St. Peters Square

Vatican Envoy to Jesuits and Bishops: Reform Education

The Vatican ambassador’s message, delivered during Monday’s gathering of U.S. bishops in Baltimore, was crystal clear: place priority on the renewal of Catholic identity in Catholic education and restore the great legacy of Jesuit institutions.

It’s an appeal that should make every Catholic parent stand up and cheer!

When Pope Francis was elected, I openly wondered whether our Jesuit pope would acknowledge the elephant in the room: the crisis of Catholic identity at many of America’s Jesuit colleges, especially the disregard for papal authority and doctrinal fidelity by some professors.

We now seem to have an answer.  While it’s not clear to what extent, if at all, Pope Francis contributed to his envoy’s message to the U.S. bishops, it’s hard to imagine that the apostolic nuncio would make such a forceful and direct appeal without the Holy Father’s consent.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò delivered an address to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that was at times both personal and emotionally stirring.  He urged attention to two concerns:

One – the need to give particular attention and care to our Catholic educational institutions so that they would regain the luster of their true identity that has shown forth from them in the past.

Two – that Catholic colleges and universities, renowned for the professional formation of their students, should be encouraged to be faithful to the title of “Catholic” that they bear. …While each college or university has its own particular mission, together they ultimately have the solemn obligation to teach the same doctrine of the universal Church and to define the moral obligations that mark us all as Catholic Christians.

This is as close as the Vatican has come to publicly confronting the crisis of Catholic identity at many American Catholic colleges. Even in elementary and secondary education, Archbishop Viganò indicated that the “true identity” of Catholic schools is not so clear today, as it once was.

Lamenting today’s “secularized and increasingly pagan civilization,” Viganò appealed for “renewed strength” in the New Evangelization—a strength that is “solid and unwavering in its commitment to Truth.”  And this strength, “which should be found in the family and in the schools, will exist only in proportion to its Catholic identity.”

He challenged the bishops to “watch over and protect families, and parishes and schools,” citing Pope St. Gregory the Great: “Imprudent silence may leave in error those who could have been taught. Pastors who lack foresight hesitate to say openly what is right because they fear losing the favor of men.”

But the most striking portion of Cardinal Viganò’s address was his reminiscence about his own years in a Jesuit secondary school and at the Gregorian University in Rome, and the heroic role of the Jesuits in bringing the Faith to the New World. It was a detour that imparted a special challenge:

No doubt that this Order has been the leader of evangelization in North America. …The Society of Jesus has had a long and proud tradition of imparting a rich Catholic faith and a deep love for Christ, which in great part is carried on through their mission of education. It is my hope that, with respect to their great tradition, after the example of our Holy Father, they would take again the lead in re-affirming the Catholic identity of their educational institutions.

The call to “take again the lead” was an acknowledgement that the Jesuits have lost their place of honor at the forefront of Catholic education. Restoring the Jesuits’ “great tradition” of education means reaffirming Catholic identity.

Cardinal Viganò’s recounting of the Church’s history in the United States, which he did at much greater length, was inspiring. He reminded the bishops that their predecessors in the early American Church had also gathered in Baltimore to decide “upon a strategy that would shape the growth and development of the Catholic Church.”

The main tool of this strategy was education, which was accomplished through the building of parishes with their own schools, together with the dedicated support of women religious. A prime example of this is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the great pioneer of American Catholic schools.

In the Cardinal’s prepared text, the only words underlined are these: “Education was primary in the Bishops’ minds; it was an essential means for the Gospel message to be woven into the very fabric of our people’s existence. In so doing, they were following the consistent path of evangelization traced centuries before by the monastic orders” and “the Holy See.”

Today, faithful Catholic education remains essential—Pope Francis said it is “key, key, key”—to the New Evangelization. Not only our bishops, but all of our clergy, religious, educators and especially parents need to believe that. Taking up Archbishop Viganò’s timely challenge, we must make it a priority to build and support authentic, formational Catholic education that brings young people to Christ.

Our Church and society depend on it.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

newspapers

Fire Theologians, Not Columnists

There is more than irony in the recent attempt by several theologians to discredit New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, because he dared to write about the tragic confusion surrounding the Synod on the Family without having a theologian’s “professional qualifications.”

There is great desperation in the move — and hypocrisy.

The hypocrisy lies in the demand for credentials, when the field of theology is itself seriously lacking in that regard.

About half of Douthat’s critics are professors of theology at Catholic colleges and universities. Under canon law, they must have the mandatum, a recognition from their local bishop that they pledge to teach in fidelity to Catholic doctrine. But do they? At least a few seem to be headed in the opposite direction.

Under current policy in the United States, it’s difficult to know whether a theology professor has the mandatum, because most theologians won’t say — and neither will their college employers or their bishops. The mandatum is deemed a private matter between the theologian and the bishop, and even many Catholic colleges do not require the mandatum for employment. Students who need to know whether or not a professor has complied with canon law are in the dark.

