Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo


5/16/2009 (6 years ago)

The B.C. Catholic (

Giving an honorary law degree to someone who does not recognize the natural right to life does dishonor to Notre Dame's own Catholic identity

(Pictured. Dr. C.S. Morrissey teaching students at Redeemer Pacific College.)Catholic universities are thus better characterized as 'faith-and-reason'-based, since their institutional reason for existence is to provide a mediating, ecumenical role between human reason and particular faiths.

(Pictured. Dr. C.S. Morrissey teaching students at Redeemer Pacific College.)Catholic universities are thus better characterized as 'faith-and-reason'-based, since their institutional reason for existence is to provide a mediating, ecumenical role between human reason and particular faiths.



The B.C. Catholic (

5/16/2009 (6 years ago)

Published in College & University

LANGLEY, BC (BC Catholic) - Rev. John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, is welcoming Obama in the name of respect and tolerance. He is unable to give a reason why a Catholic university should not honor a pro-abortion President with the privilege of a commencement speech.

He is unable to give a reason why giving an honorary law degree to someone who does not recognize the natural right to life does dishonor to Notre Dame's own Catholic identity. Rather, Jenkins thinks that any "positive engagement" with Obama requires, not simply intellectual dialogue, but the gift of all these honors -- as if a Catholic university would belittle itself by begrudging a famous and popular politician the adulation he seeks.

Some Catholic universities are afraid to be criticized as "intolerant" or "not open to serious intellectual dialogue" if they make institutional distinctions about what and whom they will honor or dishonor. They are afraid that by drawing such lines they will be criticized for suppressing "academic freedom".

But this criticism is a confusion that arises from a lack of interdisciplinarity in the modern university. On the contrary, so-called "faith-based" institutional practices, which emphasize the intrinsic harmony of faith and reason, are a guarantee that universities will foster the achievements of reason and science in a way that does not disrespect the complementary approaches to reality of other cultures and traditions.

Catholic universities are thus better characterized as "faith-and-reason"-based, since their institutional reason for existence is to provide a mediating, ecumenical role between human reason and particular faiths. On the one hand, there is a secular humanism that approaches cultural issues with a Western, ideological perspective.

On the other hand, there are other cultures recognizing spiritual reality as something transcending Western scientific ideologies. Both approaches possess insights that may contribute to a common ground for global culture. Therefore, institutional requirements that "faith-and-reason"-based teachers profess fidelity to the particular Catholic Christian tradition of "faith-and-reason" act as a guarantee that such scholars are committed to their mediating, ecumenical role.

In short, a Christian university must be able to "speak the languages" both of faith and of reason, with a whole-hearted commitment to both that refuses to "short change" one at the expense of the other. This equal balance of faith and reason, as historically developed in Catholic Christian universities, is a rich cultural heritage and a great resource for global culture.

Because of the leveling hegemony that unbridled Western scientism and that economic globalization threatens to bring to global culture, Christian universities offer a unique model for safeguarding the voices of human tradition within global culture. But some say that adherence to a particular faith militates against the Christian university's mediating, ecumenical goal.

However, it has been the experience of the Catholic Christian tradition that it is precisely protections for particular faith commitments that are necessary in order to protect reason from falling into the mistake of subtly promoting a universal hegemony of only one implicit ideology -- one dimly-understood, yet all-pervasive.

By explicitly highlighting an institutional "bias" in the form of its "faith" commitment, this "faith" commitment is therefore never taken for granted, but rather always put forth as a perspective to be vigorously challenged and renewed through rational inquiry. The strength of the "faith-and-reason"-based university tradition, then, is that its constitutional identity is designed to highlight self-critical, autonomous inquiry.

But the weakness of a secular institution -- committed to "the official ideology of having no official ideology" -- is that it is tempted to treat the problems of interdisciplinarity and contextuality as having already been solved once and for all by this "official ideology of no ideology".

The "faith-and-reason"-based university tradition, however, by its very nature does not see this profound human problem of particular perspectives as ever solvable by an easy ideological or institutional declaration of official neutrality. The bias of "officially having no bias" is arguably the most dangerous of all intellectual delusions, because it is an invitation to intellectual complacency -- by considering the perennial educational problems of self-examination and dialogue to have been "officially" solved.

