Friday, April 18, 2008

What would Cardinal Newman think?

I was disappointed at the mental gymnastics exhibited by professor Thomas Groome of Boston College on the television program Chronicle as he attempted to rationalize the turning away from the Catholic ideal which has taken place in Catholic universities across the United States. But I was even more disappointed that professor Groome would suggest that Cardinal Newman would have difficulty understanding the concerns of the Cardinal Newman Society as they relate to the identity of Catholic universities.

Quite simply, professor Groome is wrong. In his classic work The Idea of a University, Cardinal Newman explains that, "...It is no sufficient security for the Catholicity of a university, even that the whole of Catholic theology should be professed in it, unless the Church breathes her own pure and unearthly spirit in it, and fashions and moulds its organization, and watches over its teaching, and knits together its pupils, and superintends its actions....It cannot but be that if left to themselves, they will, in spite of their profession of Catholic truth, work out results more or less prejudicial to its interests. Nor is this all: such institutions may become hostile to the revealed truth in consequence of the circumstances of their teaching as well as of their end. They are employed in the pursuit of liberal knowledge, and liberal knowledge has a special tendency, not necessary or rightful, but a tendency in fact, when cultivated by beings such as we are, to impress us with a mere philosophical theory of life and conduct, in the place of Revelation....It is not that you will at once reject Catholicism, but you will measure and proportion it by an earthly standard. You will throw its highest and most momentous disclosures into the background; you will deny its principles, explain away its doctrines, rearrange its precepts, and make light of its practices, even while you profess it....This intellectualism first and chiefly comes into collision with precept, then with doctrine, then with the very principle of dogmatism."

No professor Groome, Cardinal Newman wouldn't be shocked over the beliefs of the society which has taken his name. Rather, he would be shocked at how accurately he described our age of institutionalized apostasy from Catholic truth. He would be shocked at how the light and love of the world have replaced the light and love of Jesus Christ within the walls of most of our Catholic universities. And he would weep. And he would pray for a return to fidelity.

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Anonymous said...

That was the thought of Newman. And that quote cuts right to the heart of the matter. Professor Groome's argument fails. New warned of an intellectualism separated from Revelation. He was a prophet for our age of apostasy.

Anonymous said...

You have struck a nerve here Paul. Professor Groome said that while Boston College adheres to the Church's teaching on subjects such as the ordination of women, still, debate about such issues is a positive thing. But how so? What could can possibly come from such debate? The issue was resolved once and for all by Pope John Paul II in Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, No. 4.

There are many ways to stimulate thought while honing debating skills and critical thinking skills which do not include dissent from the Magisterial teaching of the Church.

Thanks Paul.

Anonymous said...

Boston College definitely has its problems. Dr. Peter Kreeft has said that, "Boston College is a Jesuit university that used to be Catholic." - http://

Sadly, BC, like so many other Colleges/Universities which used to be authentically Catholic, has apostasized from the faith.

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