In James Caridi’s 2011 survey of U.S. Catholic college and university leaders, 36 percent said they did not know whether their theology professors have received the mandatum, 10 percent said some but not all of their theologians have received it, and another 6 percent said no professors have it. When The Cardinal Newman Society followed in 2012 with a request to America’s 10 largest Catholic universities to disclose which of their theology professors have the mandatum, the few that responded admitted that they do not collect such information.

Pope Benedict XVI pressed the issue in May 2012 during the ad limina visit of several American bishops. Urging “compliance” with Canon 812, which requires the mandatum for teachers of theology, the Holy Father said:

The importance of this canonical norm as a tangible expression of ecclesial communion and solidarity in the Church’s educational apostolate becomes all the more evident when we consider the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership: such discord harms the Church’s witness and, as experience has shown, can easily be exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, when he was prefect of the Apostolic Signatura and Rome’s chief expert on canon law, told the Newman Society that “tangible” means the mandatum should be publicly acknowledged:

It’s tangible in the sense that it’s a public declaration, in writing, on the part of the ecclesiastical authority that a theologian is teaching in communion with the Church, and people have a right to know that so that if you, for instance, are at a Catholic university or parents are sending their children to the Catholic university, they know that the professors who are teaching theological disciplines at the university are teaching in communion with the Church.

There is, of course, no similar requirement in canon law that a New York Times columnist be properly credentialed by the Church to opine on Church matters. So it is preposterous that theologians would demand “professional qualifications” from a journalist, while their own profession apparently lacks compliance with the Church’s canon law.

So why attack Douthat? The answer may lie in the theologians’ second charge, that Douthat favors a “politically partisan narrative that has very little to do with what Catholicism really is.” This seems to be another case of the pot calling the kettle black; the driving motivation behind today’s “progressive” Catholics seems to be quite political and secular, and not rooted in faith. The loosening of Catholic mores with regard to sexuality and marriage for “pastoral” reasons has been a key objective of both political and religious progressives since the 1960s.

That’s where I see desperation in the theologians’ move against Douthat. He has challenged the apparent scheming by some parties to control the outcome of the Synod, which centered on this loosening of attitudes toward marital and sexual sin. Pope Francis had opened the doors wide to frank discussion and debate. The progressives saw the opportunity to bum-rush the Church.

But that largely failed. And now that Douthat is issuing warnings that could help thwart anything they hoped to gain, the ivory-tower theologians have lashed out in despair.

The response of many Catholic pundits has been to rush to Douthat’s defense, and rightly so. But I propose something more:

It’s time for Catholics to demand that those who teach theology in Catholic institutions commit to complete fidelity to Catholic teaching, make that commitment publicly known, and refrain from using their academic prowess to oppose those who faithfully seek the good of the Church.

And if theologians can’t abide by those expectations, they should at least find an ivory tower that doesn’t bear the label “Catholic.” Or become columnists.

This article was originally published by National Catholic Register and is reprinted with permission.

Cardinal Burke Urges Genuine Catholic Education to Renew Culture

Cardinal Raymond Burke last week gave us yet another trove of wisdom to contemplate, just as the Synod on the Family came to a close. This time, it was about Catholic education, and it came with a stern warning.

In prepared remarks last week given to representatives of Voice of the Family, Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, warned parents about the threats to their children from wayward Catholic schools while arguing that faithful Catholic education at home and in schools is needed to transform the culture. 

“Today, parents must be especially vigilant, for sadly, in some places, schools have become the tools of a secular agenda inimical to the Christian life,” he said. Corrupted Catholic institutions can lead young people “to their slavery to sin … profound unhappiness, and to the destruction of culture.” 

Cardinal Burke has received a lot of attention for his courageous opposition to those who sought to hijack the Synod in support of Communion for remarried, divorced Catholics. So it may seem odd that he chose to focus on Catholic education during the Synod’s last week. The topic of education got surprisingly little attention at the Synod, even after scholars Theresa Farnan and Mary Hasson publicly urged the Synod fathers to devote more time to it. 

But education and the good of the Catholic family are essentially linked, and Catholic education is a key solution to the challenge of secularism. In a lecture last week at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio — which is a model of faithful education — I expressed my concern that we not limit the New Evangelization to strategies that excite young people about the Faith, but also focus more attention to the renewal of Catholic education. It is in Catholic education that young people experience the deeper formation that prepares them for sainthood in a difficult and often hostile culture. 

The timing of Cardinal Burke’s comments also are relevant to today’s 50th anniversary of the Vatican II declaration on Christian education, Gravissimum Educationis. Next month, the Vatican will celebrate the documents while addressing the “crisis of education” in the modern world, meaning the modern failures to truly bring young people to know, love and serve Jesus Christ. The result is a deep despair and aimlessness in today’s societies — what Cardinal Burke calls a “profound unhappiness.” 

And ultimately, happiness in God is the promise of a genuine Catholic formation. 

