Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pope Benedict on Catholic Colleges

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Perhaps it was planned that way by humans but I prefer to think it was the providential work of the Holy Spirit. Below is the text of the reading for Thursday of the fourth week of Easter, April 17, 2008, the day Pope Benedict XVI addressed the gathering of Catholic educators at the National Catholic University in Washington.

John (RSV) 13:16-20

Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

I am not speaking of you all; I know whom I have chosen; it is that the scripture may be fulfilled, `He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’

I tell you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives any one whom I send receives me; and he who receives me receives him who sent me.”

Apply that sentiment to the words of Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity College in Washington. She wrote on the eve of the pope’s address. Below (in part):

The image of us presidents as wayward boys and girls assembled before the pope for chastisement feeds into the most pernicious anti-Catholic stereotype of mindless adherence to theocratic rulers. For Catholics to encourage the kind of actions that bolster such banal stereotypes is the real scandal.

The critics would have us ban plays, speakers, student clubs, faculty members and alumni guests whose words or deeds run contrary to the most orthodox interpretation of Catholic teaching.

What Pope Benedict said (again in part):

This task is never easy; it involves the entire Christian community and motivates each generation of Christian educators to ensure that the power of God’s truth permeates every dimension of the institutions they serve.

In this way, Christ’s Good News is set to work, guiding both teacher and student towards the objective truth which, in transcending the particular and the subjective, points to the universal and absolute that enables us to proclaim with confidence the hope which does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5).

Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church’s munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.

Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice.

This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom.

Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.

Click for the full text of Pope Benedict on Catholic Colleges

Many Catholic teachers, particularly theologians, have a perverted view of academic freedom, confusing liberty with license and producing sophistries which are little more than intellectual wolves in sheep’s clothing, e.g. justifying abortion on population control grounds or justifying buggery on the grounds of a “committed, loving relationship.”

We urge them to learn and make their motto the words of Christ:

I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. (Matthew (RSV) 11)

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; (Matthew (RSV) 18)

Pat Phillips, Catholic Defense League
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