This blog is a place for Notre Dame students and others to share their thoughts on Father Jenkins' forthcoming policy on academic freedom and Catholic identity at Our Lady's University.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Beyond either-or

Observer Viewpoint
by Brad Gregory
Professor of History
"I see no obvious models for us in the endeavor to create a Catholic, great research university in this age. But this open-endedness is precisely what is exciting and important about Notre Dame and its ambitions: we are being invited to participate in an original exercise of institution-building, not to submit to the patterns and conform to the precedents of other institutions.

Sectarian Catholic universities such as the Franciscan University of Steubenville or Ave Maria University can offer no instruction. They are not research universities, and their missions seem too narrowly, inwardly Catholic to allow for (in Jenkins' words) 'a variety of views expressed vigorously, even those contrary to deep values of Catholicism.' Rejecting such institutions as models doubtless will displease those Catholics who want to refashion Notre Dame in their image and likeness.

Neither will the best private secular universities such as Stanford or Princeton suffice for Notre Dame. We must learn all that we can from them, for they have much to teach us, but we cannot uncritically mimic them without forsaking our Catholic identity. They forfeited commitment to their religious traditions (or in some cases never had one) and forbid consideration of religious positions on their own terms in the classroom. Rejecting such institutions as models doubtless will displease those uneasy with Notre Dame's Catholic character, particularly if they equate secularization with progress and hope that the University will eventually "get over the whole Catholic thing."

Finally, traditionally Catholic universities whose Catholic identity has been perhaps irretrievably compromised will not do. They are difficult to distinguish from secular universities in all but certain devotional respects. Their lack of vigorous discussion about how to be both first-rate and Catholic fostered their uncritical emulation of highly ranked, secular institutions. As a result, they appear to have forfeited any serious commitment to Catholicism and Catholic intellectual traditions. Rejecting such institutions as models doubtless will displease those who think that Catholicism's "universality" should oblige Notre Dame to sponsor all things for all people. But a university that gauges its identity primarily by how much it tolerates, that speaks of truth only as something to be pursued and never as someone already incarnate and that is embarrassed to be a witness because it no longer knows what it is witnessing to, is arguably no longer a Catholic university."
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5:19 AM

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