It is important that “children know happiness both during the days of their earthly pilgrimage and eternally at the goal of their pilgrimage which is Heaven,” said Cardinal Burke. And it is no contradiction that such happiness means preparing for the Cross. 

“Education, if it is to be sound, that is, for the good of the individual and society, must be especially attentive to arm itself against the errors of secularism and relativism,” Cardinal Burke stated, “lest it fail to communicate to the succeeding generations the truth, beauty and goodness of our life and of our world, as they are expressed in the unchanging teaching of the faith.” 

He addressed particularly the modern confusion in sexuality, including the “so-called ‘gender education’ in some schools, which is a direct attack on marriage at its foundation and, therefore, on the family.” 

“Good parents and good citizens,” said Cardinal Burke, “must be attentive to the curriculum which schools are following and to the life in the schools, in order to assure that our children are being formed in the human and Christian virtues and are not being deformed by indoctrination …Today, for example, we sadly find the need to speak about ‘traditional marriage,’ as if there were another kind of marriage.” 

He referred to Gravissimum Educationis in support of parent-directed education: “As it is the parents who have given life to their children, on them lies the gravest obligation of educating their family.They must therefore be recognized as being primarily and principally responsible for their education.” 

And most profoundly, he reminded his audience of the encyclical by Pope Pius XI, Divini Illius Magistri, and the task of Catholic education to form “the supernatural man who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illumined by the supernatual light of the example and teaching of Christ; in other words, to use the current term, the true and finished man of character.”

In light of the confusion surrounding the Synod and the greater confusion in the world about marriage, family and even the value of human life, we are in great need of Catholics with this sort of formation. Renewing Catholic education should be among our highest priorities. 

This article was originally published by National Catholic Register and is reprinted with permission.

It’s About Navigating Life: The Importance of Philosophy & Theology

Here is one of the clearest criteria for choosing or judging a college: you can be almost certain that any college that has dropped philosophy and theology from its core curriculum is not serious about a liberal arts education. And in my experience I find that this is true of many of the colleges in America.

This raises two questions: (1) What are philosophy and theology, and why are they crucial to a young person’s education today? (2) Aren’t they outdated, impractical, abstract, irrelevant, elitist, superfluous and even dangerous to faith and sanity?

Some Definitions

“Philosophy” means “the love of wisdom.” Wisdom is the knowledge of ultimate causes, explanations and principles. It includes knowledge of values, not just facts. It gives you a “big picture,” a “world-view” and a “life-view.” It explores such questions as these: What is the essence of a human being? What is the meaning (value, goal, purpose) of human life? What is a good life? What is a good society? Are there higher laws than man’s laws? Are we here by chance or design? Are we fated or free? How do we know what is good or evil? How do we know anything? Is anything certain? Can reason prove (or disprove) the existence of God? Why do we suffer? Why do we die? Is there life after death?

Anyone who is simply not interested in these questions is less than fully human, less than fully reasonable. Reasonable persons, even if skeptical about the possibility of answering them, will not dismiss them as unanswerable without looking (that is not reason but prejudice) but will examine the claims of philosophers to have given reasonable answers to these questions before settling into a comfortable, fashionable skepticism.

Theology comes in two forms, philosophical and religious. Philosophical theology (“natural theology”) is a subdivision of philosophy. It uses natural human reason to explore the greatest of all questions, the questions about God. Religious theology (or “revealed theology”) is a rational exploration of the meaning and consequences of faith in a revealed religion—in our case, the “deposit of faith” or “Sacred Tradition” of the Catholic Church which comes from Christ and His apostles, and the scriptures they wrote.

In most Catholic universities today, Sacred Tradition is no longer sacred. It is treated as something to be “dissented” from (“diss” is the first part of “dissent”), as an enemy to enlightenment, progress, maturity and liberation, or at least as an embarrassment to be “tweaked,” “nuanced” or “massaged” rather than as a gift to be gratefully, faithfully and lovingly explored.

Most Catholic universities today have philosophy departments that are excellent spiritually as well as academically, but have deeply compromised theology departments. Their effect on students is much more often to weaken their faith than to strengthen it, not only in controversial moral issues such as abortion, contraception, cloning, euthanasia and sexual morality, but even in fundamental doctrines such as Christ’s divinity and resurrection and the historical truth of the Gospels.

We badly need good philosophy and theology. But why? To answer this question, look at where they are taught. They are taught in colleges and universities. So to find the “why” of philosophy and theology, we must find the “why” of colleges and universities.

The Goal of Education

Considering the trillions of dollars spent on universities by parents, governments and foundations, it is amazing that most of the people who go there (the students) and most of the people who pay for them (the parents and the government) never even ask, much less answer, this question: What is the purpose of the university? It is the most influential institution in Western civilization, and most of us don’t really know exactly why we entrust our children to them.

The commonest answer is probably to train them for a career. A B.A. looks good on your resume to prospective employers. That is not only a crass, materialistic answer, but also an illogical one. Consider what it means. It means that the reason students should study in universities is so that they can get high grade-point averages and thus get better jobs when they graduate.

