Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S. J.: The Advantages of a Catholic University

In this May 2002 article in America Magazine, the late Cardinal Dulles writes:

Unity of Knowledge
It is of the very nature of a university to impart knowledge of many fields. It is good to have courses in the various arts and sciences, even though no individual student will be able to take more than a limited selection. While specializing in certain areas, students should see their fields of specialization in relation to the realms of knowledge that they have not been able to study in detail.
A fourth criterion for Catholic education, therefore, is that it be such as to impart a sense of the unity of knowledge. In the absence of this sense, one could not have a true university but at best a “multiversity.” In some schools the struggle for coherence has been abandoned, with the result that the students are disoriented and perplexed. How can the claims of different specialties, they ask, be reconciled and integrated? Reason itself teaches us that there can be no ultimate contradiction between truth and truth. In the Catholic university, the search for a higher synthesis will be kept alive.
The Light of Faith
Christians are convinced that no synthesis of knowledge will be successful without reference to God, the supreme Truth, and to Christ, who is the divine Logos, the center of creation and human history ([Ex Corde EcclesiaeE.C.E., No. 16). In this season of national and international peril it needs to be said quite simply that the future of the world will be in danger unless it turns to him who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (E.C.E., No. 4). A university that neglects the word of God deprives itself of an important source of truth.
Theology, which studies all reality in the light of divine revelation, has its proper principles and methods, defining it as a distinct branch of knowledge (E.C.E., No. 29). It should, moreover, interact with the other disciplines by bringing a perspective and orientation not contained in their own methodologies (E.C.E., No. 19). In the words of Pope John Paul II: “In promoting the integration of knowledge, a specific part of a Catholic university’s task is to promote dialogue between faith and reason, so that it can be seen more profoundly how faith and reason bear harmonious witness to the unity of all truth” (E.C.E., No. 17). The university should be a place in which faith enters into conversation with reason on every level, including historical reason, scientific reason and philosophical reason.

Read the whole thing here.

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