The Pope’s message to academia

Some quotes from the Inside Higher Ed article:

“At times, however, the value of the Church’s contribution to the public forum is questioned. It is important therefore to recall that the truths of faith and of reason never contradict one another. The Church’s mission, in fact, involves her in humanity’s struggle to arrive at truth. In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths. Drawing upon divine wisdom, she sheds light on the foundation of human morality and ethics, and reminds all groups in society that it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis.”

“Truth,” he continued a little later in his speech, “means more than knowledge: knowing the truth leads us to discover the good. Truth speaks to the individual in his or her the entirety, inviting us to respond with our whole being.” […]

“While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in — a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God. Such a choice would ultimately disregard the very truth we need in order to understand ourselves.”

Some interesting comments as well about academic freedom in that article, too.

The comments thus far appear to come mostly from hardcore rationalists who appear to think that if you cannot taste, touch, feel, see, or hear it, then it doesn’t exist; and that rationality and the vague concept of “enlightenment” apart from faith is the ideal end state for humanity. I’ve learned that there’s no point in trying to engage such people.

For my part, I found myself wishing that we Protestants were half as articulate about the relationship between faith and reason as the Pope is (and perhaps the Catholic Church is).


Filed under Academic freedom, Christianity, Education, Higher ed, Life in academia

5 responses to “The Pope’s message to academia

  1. I can’t hep but wonder if the reason the Catholic Church can be more articulate on some matters is because – for good or ill – because what Augustine of Hippo said still holds true: roma locuta est, causa finita est. That is to say, when Rome has spoken, the case is closed.

    Once some debates are settled and not up for negotiation or re-interpretation or even revisiting (we will not be debating women’s ordination every ten years!) the standards are set to speak about some of these things.

  2. rwp

    I’m not sure that’s true of the Church as a whole, but Benedict is an intellectual, a thinking man’s Pope, who I’m sure, has spent many, many hours thinking about these issues.

  3. Jami

    My first year of college at Marian, I took a theology class as part of our general education requirements. Being raised in the Catholic church and then turning my back on it completely in high school, I wasn’t too thrilled about this requirement. Little did I know…

    I found that it was extremely intellectual… very different from what I was taught as a kid in my Sunday CCD classes. And even though it didn’t reaffirm me as a Catholic, I was able to understand why and how Catholics came to their beliefs. I was very surprised at how much reason they used in their thinking, especially when all I heard as a kid was “Just do what we say and dont ask questions.” And even though I strayed far from the religous traditions, I was able to hold onto the reasoning in my own personal way. (Aquinas was my favorite)

    It’s pretty funny that the Catholic church gets the stereotype of being strict and stagnant, yet, at least in my opinion, they are the best western religion at combining reason with their beliefs. Now if only they could get that into popular knowledge. They just need to be more “hip” 🙂

  4. “It’s pretty funny that the Catholic church gets the stereotype of being strict and stagnant, yet, at least in my opinion, they are the best western religion at combining reason with their beliefs. Now if only they could get that into popular knowledge. They just need to be more “hip” “

    I think they would be more hip still if they just embraced their unhipness… The CCD popularity context and materials designed to seem trendy to secular tastes always looked dated by the time they got to us… (I was teaching CCD from the parish text out of a book – in the 1990s – that was still talking about listening to records… Those kids probably have never seen an LP except as a decoration on the wall of a TGIFriday!)

    But to the OP – I really believe that for better or worse, the hierarchical nature of the CC is such that it allows for some debates to simply be finished, and then the next step of mapping out the details of a teaching can be had. This hit me like a Mack truck when I was watching a presentation by a preist with advanced degrees in bio-ethics and biology explaining why the Catholic Church was fetal stem cell research and doing so in a fashion that explained the Church’s teaching while also debunking the myths that fetal stem cells have been anywhere as useful as umbilical cord cells (science) as well as refuting the highly emotive and illogical arguments of folks who say ridiculous things like “Fetal stem cells would have made Christopher Reeve walk again if it weren’t for the Catholic Church!” (rhetoric & philosophy)…

    Regardless of where you stand, I don’t think there is any other Church or community that could have come close to that sort of seamless weaving of multiple disciplines. And at the heart of that, I truly credit the fact that some debates on what is true finally end in the Catholic Church, and we are presented with what we can know is de fide.

  5. @jami and @asimplesinner: Since beginning to attend a Lutheran (LCMS) church over the last six months — which is far more liturgical and confessional than any of the various evangelical churches I’ve attended — I think the connection with faith and reason, which is IMO pretty strong among Lutherans as well as Catholics, comes from being connected to history. The Pope coined the term “diachronic koinonia” in one of his addresses last week, which refers to being in communion with the church throughout history, and I think that’s at the heart of the role of reason in the CC and in Lutheranism. It’s the notion that you are standing on the shoulders of a church that goes back 2000 years and which contains people such as Augustine and Thomas Aquinas whose thoughts on faith feed in to ours. Whereas among evangelicals, there is a tendency to throw things out and reinvent them, with progressively poorer results and less thinking, every so often.

    And to simplesinner’s remark about embracing unhipness, yes! I’m one of those people who fled to confessional Lutheranism (or am in the process of doing so) because I am, ironically, really alienated by the church’s attempts to become “hip” or “relevant”. I’m not the only one — lots of 20- and 30-somethings, in the CC and elsewhere, are really looking for a historically-connected, serious, intellectual approach to faith that used to exist everywhere but is sadly hard to find these days.