Saturday, October 28, 2006

Father Jenkins on Catholic Universities

A Harvard curriculum committee proposed this month that, among other things, a graduate should know "the role of religion in contemporary, historical, or future events -- personal, cultural, national, or international." Some of the President of Notre Dame's reply follows:

"The Harvard committee rightly noted that students coming to college today struggle with an academy that is "profoundly secular." This was not always the case, at Harvard or at many other universities. For centuries scholars, scientists and artists agreed that convictions of faith were wholly compatible with the highest levels of reasoning, inquiry and creativity. But in recent centuries this assumption had been challenged and assertions of faith marginalized in, and even banished from, academic departments and university curricula.

The Harvard committee hastens to explain that its proposal is not for "religious apologetics." Rather, the courses it envisions would offer an examination of "the interplay between religion and various aspects of national and/or international culture and society." They would deal not so much with the relationship between reason and faith as with reasoning about faith, religion and religious institutions and their impact in the world... Such courses are unquestionably needed...

But universities can do more than just familiarize students with the world's religions in survey-course fashion. The rise of religious fanaticism stems in part from a failure of intellectuals within various religious traditions to engage the faithful of their traditions in serious and reasoned reflection, inquiry and dialogue. The marginalization of faith within universities contributes to this failure...

It's time for universities to explore the reasoning that is possible within a tradition of faith, and to help their students appreciate this possibility and the rich resources in great religious traditions. Such efforts would enhance the ability of those with faith to engage in thoughtful, reasoned and self-critical spiritual reflection.

Read the rest of the essay here

Images: John Cassidy: Theology,Science and Art Raphael-School of Athens

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