09 December, 2009

How to define the "Catholic Identity" of higher schools of learning

"Inside Higher Ed" presents an interview with Rev. John C. Haughey, a senior fellow at Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University, and the author of the book Where is Knowing Going? in which he explores what it means to be "Catholic" as a college or university. His insights are worthy of consideration, as are the comments that follow the posting.

We have entered a time in which we as a Church will no longer be afforded the "benefit" of our good intentions (as slim as these blessings are today) and we will have to clearly identify our "brand" if we intend to effectively compete in the marketplace of today's value systems. Pure, unfettered self-autonomy is the zenith to which the majority aspire. The prescripts and teachings of Catholic morality will literally need to to be "sold" to citizens in today's consumer culture. Thankfully we've faced this same challenge before.

In fact, this desire to be our own god is as old as creation. In Genesis, where Adam and Eve confront the tree of knowledge is a perfect foretelling of the current situation. Seduced by the desire to know himself as "god", man fell into sin. The question that these preternatural parents faced then was the same as it is today: Can I accept that there is a being that created me? For a purpose, and as part of a plan? Can I accept that there are things that I must or must not do because of his/her/its will for me? Or do I claim sovereignty over every aspect of my being and accept to live by whatever creed or benefit I so choose, accepting whatever are the consequences of my action?

This is the essential question that must be addressed by theists today: "Are we God?"

It is not a question that we can address successfully if we are not certain as to our "brand". I appreciate that catholic conventionally is understood as meaning universal, but there logically must be a point where a belief is antithetical to faith, thus placing it beyond the "universal", outside of Catholicity. It has never been possible (aside from the divine attributes) for something to fully exist and not exist at the same time and in the same space. If one can choose not to be "catholic", then they must be permitted as a corollary of free will to carry the consequences of their decisions. If we choose to live this life in such a manner as to demonstrate that we do not wish to either know or love God, then he could not force us to be with him in the next life. Hell will be to KNOW of the fullness of God's promise, and to be denied it, for all eternity.

Given the gravity of the decision, we need to learn how to use the language, technologies and language of this generation if we want to sustain our Catholic Church in these times.

This article is an excellent exploration of these questions; questions that need to be addressed by the church, its bishops, priests and laity if we intend to evangelize our societies and bring the Good News of Jesus Christ into the future.
First, let us be clear on what it means to be "Catholic" in every venue of life; academic, occupational, trades, vocations of every kind. Then we will be ready to confront the challenge before us of arguing for the faith.

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