Restoring the pillars of Catholic education

To limit the mission of the university to teaching around a set of moral and social principles will eventually undermine the principles themselves.

At the heart of leadership lies the responsibility to develop one’s institution according to its deepest purpose. Yet this task can be undermined in Catholic universities when faculty and administrators attempt to remake their organizations in the image of other academic institutions. While vestiges of their original character remain, they begin to lose a distinctive Catholic vision and with that, ultimately, their true meaning, purpose and unique identity.

The recent 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” presents an opportune moment to re-examine the character and role of Catholic universities in light of their deepest purpose. One of the clear intentions of “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” was to recall and emphasize the two basic pillars of Catholic universities’ mission and distinctive character: the pursuit of the unity of knowledge and the ultimate complementarity of faith and reason. These two principles guide and inform all aspects of a genuine university education, whether in the arts and humanities, the professions or the sciences.


It is also a good moment to take a fresh look at Catholic university leaders and their role in keeping their institutions aligned with their original mission. Pope Francis’ frank call to the Roman Curia to examine the ills of leadership offers a practical model of reflection for this task. In a recent article in Harvard Business Review (4/14/15), Gary Hamel adapts Francis’ concept of the “diseases” of leadership to the problems faced by business leaders. We can bring the same frame of reference to an assessment of the governance of our universities.

Whereas Francis and Hamel provide a list of multiple diseases, we want to focus on one, which we call teleopathy, combining the Greek telos (end or purpose) with pathos (disorder or sickness), described in the Encyclopedia of Business Ethics. It is an occupational hazard with a distinct, three-stage pattern. Institutional leaders 1) fixate on limited goals and make them ultimate aims, 2) rationalize these goals as the principal purpose of the institution and 3) eventually detach their institutions from their fundamental purpose and “reason for being.” To carry the metaphor further, in a diagnostic manual describing institutional pathologies, teleopathy would be as central a disorder as heart disease or cancer.

Symptoms of Teleopathy

Fixation: focusing on secondary values. The most apparent sign of mission drift in Catholic universities is the avoidance of language that connects a school’s brand of education with its foundations and religious beliefs—that is, the very thing that makes it Catholic. A vital, articulate Catholic vision of the school’s intellectual life is often missing from mission documents, convocation speeches, curriculum designs, research agendas and strategic plans. Michael J. Buckley, S.J., observed this trend over 20 years ago and summarized his observations in America (5/29/93):

The “faith that seeks understanding”—what constitutes the substance and richness of the Creed and inspired 2,000 years of Catholic reflection and life—is reduced to a morality or a general social ethic. One looks in vain for very much beyond American civil religion. The Catholic, Christian character has shaded off into a vacuity that offers neither challenge nor much direction to the education given by the institution.

While some universities have heeded Father Buckley’s warning, others have accelerated the shading off of their uniquely Catholic expression. In the last 25 years, many Catholic universities have struggled to recognize the core pillars of Catholic higher education articulated in “Ex Corde Ecclesiae”­—namely, that 1) all subjects should be studied with an understanding of their relationships and relevance to other disciplines, a study that clarifies both the strengths and limits of each particular field of study (unity of knowledge); and 2) there should be dialogue between faith and reason that is at the heart of authentic human development and the complex nature of truth (complementarity of faith and reason).

The language of the two pillars is often supplanted by the general categories of ethics, wellness, service and leadership expressed in phrases like “committing to social justice,” “providing radical hospitality,” “educating for civic responsibility,” “sustaining the environment” and “celebrating diversity.” While these values are laudable and important to any Catholic university, when detached from the theological and integral core of the Catholic tradition and its epistemological convictions they can become hollow.

Take for example the shrinking liberal arts core of most Catholic universities over the last 20 years. While many reasons exist for this reduction, if leaders on campus can articulate only a vague moral rationale, the core curriculum becomes generic, resulting in a distribution of requirements bereft of an underlying pursuit of the unity of knowledge or dialogue of faith and reason. And where the two pillars are expressed in Catholic universities, they tend to get left behind in professional schools. A study by Steve Porth, John McCall and Joseph DiAngelo found that most of the Catholic business schools they surveyed made references to ethics in their mission statements, but very few connected such missions and their understanding of ethics to the Catholic character of the university. Without a robust root system, ethics in business schools tends toward economic instrumentality and a utilitarian outlook.