What does “better jobs” mean? It means first of all, to most of them, better-paying jobs. But why do they need better paying jobs? For the money, of course. Silly question. But why do they need money? That is an even sillier question. Life has expenses. What life? Most of them hope to marry and raise families, and it takes a lot of money to do that. Why does a family need a lot of money? The two most expensive things a family needs money for are a house and a college education for the kids.

Ah, so a student should study to get high grades to get an impressive resume to get a good job, to finance his family when it sends his kids to college to study, to get high grades, et cetera, et cetera.

This is arguing in a circle. It is like a tiger pacing round and round his cage in a zoo. Is there a better answer? There is if you know some philosophy. Let’s look.

Probably the most commonsensical and influential philosopher of all time was Aristotle. Aristotle says that there are three “whys,” three purposes, ends or reasons for anyone ever to study and learn anything, in school or out of it. Thus there are three kinds of “sciences,” which he called “productive,” “practical” and “theoretical.” (Aristotle used “science” in a much broader way than we do, meaning any ordered body of knowledge through causes and reasons.)

The purpose of the “productive sciences” (which we today call technology) is to produce things, to make, improve or repair material things in the world, and thus to improve our world. Farming, surgery, shipbuilding, carpentry, writing and tailoring were examples in Aristotle’s era as well as ours, while ours also includes many new ones like cybernetics, aviation and electrical engineering.

The purpose of the “practical sciences” (which meant learning how to do or practice anything, how to act) is to improve your own behavior in some area of your own life. The two most important of these areas, Aristotle said, were ethics and politics. (Aristotle saw politics not as a pragmatic, bureaucratic business of running a state’s economy, but as social ethics, the science of the good life for a community.) Other examples of “practical sciences” include economics, athletics, rhetoric and military science.

The third kind of sciences is the “theoretical” or “speculative” (contemplative), i.e., those that seek the truth for its own sake, that seek to know just for the sake of knowing rather than for the sake of action or production (though, of course, they will have important practical application). These sciences include theology, philosophy, physics, astronomy, biology, psychology and math.

Theoretical sciences are more important than practical sciences for the very same reason practical sciences are more important than productive sciences: because their end and goal is more intimate to us. Productive sciences perfect some external thing in the material world that we use; practical sciences perfect our own action, our own lives; and theoretical sciences perfect our very selves, our souls, our minds. They make us bigger persons.

And that is the reason for going to college in the first place: not to make money, or things, or even to live better, but to be better, to be more, to grow your mind as you grow your body.

The Big Picture

What we have been doing for the last several paragraphs is philosophy. We need philosophy because we need to explore such reasons, reasons for studying, reasons for universities’ existence, even (especially) reasons for your own existence. For one of the primary questions all great philosophers ask is: What is the meaning of life, the reason for being, the point and purpose and end of human existence in this world?  If you don’t know that, you don’t know anything because you don’t know the point of everything. If you don’t know that, you may get all A’s in all your subjects, but you flunk Life.

The answer to that question for any intelligent, honest and serious Christian, Jew or Muslim is God. Supreme wisdom is about knowing God. And philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom. So philosophy is ultimately the pursuit of God, using the tools of natural human reason and theology by faith in supernatural divine revelation.

The “wisdom” philosophy pursues is not a factual knowledge like physics or history; but a knowledge, and understanding, and appreciation, of values, of what ought to be rather than merely what is. For instance, we need to know whether career (work) or family is more important, because most of us will invest enormous emotional and physical energy in both, and they will always compete and conflict to some extent.

We want to know the meaning of falling in love and romance and sex. What is its meaning, its purpose? For two generations now we have been asking every conceivable question (and many inconceivable questions, too), but not this one, not the very first and most basic one.

You see? Philosophy and theology raise the mind’s eyes to The Big Picture. If we can’t see that, we miss the forest and see only the trees; we count the syllables in the book of life but don’t know what kind of a story we are in.

Good Philosophy, Good Theology

One philosopher tells this story. (I paraphrase.) I was raised in a New York City slum. There were no books in my house. No one in my high school cared about education. I found an escape in the great 42nd Street library, where I devoured books indiscriminately. One day, I happened to read the famous “allegory of the cave” from Plato’s Republic. It changed my life. I found my identity. My life was that cave, and philosophy was the way out into another, bigger world. My mind was born that day. For the rest of my life I have explored the world outside the cave, the world of ideas, and taught others to do so. The biggest thrill in my life is finding among my students someone like me whom I can show that there is a way out of the cave, and that there is a bigger world outside.

That is why we all need to study philosophy (and, even more obviously, theology): because it is the discovery of another world, another kind of world, another kind of reality than the material world: the discovery that ideas are real, and that (in the words of a great book title) “ideas have consequences.”

The only alternative to good philosophy is bad philosophy. “I hate philosophy” is bad philosophy, but it is a philosophy: egotism. “Philosophy isn’t practical” is a philosophy: pragmatism. “Philosophy doesn’t turn me on” is a philosophy: hedonism.

