Appeared in Summer/Autumn/Winter 2002, Vol. XXVII, No. 2, 3, 4
Science and scholarship are not neutral with respect to [the] struggle for our souls. It is not as if the main areas of scholarship are neutral with respect to this struggle, with religious or spiritual disagreement rearing its ugly head only when it comes, say, to religion itself. The facts are very different: the world of scholarship is intimately involved in the battle between opposing views; contemporary scholarship is rife with projects, doctrines and research programs that reflect one or another of these ways of thinking. At present, the sad fact is that very many of these projects reflect . . . fundamentally non-Christian ways of thinking.
The Christian who is a scholar finds himself in two communities: the community of his fellow Christians and the community of his fellow scholars. Each has its own criteria for membership, its own characteristic practices, its own characteristic beliefs, its own characteristic training programs. Without a doubt a person can simply live in the two different communities, doing as the Athenians do when in Athens and as the Jerusalemites when in Jerusalem. But if one who is a scholar as well as a Christian wants coherence in life or even if he only wants self-understanding he cannot help asking, how does my membership in these two communities fit together?
John Paul II’s 1990 Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (ECE), concerns, in the document’s own words, “all Catholic Institutions of higher education engaged in instilling the Gospel message of Christ in souls and cultures” (#10). This document is relevant to at least three major areas of reflection on Catholic higher education: (i) a theology of cultural engagement, (ii) an educational philosophy, and (iii) the idea and practice of Christian scholarship. Though I will briefly address the first two points, it is primarily the third on which I wish to focus. My thesis is that the implementation of the vision of ECE in Catholic institutions of higher education requires the appropriation of the idea and practice of Christian scholarship. Although having an orthodox Catholic theology department at such institutions is necessary, it is not sufficient for developing and maintaining Catholic institutions of higher learning. In order to achieve that goal, an institutional commitment to the idea and practice of Christian scholarship is required.
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