The moral and social values of Catholic higher education should be understood as outcomes of a deeper purpose and not the source of it. To limit the mission of the university to teaching around a set of moral and social principles will eventually undermine the principles themselves. Here Vaclav Havel’s critique of international campaigns for human rights, which appeared in the magazine Sunrise (Oct./Nov. 1994), is relevant. Without a connection to a deeper existential reality, he argued, human rights are in danger of becoming mere slogans:

Politicians at international forums may reiterate a thousand times that the basis of the new world order must be universal respect for human rights, but it will mean nothing as long as this imperative does not derive from the respect for the miracle of Being, the miracle of the universe, the miracle of nature, the miracle of our own existence. Only someone who submits to the authority of the universal order and of creation, who values the right to be a part of it and a participant in it, can genuinely value himself and his neighbors, and thus honor their rights as well.

Havel recognized that a generic commitment to “rights” or “justice,” “diversity” or “ethics” is prone to the “cut flowers syndrome”: they may look attractive for a while, but severed from their cultural, religious and spiritual roots, they wither. Without a deeper root system, such so-called universals have “no integrating force, no unified meaning, no true inner understanding” to draw upon for sustenance.

Rationalization: seeking pluralism at the expense of Catholic identity. While few leaders in Catholic higher education would formally deny the two pillars of a Catholic university, their absence in convocation speeches, alumni magazines and strategic and curricular plans is rationalized on the basis of an increasingly pluralistic culture. As economic pressures increase, many universities, through marketers and their branding strategies, adapt their public language to be less overtly faith-based and more generic and often unintentionally utilitarian.

University leaders rationalize this surrogate language with an appeal to be more inclusive and more palatable to the increasingly religiously diverse populations served by Catholic universities. A vision informed by a distinctively Catholic articulation of the unity of knowledge and complementarity of faith and reason is seen as too religious, and thus too sectarian, for today’s university stakeholders (students, faculty, donors and accrediting agencies). Religious claims might place the university at a disadvantage in recruiting faculty and diverse student populations.

As some Catholic universities distance themselves from theological and doctrinal commitments, they begin to face a particular challenge regarding what makes them distinctive. If leaders of Catholic universities mute the fundamental convictions of their own tradition, then “diversity” and “pluralism” can become mere code words for institutional conformity. If pluralism, and in particular institutional pluralism, is to be truly valued, then Catholic universities must be encouraged to bring forth their distinctive qualities; otherwise, they lose an important source of distinctiveness and move closer to becoming a commodity in the educational marketplace.

This is not to say that Catholic universities should employ only religious categories and ignore the realities of a pluralistic society. The Catholic university does have moral and social convictions; and it must speak, as it always has, in a language that is intelligible and accessible to those who do not share those convictions. Yet faculty and administrators must not downplay the theological and ecclesial commitments that are central to being a Catholic university.

Detachment: the consequences of teleopathy. When Catholic universities describe their mission in generic social and ethical terms, they also tend to de-emphasize a distinctively Catholic criteria in hiring, curriculum, research and promotion. Hiring faculty and administrators on the basis of a generic ethic or disciplinary excellence alone inevitably brings two results. First, leaders neglect to engage faculty in meaningful conversations about how to understand and implement the two pillars articulated by “Ex Corde Ecclesiae.” They focus, instead, on urgent details of day-to-day procedural management. Relationships to the Catholic intellectual tradition may be reduced to platitudes or viewed as marginal to the primary concerns of the university. Faculty members can become more loyal to their disciplines than to their university. Ultimately, the very idea of the university is reduced to that of a “holding company” for disciplinary advancement and career development. Students and faculty members are deprived of the promise and full value of a Catholic education.

