Pursuing Knowledge and Truth is a Family Affair

Some there are who forsaking virtue, and ignorant of what God is, and of the majesty of that nature which ever remains the same, imagine they are doing something great, if with surpassing curiosity and keenness they explore the whole mass of this body which we call the world. So great a pride is thus begotten, that one would think they dwelt in the very heavens about which they argue.

~St. Augustine

The Catholic university system exists to enable students to focus their passion for knowledge, comprehend this in relation to faith and reason, and strengthen its preservation of truth. All Catholic institutions should be equal in this endeavor, but many have failed in their efforts to properly educate. While some continue to fulfill this mission, others have chosen to contradict the very nature of the Catholic university itself.

Pope St. John Paul II, in Ex corde Ecclesiae (EC) stated the following:

(15) A Catholic University, therefore, is a place of research, where scholars scrutinize reality with the methods proper to each academic discipline, and so contribute to the treasury of human knowledge. Each individual discipline is studied in a systematic manner; moreover, the various disciplines are brought into dialogue for their mutual enhancement.

In addition to assisting men and women in their continuing quest for the truth, this research provides an effective witness, especially necessary today, to the Church’s belief in the intrinsic value of knowledge and research.

In a Catholic University, research necessarily includes (a) the search for an integration of knowledge, (b) dialogue between faith and reason, (c) an ethical concern, and (d) theological perspective.

Today, many students on Catholic campuses are hurled into aberrant classrooms, where professors educate more on the basis of relativist ideology than on Church teaching. They limit discourse since they believe they are above reproach. Adding insult to injury, those within the academic hierarchy support and tolerate this heterodox approach to teaching.

During my time as an admissions counselor, I was always impressed with those parents who actively participated in the college discernment process with their child(ren). They heeded the words of Pope Paul VI in Gravissimum Educationis (GE): “Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators”, (10).

Such parents became aware of the issues arising on many Catholic campuses across the country, many of which undermine Church teaching. They felt a refreshing sense of peace knowing that authentic Catholic colleges exist as a viable option and they were seeking them out. They recognize their significance in accomplishing the goal set forth by Pope St. John Paul II: “It is the honor and responsibility of a Catholic University to consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth”, (EC 4).

Times have changed. College administrators and even clergy have sold out to the lowest bidders in order to bolster revenue and boost enrollment. Not all Catholic institutions are what they seem and the reality is that many high school graduates are more prepared to undertake the noble responsibilities that come with being a member of the Church, including being more careful in their discernment of what constitutes an authentically Catholic college or university.

Pope Paul VI emphasized this concern:

The Church is concerned also with schools of a higher level, especially colleges and universities. In those schools dependent on her she intends that by their very constitution individual subjects be pursued according to their own principles, method, and liberty of scientific inquiry, in such a way that an ever deeper understanding in these fields may be obtained and that, as questions that are new and current are raised and investigations carefully made according to the example of the doctors of the Church and especially of St. Thomas Aquinas,(31) there may be a deeper realization of the harmony of faith and science. Thus there is accomplished a public, enduring and pervasive influence of the Christian mind in the furtherance of culture and the students of these institutions are molded into men truly outstanding in their training, ready to undertake weighty responsibilities in society and witness to the faith in the world. (GE 32)

The Christian mind must be nurtured and brought to a deeper understanding and appreciation of truth, as it corresponds to the Church, and further develops the “witness to the faith in the world.”

We are familiar with the results of poor educational standards within the lower ranks of academia. Many parents have taken action to become more involved in their children’s academic welfare. This level of initiative must now continue in the realm of higher education, especially when it comes to the welfare of our Catholic identity.

Families must continue to take up the torch and remain active to ensure that a Catholic college education will reap benefits far beyond the classroom or campus.

TODD NOLAN is director of the Sophomore Success Program at Ave Maria University. He earned a Master of Arts in theology from Catholic Distance University and has written and spoken on issues related to catechesis, youth ministry, and Catholic education.

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