Everyone has a philosophy, just as everyone has an emotional temperament and a moral character. Your only choice is between “knowing yourself” and thinking about your philosophy, or hiding from it and from yourself. But what you do not think about will still be there, and will still motivate you, and have consequences, and those consequences will affect all the people in your life up to the day of your death and far beyond it.

Your philosophy can quite likely and quite literally make the difference between heaven and hell. Saint Francis of Assisi and Adolf Hitler were not professional philosophers, but both had philosophies, and lived them, and went to heaven or hell according to their philosophies. That is how much of a difference thought can make: “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” Buddha said, “All that we are is determined by our thoughts: it begins where our thoughts begin, it moves where our thoughts move, and it rests where our thoughts rest.”

Philosophy can lead you to God, and theology can lead you further into God (or away from Him). And God is the source of all truth, all goodness and all beauty; that is, of everything we value. (If that is not true, then God is not God.) All truth is God’s truth; when an atheist discovers some scientific truth, he is reading the mind of God, the Logos. All goodness is God’s goodness; when an agnostic secularist loves his neighbor, he is responding to divine grace. All beauty is God’s beauty; when a dissipated, confused and immoral artist creates a thing of beauty, he is using the image of God in his soul, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, however anonymously, and participating in God’s creative power.

Philosophy is a necessity if you want to understand our world. Bad philosophy is the source of most of the great errors in our world today. Errors in philosophy are devastating because they affect everything, as an error of an inch in surveying the angle of a property line will become an error of ten yards a mile down the line.

Most of the controversies in our world today can be understood and solved only by good philosophy and theology; for instance, the relation between world religions, especially Islam and Christianity; human life issues such as abortion, euthanasia and cloning; the justice of wars; the meaning of human sexuality and of the “sexual revolution”; the relation between mind and brain, and between human intelligence and “artificial intelligence”; the relation between creation and evolution; how far we are free and responsible and how far we are determined by biological heredity and social environment; the relation between morality and religion, and between religion and politics; and whether morality is socially relative or universal, unchanging and absolute.

Revealed theology claims to have the answers, or at least the principles that should govern the answers, to many of these questions. So theology is even more important than philosophy, if answers are more important than questions. And of course they are, for the whole point of asking a question, if you are honest, is the hope of finding an answer. It is nonsense to believe that “it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive,” and good philosophy refutes that self-contradiction. If it’s not better to arrive at your goal of truth than to strain after it, then truth is not really your goal at all, and the straining after it is a sham.

That is not, of course, to say that it is easy to arrive at the goal of truth, or that all we need is a set of answers we believe on the Church’s authority but do not understand. The truly respectful attitude toward the authority of the Church—which is an extension of the authority of Christ—is to let revealed truth permeate our minds and our lives like light, not simply to preserve that light by hiding it under a bushel basket. All “ideas have consequences,” especially divinely revealed ideas; and it is our job to lovingly draw out those consequences, like philosophers, and not to fear them, like heresy hunters, or to claim them as our own in a spirit of superiority to our divine teacher, like heretics.

Answering Objections

But there are objections to philosophy and theology out there. If this were not so, the teaching of these subjects would not have declined so precipitously. Let us briefly consider and answer some of them.

What can you do with philosophy and theology anyway? We have already answered that question by noting that it is the wrong question. The right question is what they can do with you.

But they’re so abstract! Yes, and that is their glory. To be incapable of abstraction is to be less than human, or a less than fully developed human. Animals and small children, for instance, are incapable of abstraction. They do not talk about Fate and Freedom, or Good and Evil, or Divinity and Humanity, or Life and Death (all abstractions). They talk only about hamburgers and French fries, boo boos and bandages, malls and cartoons. These things are not “the real world.” They are the shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave. Philosophy and theology are not fantasy. They are the escape from fantasy.

But philosophy is a dinosaur—it isn’t up to date, modern, popular, etc. No. Neither is wisdom, virtue, happiness, piety, fidelity, courage, peace or contentment.

What does philosophy have to do with real life? Everything. It is more important to know the philosophy of a prospective employee or employer, landlord or renter, friend or enemy, husband or wife, than their income, social class or politics.

Philosophy is elitist. It speaks of “Great Books” and “Great Ideas” and “Great Minds.” Yes, it does. At least good philosophy does. If you prefer crummy books, stupid ideas and tiny minds, you should not waste your money on college. If you believe that all ideas are equal, rather than all persons, you are confused and need a philosophy course. (Is the idea that all ideas are equal equal to the idea that they are not?)

“Philosophy bakes no bread.” It does not make you rich.  It is contemplative, like monasticism.  True. But why do we make money and bread? Is money our means (of exchange) to our end? Money is for bread, and bread is for man, and man is for truth. The ultimate end of human life is contemplative: knowing and appreciating the truth. We will not be baking bread or making money in Heaven, but we will be philosophizing.