Second, the university disconnects from the church. When doctrinal and faith commitments are marginalized, the presence of religious and priests, as well as committed lay Catholic faculty members, is seen to be optional. Liturgies like the traditional opening Mass of the Holy Spirit are often removed from university rituals and convocations. Theology and philosophy lose their integrative role within the larger university and become simply discrete disciplines among others. The role of the local bishop in supporting the university’s mission is weakened. Except for occasional community outreach or service learning opportunities, the church comes to have little or no relationship to the university. Of course, leaders of Catholic universities can distort their attachment to the church by stressing the requirement of obedience to ecclesial tradition in a way that precludes a genuine intellectual vitality. What substitutes for such vitality is a pervasive emphasis on Catholic piety and devotional practice. This is not the gaudium de veritate (joy in truth) that St. Augustine and St. John Paul II praised.

While each institution will have its own unique expression of the teleopathic pattern we have described, each displays a form of disengagement that goes from religious truths within a distinctive ecclesial tradition (the two pillars of “Ex Corde Ecclesiae”) to a humanism with broadly acceptable behavioral norms, to the methodological preoccupations of the disciplines and sometimes to whatever pays the bills. Once a Catholic university cuts itself off from its deepest theological and ecclesial roots, it yields to the various pressures and incentives of a larger utilitarian, careerist and technological culture, and its criteria of success are increasingly guided by the accreditation standards, assessments and rankings pursued by any secular university.

Recovering From Teleopathy

There are many exceptions and variations to the pattern of teleopathic leadership we have described. But senior administrators and trustees would do well to heed Francis’ warning that each person who is not nourished with spiritual food “will become a bureaucrat (a formalist, a functionalist, an employee): a shoot that dries up and little by little dies and is thrown away.” This possibility­—of becoming bureaucrats—is a danger for all leaders who lose sight of the deeper purposes of their institutions and manage them through prevalent norms and mechanical procedures.

Maintaining or restoring the two pillars of a Catholic university education requires a healthy self-examination on the part of the university stewards—that is, boards, administration and faculty. University leaders should begin conversations to determine whether there are policies or practices at their institutions that tend to erode their distinctive mission and identity and how best to reform or eliminate them.

Their questions could include the following. What are the gaps between the aspirational language in our mission statement and the “values-in-action” driven by the incentives, rewards, hiring and promotion systems of the organization? Is there a lack of connection between the institutional “talk” and “walk”? How should we understand and implement the pillars of the Catholic university? In recruitment and hiring? In the appointment of search committees? In the choice of search firms? In strategic planning, board appointments, measurement systems? In curricular design, including the central role of theology and philosophy? In faculty and leadership formation? In new governance structures and academic programs?

Reversing teleopathic leadership also requires other stakeholders, like donors and prospective college students and their families, to bring more questions to bear. Is the Catholic university in which I am interested really providing a fully integrated Catholic education? These evaluations, conducted in the context of prayer, can refocus and re-energize Catholic university leadership, faculty, students and the communities that support them. Collective efforts to understand and restore the two pillars of “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” can lead Catholic campus communities to embrace confidently and celebrate the distinctive contributions of Catholic higher education.