Yet it is this secular delusion that is at the root of Notre Dame's decision to invite and honor Obama, no matter his ideology or actions. "All speakers are welcome; we honor them all, and thereby honor academic freedom," is the dubious message; "It is official: we are Catholic, but we have no bias." This is a grave delusion, not least because serious dialogue never honors another's view by cheap and easy dishonor to one's own view.

An intellectual argument worthy of a serious Catholic university would be this: to dishonor a famous and popular President, and then to explain why the common good of society is guarded by protecting its right and its duty to render such rebukes unto Caesar.


C.S. Morrissey is Assistant Professor of Medieval Latin Philosophy at Redeemer Pacific College.


This article appeared in The B.C. Catholic, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Vancouver and is used with permission.


More College & University

The fight for religious liberty: How one Catholic college deals with threats Watch

Image of

By Matt Hadro (CNA/EWTN News)

The future of religious freedom in the United States will one day be in the care of today's college students, so one Catholic college is working to equip them for that struggle. Washington D.C., (CNA/EWTN News) - Wyoming Catholic College is trying to form a "community ... continue reading

4 reasons Catholic education needs your help this year Watch

Image of Are America's Catholic schools being attacked? (Wordpress)


The Catholic education system is coming under attack by a plethora of policies designed to make the hiring process, acceptance of anti-Christian viewpoints, transgender issues and Catholic identity concerns. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Cardinal Newman ... continue reading

Catholic identity or education: Are the top Catholic universities falsely rated by secular standards? Watch

Image of


A list of the top 40 traditional Catholic and Jesuit colleges in America was created, but were they rated fairly? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Newsmax revealed their top forty Catholic and Jesuit colleges in America, but what were their standards?The United ... continue reading

Becoming Divine Mercy: A Mission of Mercy Watch

Image of

By Jessie Tappel, Communications Director at Divine Mercy University

God, the source of all mercy, provides us with an experience so great that we have no choice but to reflect it to our own brother and sister. Mercy calls for an outward response, which is made clear in the examples of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. You can ... continue reading

UST Breaks Ground on New Center for Science and Health Professions Watch

Image of

By Darnell Miller - University of St. Thomas

The University of St. Thomas, a member of the world-renowned Texas Medical Center, broke ground on a new Center for Science and Health Professions on Nov. 12, 2015. The new facility, containing more than 100,000 square-feet of modern lab space and classrooms, will meet ... continue reading

Religion and Science: The Evolutionary Controversy

Image of

By Kyle Jorstad, Grove City College

Catholic Online welcomes scholarly submissions for consideration, contact Abstract: Though members of the scientific and atheistic community alike often tout science as the downfall of religion, theories regarding Darwinian evolution ... continue reading

Do you love America? What these college professors were caught doing on camera will shock you! Watch

Image of The Constitution codifies many liberties, including the right to shred the Constitution itself.


It should be no surprise that America's colleges and universities are overrun with anti-American liberals who lack all respect for the country and the principles upon which it is founded. In an age where political correctness has run amok, students are indoctrinated by ... continue reading

Catholic Colleges: Tackling Student Loans Ethically


By Caitlin Bootsma

It's almost an assumption in today's world that students will take out a staggering amount of debt to be able to attend a four year university. And, with college costs rising faster than the rate of inflation, 18 year olds are signing themselves up for increasingly ... continue reading

Franciscan nun becomes first woman head of a pontifical university Watch

Image of Sister Melone is an alumnus of the university set up in 1890 in honor of St Anthony, a 13th century saint from Spain known for his forceful preaching and expert knowledge of the Bible.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education made history last week when it nominated a Franciscan nun as the first woman head of a pontifical university. In a position held usually by priests, Sister Mary Melone will become the rector of the Pontifical ... continue reading

University of St. Thomas Graduates First Nursing Cohort in 25 Years

Image of University of St. Thomas Nursing Graduate, Elizabeth Ciocco

By Darnell Miller - University of St. Thomas

This May 27 nursing students, including Elizabeth Ciocco, will be the first nursing students to graduate from the University of St. Thomas in nearly 25 years.  Ciocco joins 298 undergraduates and 739 graduates at the University's 64th Commencement ... continue reading

All College & University News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 58:1-9
1 Shout for all you are worth, do not hold back, raise your voice like a ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6, 18-19
3 For I am well aware of my offences, my sin is constantly in ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 9:14-15
14 Then John's disciples came to him and said, 'Why is it that we and the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 12th, 2016 Image

St. Buonfiglio Monaldo
February 12: He was one of seven Florentines who had joined ... Read More