Religion makes philosophy superfluous. If you have faith, you don’t need reason.  Yes, you do: you need reason to understand your faith. And you need reason to know whether your faith is the true faith. There are many fakes. And how do you know that unless you think about it? And if you don’t want to think about your faith, then either you aren’t really very interested in it, or you are afraid it is so weak that it will not endure the light. In that case you need a faith-lift.

But philosophy can be a danger to faith. Many have lost their faith through philosophy. Yes, and many have gained it, too. Of course, philosophy is dangerous. So is love, and trust, technology and money. Bad things are always misuses of good things. Wherever great harm is done, great help could have been done.

Final Things

This is especially true in theology. I know a chaplain who was ministering at the bedside of an old, dying man who had “lost his faith” and left the Church decades ago. The chaplain asked him what he believed about life after death, and the man replied that he had no idea where he was going and he didn’t think anyone else did either, because no one had any idea where they came from in the first place or why they are here.

The chaplain disagreed. He said, “You know the answers to those questions. You learned them as a little boy. You forgot them. But you can remember them now. It’s not too late. You learned the Baltimore Catechism, didn’t you? Yes, you did. Do you remember how it begins?”

The man wrinkled his brow, retrieving an old memory. “Yeah. It went like this: ‘Who made you? God made me. Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” The man paused, lifted his eyes, and said, “You’re right. That’s true!” And a smile appeared on his face. And then he died.

You need philosophy and theology now because you will need it on your deathbed later.

 

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A Checklist for Growing Your Faith

Participate in Mass

Bishop Ricken

There are frequent opportunities for you to have a personal encounter with Jesus on campus. This occurs most immediately in the Eucharist. Regular Mass attendance helps strengthen your faith through the Scriptures, the Creed, other prayers, sacred music, the homily, receiving Communion and being part of a faith community.

Go to Confession

Like going to Mass, you will find strength and grow deeper in your faith through participation in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Confession urges people to turn back to God, express sorrow for falling short and open their lives to the power of God’s healing grace. It forgives the injuries of the past and provides strength for the future.

Learn about the lives of the saints

The saints are timeless examples of how to live a Christian life, and they provide endless hope. Not only were they sinners who kept trying to grow closer to God, but they also exemplify ways a person can serve God: through teaching, missionary work, charity, prayer and simply striving to please God in the ordinary actions and decisions of daily life.

Read the Bible daily

Scripture offers first-hand access to the Word of God and tells the story of human salvation. You can pray the Scriptures (often times in a group setting in dorms or led by your campus chaplain) to become more attuned to the Word of God. Either way, the Bible is a must for helping you sustain and grow your faith during college.

Read the documents of the Church

College is a time of learning and studying, and expanding your knowledge of our Catholic faith is an important part of that. To become the kind of well-formed person you surely wish to be, you must understand what the Church really teaches and how it enriches the lives of believers.

Study the Catechism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church covers the beliefs, moral teachings, prayer and sacraments of the Catholic Church in one volume. It’s a resource for growing in understanding of the faith. Another helpful resource is the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCA).

Volunteer in campus ministry

Growing your faith can’t only be about study and reflection. The solid grounding of the Scriptures, Church teachings and the Catechism must translate into action. Campus ministry is a great place to start, and each person’s gifts help build up the community. Helping others brings Catholics face-to-face with Christ and creates an example for the rest of the world.

Invite a friend to Mass

A personal invitation can make all the difference to someone who has drifted from the faith or feels alienated from the Church. Everyone knows people like this, so everyone can extend a loving welcome.

Incorporate the Beatitudes into daily life

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) provide a rich blueprint for Christian living. Their wisdom can help you to be more humble, patient, just, transparent, loving, forgiving and free. It’s precisely the example of lived faith needed to make your campus years a time of your life that you will remember fondly for years to come.

Patrick Reilly’s Speech to the Catholic Citizens of Illinois

Address to the Catholic Citizens of Illinois

Patrick J. Reilly

President, The Cardinal Newman Society

Given May 9, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois

Thank you, Mary Anne, members of Catholic Citizens of Illinois, and good friends of The Cardinal Newman Society.

I am thrilled to be back in Chicago and to be with all of you, especially in what is shaping up to be an extraordinary year for American Catholics and for Catholic educators.

We started the year anticipating Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States, and the exciting news that he had summoned every Catholic college president in the U.S. to a meeting at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The Holy Father did not disappoint. Three weeks ago on April 17, Pope Benedict delivered a challenge to the college presidents and to diocesan educators that I am certain will have a significant impact on Catholic education in this country.

The Masses, the Holy Father’s address to seminarians and young people, the meeting with the bishops, the United Nations address, the visit to Ground Zero – all of these, I am sure, were opportunities for grace and important steps toward the evangelization of the West that Pope Benedict so eagerly seeks.

But, in terms of long-term impact on the Church in the United States, I submit to you that the Holy Father accomplished two important things:

First, he brought us a long way toward what resolution is possible regarding sexual abuse by some of our Catholic priests. He set an example of genuine compassion for the victims that will, I hope, characterize the American bishops’ response as we go forward.

