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Benedict XVI and Catholic Higher Education

Unless you're living on Mars or in West Hollywood, you probably know that the Pope is in America this week. On his itinerary is a talk to Catholic educators. My colleague, Thomas S. Hibbs, in this morning's National Review Online, offers some reflections on "Benedict and the Catholic Universities." Here is an excerpt:

Ironies abound — the most dramatic being the way that leading Catholic universities, desperately afraid of being identified with “official” Catholic teachings on sexuality, have abandoned the Catholic intellectual tradition save for some small portion of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality. We see this in the Catholic campus debates over the official recognition of gay and lesbian groups, pro-choice groups, and the performance of The Vagina Monologues, the result of which at a place like Notre Dame seems to have been to confer on a mediocrity the stature of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Another painful irony is that this is precisely the wrong time for Catholic universities to slavishly mimic top-ranked secular schools. Former Harvard dean Harry Lewis, author of Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education, contends that at elite universities the “ideal of liberal education lives on in name only.” The libertarianism of the faculty who want to be left alone to do their research complements the laissez-faire attitude of students. Instead of being "immersed in the life of the mind," students act like the good consumers universities increasingly conceive them to be — maximizing upscale pleasures and opportunities for career advancement. Complaints like these, for which Allan Bloom was once reviled, are now common in secular higher education. The failure to offer an integrated liberal education, to raise big questions about the common good and to foster a genuine community of learning among students and faculty are matters on which religious universities ought to have a distinct advantage.

We are better served in these matters by diversity, rather than homogeneity, in institutions of higher education. But to set out on a different path will mean a willingness to buck the purportedly self-evident claims about what academic excellence means. Both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have made us acutely aware that many Catholic universities are in trouble not simply because they are no longer Catholic, but because they are no longer universities — arenas for the communal pursuit of truth in a range of disciplines.

Comments (8)

Hopefully no one missed Anthony Esolen over at insideCatholic on the same topic.

Off-topic, but B16 relevant. If Benedict XVI mission here is to assure us that Christ remains present in flesh and blood, then he has succeeded with at least one of us;

Q Mr. President, final question.


Q You said, famously, when you looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes you saw his soul.


Q When you look into Benedict XVI's eyes what do you see?


Q Good way to end the interview.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir.

Give West Hollywood some credit - I am sure the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence held a bingo game where they gave away sex toys and porno away in honor of the visit.

They are fab-uuuuu-lous like that.

I guess.

Wow. So that West Hollywood link is to a real governmental website huh? This is one of those times I'm so thankful to be from the Midwest.

Say what you will about W, but he does have his moments.

As for higher edumocation, part of the problem is the ridiculous requirements of employers for college degrees in jobs that are essentially trades. Hence, colleges have become nothing more than glorified trade schools.

c matt,

I think a more accurate assessment would classify colleges as "glorified high schools" -- since a degree is now required as proof that a person can read and write, seeing as high school diplomas no longer guarantee such abilities.

I think a more accurate assessment would classify colleges as "glorified high schools" -- since a degree is now required as proof that a person can read and write, seeing as high school diplomas no longer guarantee such abilities.

So true, so sad. I see a trend where good high schools render the majority of colleges useless.

I find it interesting study which is the central point of the success of Catholicism? There? Yes there is, and is the result of the second Vatican council: are the new communities.
The new communities are the fastest growing movements in the world of Catholicism, attract young people. There will be this year, 2008: Congress of new communities in Europe.
The Catholic universities should forget the excessive materialism. Bringing the material with the spiritual. should experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We believe in what is spiritual, but not joined.

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