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William Rydberg
4 years 4 months ago
Very articulate with keen insight on the current state of affairs, and unfortunately 50 years late in my opinion (IMHO Rome was 25 years late in North America when Ex Corde Ecclesiae was finally published). There is undoubtably a lot of value in this article to the Church in other areas of the world, in my opinion. Modern North American Universities on the whole in my opinion are Technical Schools (look at the large number of Online Universities for example), and the presence of a few Jesuits, Dominicans, etc.. Is not even a lifeline anymore for some great North American Catholic Colleges & Universities. Recent articles about Loyola Marymount potentially losing its senior Catholic Faculty forecasts in the medium term are not promising according to reports. I personally think that the North American Jesuit Communities for example, ought to sit down with the Holy Father and ask him what he wants them to do. The Holy Father understands the Jesuit context expertly. . They ought not to hold things back, explaining realistically that the lack of adequate vocations and the consequences of past decisions (Land O Lakes, ex Corde Ecclesiae, Laicization of Jesuit College Boards,etc..) have taken their toll. I think that he would probably suggest that in addition to focussing on the maintenance of current strengths, a focus on Missiology would be in order. And a re-doubling of efforts at the Seconday Shool level. That current American Jesuit run higher Education should be run by their Boards, Jesuits don't need to take on the responsibility because they have not the human resources. Pastors yes, but under the direction of the local Ordinary for practical reasons. As for members of the Order that have not taken the now voluntary 4th Vow, great charity should be exercised in accord with The Holy Father's recommendations. Accommodation should be made in charity and completely without prejudice. This is a fine article, but like the recent New York Times Article just published suggesting that The best days of the United States of America, ( and Canada soon) may be behind it, likely applies to formerly great American Orders like the North American Jesuits. Although a superficial drop in "Madison Avenue" notoriety means little to Jesuits as their focus has always been the work. Any appointed work, A.M.D.G.. Here is the recent New York Times Article:
Rebecca Krier
4 years 4 months ago
Lots of insightful points here, many of which have been echoed in years of literature on Catholic education (at all levels). Unfortunately, even when leaders take steps to reinforce Catholic identity, and Catholic ethos is a priority of the institution, it by no means guarantees transmission into the lived experience of students. Fuller and Johnson (2013) published a case study on this. Catholic identity is a really tough area to study, and it's important amidst the complexity to examine the experience of students--aren't they the point of it all?
Charles Erlinger
4 years 4 months ago
A very interesting article and interesting comments so far. Thanks to all.
Henry George
4 years 4 months ago
I have to be honest, the article made my eyes swim. How about some practical changes: a) Separate Male and Female Dorms in all Jesuit Colleges. b) All students must take four courses in Philosophy and four courses in Theology - and real Theology not just four courses that only stress Peace/Justice and where the Professors are not there to tell the students God unconditionally loves them and as long as they are happy, whatever it is they do, God loves that they are happy, happy, happy... c) Jesuit Colleges do not recruit Freshmen by offering them sizeable scholarships and then reducing that scholarship by 75 % for their Sophomore year. d) That there be Chapels in each Dorm, Crucifixes in each classroom and each class begin with a prayer. Perhaps these changes will help the students grow closer to God and lead to an increase of Vocations.
Jeanne Linconnue
4 years 4 months ago
I graduated from a Catholic women's college, a student there during the time it was transitioning into a merger with a Jesuit men's college. We had a required liberal arts core curriculum. We were not just in single sex dorms, but on single sex campuses. We could take classes on the other campus, but the women did not move to the men's campus until the Sept after my graduation. We had mostly (maybe all) Catholic professors. We didn't actually concern ourselves with the religions of our lay professors, so I don't really know. We had crucifixes in every classroom and most, maybe all, professors started class with a prayer. I know some did, but don't remember if all did. We were required to take six semesters of philosophy and six of theology, long before "peace and justice" studies had arrived. We did not have a chapel in every dorm, but it was a very small campus and nobody was more than a three minute walk from the chapel. I am one of five siblings. Of my classmates, at least half had more siblings than I did, with families of seven to nine children being the most common. Only a few of my friends and classmates had as few as two siblings. Friends and classmates from very large families chose to have smaller families. I do not know of a single woman from my college era who has more than three children. They did not think families of the size they grew up in were the best environment for raising children. We grew up in the