Second, he restored the renewal of Catholic education to the top of the agenda for the Church in America, where it was briefly prior to the sex abuse scandals.

But more on this in a moment.

There is another reason this year is so exciting for the Church and for Catholic education – and that is the likelihood that the great English convert and author of The Idea of a University, John Henry Cardinal Newman, will be beatified before the year ends.

It is Newman’s thought that underlies much of Ex corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution for Catholic higher education issued by Pope John Paul II in 1990, which lays out minimal standards for Catholic colleges.

It is also Newman’s thought which nicely coincides with the vision for Catholic education presented by our new professor-pope, Benedict XVI, in his address on April 17.

The Holy Father makes the argument that today there is a great “crisis of truth,” and it is rooted in a “crisis of faith.” As the West continues to secularize, faith is increasingly viewed as contrary to reason and truth. But Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Faith in Christ, Pope Benedict reminds us, is the only sure way to essential truths about God and His creation which cannot be attained only by observation, no matter how rigorous the method and the reasoning.

Even before April, Pope Benedict over the past year has repeatedly referred to an “educational emergency” in the West,lamenting the loss of hope among many young people because they do not know the truth about God and man as His creation.

This is more than the theme of one or more papal addresses. It appears to be the central theme of this papacy, and of Pope Benedict’s priesthood.

When Joseph Ratzinger was named Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977, he chose as his episcopal motto “Cooperators of the Truth”. He explained: “On the one hand I saw it as the relation between my previous task as professor and my new mission. In spite of different approaches, what was involved, and continued to be so, was following the truth and being at its service. On the other hand I chose that motto because in today’s world the theme of truth is omitted almost entirely, as something too great for man, and yet everything collapses if truth is missing.”

Compare that to Cardinal Newman’s dispute with what he called “physical philosophers” in 19th-century England. These secularists trusted only those truths that are discovered by observation and the scientific method, and they rejected truths that are revealed by God, and therefore the understanding of those truths that human reasoning yields through the practice of theology. They scoffed at Newman’s argument that theology is central to any legitimate university’s search for truth in all areas of knowledge.

Newman writes in The Idea of a University:

“[N]o wonder, then, that [these “physical philosophers”] should be irritated and indignant to find that a subject-matter remains still, in which their favorite instrument [observation and inductive reasoning] has no office; no wonder that they rise up against this memorial of an antiquated system, as an eyesore and an insult; and no wonder that the very force and dazzling success of their own method in its own departments [of science] should sway or bias unduly the religious sentiments of any persons who come under its influence. They assert that no new truth can be gained by deduction; Catholics assent, but add, that, as regards religious truth, they have not to seek at all, for they have it already.” (Newman,The Idea of a University, p. 223-224)

In Newman’s time 150 years ago, as Pope Benedict observes in our own day, the “crisis of truth” was rooted in a “crisis of faith.” Newman writes:

“The Rationalist makes himself his own center, not his Maker; he does not go to God, but he implies that God must come to him. And this, it is to be feared, is the spirit in which multitudes of us act at the present day. Instead of looking out of ourselves, and trying to catch glimpses of God’s workings, from any quarter—throwing ourselves forward upon Him and waiting on Him, we sit at home bringing everything to ourselves, enthroning ourselves in our own views, and refusing to believe anything that does not force itself upon us as true.” (Newman, Essays Critical and Historical, Vol. 1, p. 33-34)

Doesn’t this remind us of contemporary academia? As teaching and knowledge become increasingly fragmented… as genuine academic discourse on our college campuses gives way to advocacy and power politics and the tyranny of political correctness… as both students and professors feed on opinions and advocacy rather than exploring truth in an objective manner… the intelligentsia of America increasingly is, as Newman describes it, enthroned in their own views and refusing to believe anything that does not force itself upon them as true.

It is a “crisis of truth” rooted in a “crisis of faith.” And by confronting this fundamental problem in Western academia, Pope Benedict on April 17 moved one step beyond the Church’s minimal expectations—which are still very much disputed in the United States—and toward an agenda for the complete renewal of Catholic education.

I have heard very good people express disappointment in the Holy Father’s April 17 address. They hoped for a scolding of the presidents of wayward Catholic colleges—a scolding that all of us here know is well-deserved, but which is not the style of Pope Benedict XVI. The complaints also note that not once, in Pope Benedict’s entire address, does he mention Ex corde Ecclesiae, although he certainly echoes and endorses its key themes.

I wondered at this myself, but upon reflection I see the genius in it. After weeks of media speculation that Pope Benedict might “bring down the hammer” on the college presidents, many of them arrived at The Catholic University of America braced for it, and probably ready to once again dispute the mandatum or the appropriate number of Catholic faculty or the virtues of dissent in Catholic theology courses.

