Pope also said:

"[Catholic educators]have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church's Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution's life, both inside and outside the classroom."

What this article should have been about is first, the fact that many Catholic colleges and universities are not ensuring that their students receive Catholic-inspired instruction, and, lamentably, many so-called Catholic colleges actually prevent Catholic teaching from shaping their institutions.

Secondly, there is in fact a conflict over academic freedom that warrants discussion though it isn't the conflict that the author sets up. The conflict is between on the one hand, the secular, relativism of academia which denies that truth exists,and, on the other hand, the Catholic Church's teaching which avers that truth does exist, that we are each called to search for it using our intellect as inspired by our faith in God and guided by Catholic teaching. The secularism and relativism of today's culture is the road block, placed intentionally, that "trumps the free spirit of inquiry" and denies us the freedom to search for the truth.

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