Monday, August 16, 2010
Michael Sean Winters has posted thoughts from my Notre Dame colleague, John Cavadini (Theology), on the impact, influence, and importance of Ex Corde. Great stuff. A taste:
Our colleges and universities, but especially the universities with graduate programs, live under the same pressures as the rest of the American academy. We want to compete in that terrain, and by and large the Catholic families who are our main constituency also want us to compete in that terrain. They want the degrees their offspring receive to have enough prestige and credibility to ensure, as they see it, success in life. If you aren't seen as a credible university, as fitting the paradigm of "university," you lose your constituency, even your Catholic constituency, apart from a strident minority. There are bigger Catholic student bodies at some of the prestigious secular universities than there are at many Catholic colleges and universities.
But aren't we supposed to be distinctive? Isn't that what our relationship with the Church should provide? Again, and understandably, universities begin to deal with the problem of how to be both academically credible and Catholic by vesting their Catholic identity in programming that, while certainly an essential part of the Catholic agenda, is actually present in almost any university of top quality. A focus on ethics? on social justice? on educating the whole person? What good university would eschew any of these, and in fact, not feature them? Language about social justice works its way into our mission statements, but language about witnessing to the truth of the Gospel does not, unless it is equated with the former. We seem to accept the going paradigm of academic excellence, and subordinate the "distinctive" element to that. But aren't we then selling ourselves short? Have we really made much progress?