For the Vatican, though, Ex corde Ecclesiae was the final word on those issues. It is still very much the law of the Church and ought to be implemented. But rather than engage impetuous American educators on minimal standards 18 years after Ex corde Ecclesiae was issued, Pope Benedict struck at the heart of secularization, and his words must have pierced the hearts of many of the college presidents whose own personal crises of truth and faith are too often reflected in their policies and public statements.

The “crisis of truth” is rooted in a “crisis of faith”—from this key insight, Pope Benedict develops a vision for Catholic education that I can only summarize briefly today. I encourage all of you to read the complete address, which is posted at the Cardinal Newman Society’s website at www.CardinalNewmanSociety.org. If you prefer, you can write or call and we’ll be happy to send a hard copy.

To put it simply, Pope Benedict argues that it is the special privilege and obligation of Catholic education to unite faith and reason, and to teach both observed truth and that which is revealed by God. But faith is not just understood, it is lived. Therefore the Holy Father insists that in addition to orthodoxy—and not instead of it, as some college presidents have tried to distort the Pope’s meaning—Catholic identity of schools and colleges “demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom.”

Catholic academic institutions, therefore, are not focused only on the intellect, but bear responsibility for the spiritual development of their students, even and perhaps especially at the college level.

Again, Pope Benedict says:

“A particular responsibility therefore for each of you, and your colleagues, is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief. It is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth. In choosing to live by that truth, we embrace the fullness of the life of faith which is given to us in the Church.”

Faith, then, is both at the root of Catholic education and its product. A Catholic education that acknowledges the unity of faith and reason opens the student’s mind and heart to God. It invites an entirely different way of observing reality, full of hope in the promises of Christ.

Contrast this to the typical approach of many Catholic colleges today. They assert Catholic identity because they have historical ties to religious orders, they offer Catholic-oriented courses not often available elsewhere, they have a dedicated Catholic campus ministry, perhaps some Catholic artwork.

But what Pope Benedict requires is so much more: An intellectual journey into the life of faith. He says that “first and foremost” educators should provide students “a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.”

So how does this get translated into practical change for Catholic colleges by leaders who share the Holy Father’s vision and courage? A few thoughts:

Moral relativism: Pope Benedict perceives that the “crisis of truth” is rooted in a “crisis of faith.” The solution to moral relativism in Catholic colleges begins with the conviction of faith, most importantly among Catholic theology professors.

For many colleges and universities, this calls for replacing many officials, faculty and staff with others who share Pope Benedict’s vision—starting from the top, and replacing tenured professors over the long term. It requires trustees who will support “hiring for mission” even when challenged by disgruntled professors and interfering secularists like the American Association of University Professors.

Publicly disclosing which faculty members have the mandatum—a formal recognition from the local bishop that a theologian intends to teach authentic Catholic doctrine—would help students choose genuine Catholic theology courses.

Disintegrated curriculum: Restoring rigorous core requirements that were once the hallmark of Catholic higher education would teach what Pope Benedict calls the “unity of truth.” In particular, Pope Benedict says that Catholic colleges “have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice”—which to my reading calls for Catholic theology courses for every student. The best Catholic colleges graduate students with an understanding of the Catholic intellectual tradition including theology, ethics and philosophy—and a healthy dose of the liberal arts.

Intellectual anarchy: Perhaps most important to the reform of American colleges, Pope Benedict calls on educators to reject limitless academic freedom—now sacrosanct within most of American academia—explaining that “any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission.”

This means insisting that professors limit their teaching and public advocacy to areas of their own expertise, without wading in to moral issues that are properly reserved to the theological disciplines. It also means that academic freedom does not justify a Catholic college or university endorsing or simply providing resources and facilities to advance views contrary to Catholic teaching—with clear implications for The Vagina Monologues and political rallies for pro-abortion politicians on Catholic campuses.

Moral decline on campus: Pope Benedict calls for fidelity to Catholic teaching “both inside and outside the classroom.” He also laments the common approach to sexuality that emphasizes “management of ‘risk,’ bereft of any reference to the beauty of conjugal love.” Catholic college officials can build a Christian campus culture by reclaiming responsibility for helping students’ spiritual and personal development and consistently encouraging chastity.

I have gone too long, and yet I have only begun to consider the implications of this important vision which Pope Benedict has presented to our Catholic college presidents and diocesan officials, with an implicit challenge to restore a commitment to faith and truth in Catholic education. As you read the full address, which I hope you will do, I welcome your correspondence and your own insights.

The renewal of Catholic education is an enormous challenge, but we can hope in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the many signs of renewal that is already underway. For me, Pope Benedict’s address at The Catholic University of America was akin to raising Moses’ staff on the mountain while the battle rages below. We have a real struggle before us, but with the assurance of our Holy Father’s leadership and God’s grace.

And more than ever, we should pray for Cardinal Newman’s intercession. I will end with a final quote from Newman relevant to the project that Newman began 150 years ago and continues today:

“…[T]his is our hour, whatever be its duration, the hour for great hopes, great schemes, great efforts, great beginnings… to recommence the age of Universities.”