The Cardinal Newman Society’s soon-to-be canonized patron - Cardinal Newman Society

The Cardinal Newman Society’s soon-to-be canonized patron

Patrick Reilly was excited to study at a Catholic university — to spend four years learning philosophy, theology and ethics, and to meet and grow in the faith with fellow Catholics. But the experience didn’t match his expectations. There were a lot of good things about the college, he said, but a lot of disappointments, too. He was taught by a theology professor who disagreed openly with the church. Many of the students were more into partying than attending Sunday Mass. There was a pro-choice club that was approved by the administration. 

“I’m by nature quiet and introverted and wasn’t inclined to speaking out, but I started asking why these things were being promoted at a Catholic university?” said Reilly, a parishioner of St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton. 

After college, he attended graduate school in Washington. There, he met alumni from other Catholic colleges who had the same experience as he did. So, in 1993, he started the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization dedicated to promoting and defending faithful Catholic education. 

The society’s patron, Cardinal John Henry Newman, was a British scholar, philosopher, writer and Anglican priest before he became Catholic. He spent much of his life at Oxford University as both a student and a fellow. As an Anglican priest, he was the vicar at a university church. After he became Catholic, he founded the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Birmingham, England, and a Catholic university in Dublin. Many of his ideas on higher education are in his book, “The Idea of a University,” based on lectures he gave in the 1850s.

“Newman, perhaps more than anybody, studied the essence of Catholic education as focused on truth,” said Reilly. “(He) made the argument that because a university is focused on teaching truth in all the various disciplines, the only complete, authentic university would be one that teaches theology because once you exclude one branch of knowledge, you’re limiting the university.”

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