pre-Vatican II church, memorizing the Baltimore catechism as children, going to Latin mass, First Fridays, weekly rosaries and confession, and all of the other things that some lament have passed away and believe would be the magic needed to stem the hemorrhaging of adults from the Catholic church. Although Vatican II had ended sometime during our freshman year, the reforms didn't arrive in our own lives until later, starting around senior year with mass in English. The results? Of my classmates, about 25% left the church immediately upon graduation. Over the years, more than half, pushing two-thirds, of my friends and classmates left the church. Many did not ever even marry in the church except for some who married right after graduation, nor did they bring up their children in the church. Some are still going to mass but don't believe in what the church teaches. Some don't even believe in God. There is no panacea, no magical formula to "keep" young adults Catholic. The studies show that across the board, young adults are becoming "nones" - most still believe in God, they pray, but they see the churches' (not just the Catholic, but pretty much all institutional religion) as either irrelevant, wrong, and/or hypocritical. They are "spiritual but not religious" and the wise will not dismiss them because they believe it is a cop-out. It's not. They seek a spiritual life, but many do not find it in the organized religions. They are attracted to those spiritual paths that seem to rely on how to live as a decent human being, caring for others, and not on what they "must" believe. Orthopraxy speaks to them not orthodoxy. The gospels speak to them but not the catechism. So they flock to the Dalai Lama, who preaches compassion. They love Pope Francis, who speaks of love and mercy. But they do not return to the church because they see that Pope Francis is not even able to convert the hearts of the bishops, nor some of the laity, and it is unlikely that his papacy will leave a lasting impact on the church because he probably won't live that long. He speaks of mercy and kindness and compassion but he does not change teachings. Women are still second-class citizens in the church, as are gays and divorced and remarried. He hasn't even had the courage to say that the teaching on birth control is meant for guidance only and that it is up to each married couple to determine what method of family planning best supports the emotional health of their family and marriage. The issue of "Catholic identity" in Catholic universities and colleges is not as simple as some would have it. Many young Catholics are far more attracted to the Social Justice teachings of the church than they are to the judgment aspects of the doctrinal teachings. Perhaps there is a need for more of those courses rather than fewer.
Rebecca Krier
4 years 4 months ago
Thank you Jeanne! Your comment raises another important issue in this debate: the need for empirical research, which the article does not provide. How do we know what kind of leadership keeps the faith of students strong? We don't, until it's researched. It's not a theological question.
Jeanne Linconnue
4 years 4 months ago
Thank you Rebecca. My story is just one, purely anecdotal. I note that the universities where the authors teach are recommended by organizations such as the Newman Society, a group that does not attract most Catholics. From my reading and experience, it seems that many of the students these colleges attract are not representative of "mainstream" Catholicism. The "orthodoxy" of these schools attracts one type of student and family primarily, so their results may not reflect the success of their program in "keeping" students Catholic, but simply reflect the self-selection bias of the student body. Objective and statistically sound research is needed, but I don't know of any. You mentioned one study in another comment that I will look up.
4 years 3 months ago
Jeanne, thank you. Perhaps just anecdotal, but what you say has the ring of insight. Francis has a difficult task, just as Jesus had a difficult task. Most people would prefer church teachings that state what they know in their hearts to be true. You give the example of birth control, noting that Francis "does not change teachings." Relying upon conscience is the right thing to do, as the church teaches, yet would be easier to do if conscience didn't conflict with other church teachings. Francis is saying nothing about doctrinal teachings. He appreciates what happened to Jesus. The early church fathers took what he said and made doctrinal teachings out of it. Jesus was trying to get people beyond the law to the reign of God. Francis is trying to use mercy toward the same end. What the early church fathers did was a form of "teleopathy", fixating upon limited goals and making them ultimate aims. The article points out that "the pursuit of the unity of knowledge and the complementarity of faith and reason" is the larger and more enduring purpose of education. Church teaching could make a similar point: conscience -- becoming ever more responsive to the Spirit that touches the human heart -- is the larger and more enduring purpose of church teachings. It is not Francis who lacks the courage to say that. It is us. If Francis has to say it explicitly, that means we are relying upon Francis. This would be just the opposite of what Francis hopes for, just the opposite of what Jesus preached. It is a journey, to be sure, but the goal is to rely upon God, upon Christ and the Spirit, not upon doctrine. Learning how and when to break free of doctrinal training wheels is a continuing challenge. As Augustine said, "love God and do what you will." Easier said than done.
Barry Fitzpatrick
4 years 3 months ago
In my college days I was visiting a high school run by the religious community to which I belonged at the time. About to get a tour of the campus, one of the locals pointed out at the football field and said "Why there's the whole school right there!" Years later I was awakened by the marching band of one of our American Catholic universities early on game day, reminding me of the weekly ritual at the center of the attachment many had for this college. In myown days in high school teaching and administrating I was constantly confronted by the amenities war, nowhere more evident than in athletics, as we all rushed to keep up with the Joneses with artificial turf fields, new gyms, and the like. This is certainly evident at the college level as well. Where does it all fit in the context of Catholic education? What do we say to the student body when we alter admissions requirements, when we spend an inordinate amount of money to attract a coach, when we rely on athletic dollars to fund operations? One question missing from the self-examination suggested is that of whom exactly are we asking to be Board members. How many Board members would support the ultimate mission of the university when confronted with a conflict on the financial side between athletics and academics? How many Board members embrace the social teaching of the Catholic Church? What criteria, beyond financial treasure, do we consider in seeking new Board members? Finance committees tend to dominate Boards and Board meetings, and we have done little to alter that over the years. In fact, we have probably helped to foster that. Of course, no Catholic college can function without financial stability at its core, I understand that. But mission questions cannot always be answered or developed using the bottom financial line as the main guide. The reflection cannot be nostalgia driven, nor can it result in only symbolic gestures. So often strategic planning is survival and maintenance planning. The future will only belong to those at the top of the "survival of the fittest" contest on the accounting side of things if we continue the status quo without changing the conversation and the planning. Using the questions provided in this article will allow a superb starting point for planning that includes prayerful reflection all along the way and will bring us closer to answering the fundamental question, "What are we about, anyway?"
Charles Erlinger
4 years 3 months ago
The editors clearly have to invite Catholic university administrators and board chairpersons to respond to and evaluate the critique outlined in this article. Specifically, evaluations relative to the "twin pillars" as summarized in the article: "the pursuit of the unity of knowledge and the ultimate complementarity of faith and reason. These two principles guide and inform all aspects of a genuine university education, whether in the arts and humanities, the professions or the sciences" must be evaluated for relevance and importance in the current environment. If they are both relevant and important, do they occupy prominent priority in the concrete policy objectives and strategic plan achievement goals of the institution and what obstacles to objective achievement are being encountered? What would be the observable indicators showing that the objectives have been achieved?
Edwin Steinmann, JD
4 years 3 months ago
What “joy in truth” are these three fellows talking about? Joyfulness in the truth of Fall/Redemption theology? In the teaching that Jesus’ died on the cross for our sins, thus becoming our Savior (from the effects of a Fall that never occurred), etc.? Aren’t these fellows really advocating clinging tightly to 2000 years of misunderstandings? Catholic universities can and should do much better than this; they should be reinterpreting the past in the light of contemporary knowledge, not clinging to past errors.
4 years 3 months ago
Excellent article. The incident of crucifixes (or lack thereod) at Georgetown University came to mind. A crucifix, as we all know, has no power in and of itself no more than a scapular. Yet I wear my scapular daily and we have a simple crucifix hanging in our home prominently so that we can be reminded daily. The Faith walk is a journey. A fall here, a rise there, rock upon rock, stone upon stone. It is the little things that form us day by day: Leccio Divina, prayers before meals, reading Vatican Radio updates, asking each other how our day went when we get home from work and reflect on the Lord then. Did we include Him in our ora et labor? The following article from the Georgetown Hoya periodical adds credence to the arguments of the authors. It is the small things that tells others who we are.
THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY Schieder highlighted Obama’s 2009 speech in Gaston Hall as an example of the challenges Georgetown faces in reconciling a historic Jesuit identity with increasing diversity and a desire for global prestige. In April 2009, 10 years after the university decided to install crucifixes in classrooms, the president came to speak on economic policy in Gaston Hall. The White House requested that theIHS symbol, which denotes Jesus Christ, be covered up to provide a simple background not highlighting any faith. The university complied.
Reference: Engshube, L. (29, March, 2012). "At A Crossroads". The Georgetown Hoya . Retrieved from
Joe Schaub
4 years 3 months ago
The two pillars of Catholic universities: 1. the pursuit of the unity of knowledge and 2. the complementarity of faith and reason, are concepts that I don't find in the Gospels and the words of Jesus. They sound like something from Thomism. That's okay, but I want to base my Catholic faith on Jesus, not on Thomas Aquinas even as intelligent as he was. What if the pillars were taken from Jesus' own beginning of his teaching ministry as in Luke 4: 18-30? Good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed? Maybe that would get to why there was a crucifix in the first place.
Frank Bergen
4 years 3 months ago
This comment hits home especially after having heard a homilist cite the passage from Luke 4 as the heart of the message of Jesus just the Sunday before last. Thank you, Joe, for pointing out that we - in our universities and in our parishes and in our pedestrian daily lives - might do better going to the source than to the example of the medieval university. As to the general tenor of the article, I wonder why the authors provide no examples of universities that don't measure up to their standard.
Charles Erlinger
4 years 3 months ago
My understanding of the "unity of knowledge" concept is that it is a conclusion about God that one arrives at which is accepted as truth, from a process of thinking about God in thought areas normally described as metaphysics, epistemology and theology with the tools of all three of these disciplines used in combination. There are profound implications affecting all of being, especially regarding the nature of "person" that can be drawn from this conclusion and an appreciation of these implications by university graduates would certainly be a worthy policy objective, but I doubt that a strategy for achieving this objective can be limited to a taxonomical approach involving simply drawing distinctions and describing differences and similarities among various academic disciplines. By the way, even though scripture might not use the exact term "unity of knowledge," my impression is that there are plenty of references in the Gospel of John among other sources to the same general idea, especially in passages such as those in which Jesus talks about being one with the Father. If I am terribly mistaken here I am sure someone will straighten me out, which I would welcome.
4 years 3 months ago
This is a stimulating article, but upon further reflection I wonder whether the problem of secularism is not being subtly encouraged by overemphasizing the "Catholic" character of the mission. On its face, "the pursuit of the unity of knowledge" is quite general; "the complementarity of faith and reason" suggests a slightly greater religious influence. But taken together these principles are at a higher level than policies and rules which would be associated with a "Catholic identity". Similarly for the foundational principles of Catholic Social Teaching: social institutions and practices that develop without adequate attention to justice should be reformed so that they are more just. Justice is a broad criterion that transcends religious identity. I have difficulty imagining that universities in the Catholic tradition do not emphasize these fundamentals of mission. The problem with "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" was that it called for more parochial specifics, particularly as regards governance and the loyalty of teachers. Why should a Catholic university be beholden to these specifics? I would hope they are not, and yet see their pursuit of the more general and fundamental principles as sufficient to establish their "Catholicity". Furthermore, it is through these more general and fundamental principles that the failings of secularism are best corrected. Is not this a more effective "countercultural" response than parading a litany of specifics that are more obviously Catholic? The difference is between the generality of fundamental principles and the specificity of more distinctly Catholic principles. The latter is more likely to fall into "teleopathy". Indeed, the latter bear a relationship to the former not unlike the relationship between the law of Moses and the reign of God which Jesus preached. The basic principles of love and mercy, and the integrity of the journey, resonate even in the hearts of those who are adrift in a secular world, as Francis is demonstrating. These, rather than a litany of 613 commandments (the identity criteria at the time of Jesus), are the better measure of the Catholicity of a university.
Michael Basile
4 years 3 months ago
A relevant, while intensive, treatment of the question of faith and reason can be found in D. C. Schindler's "The Catholicity of Reason," (William Eerdmans Publishing, 2013). He ends the next-to-final and final paragraphs with: "...The greater whole is ultimately the endless task of philosophy itself, which can thrive as a whole only if it vigilantly refuses to allow any reduction to a single aspect of its aim. In the end, we return to the beginning: the fate of philosophy hangs on fidelity to the catholicity or reason....Faith, far from humiliating reason, and so philosophy, has elevated it beyond the aspirations of even the boldest thinkers, ancient and modern alike." I'm wondering if Briel would not agree?


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