High anthropology

What makes monotheism a potential ally of humane liberalism is its high anthropology. Historically, of course, this liberal tradition grew up and out of a Christian monotheistic context; so its admiration of human dignity is no coincidence. Nor is it a coincidence, therefore, that Habermasâ?? new-found appreciation for religion comes at a time when he is struggling to articulate reasons against genetic engineering for non-therapeutic purposes, which he deems an assault on the fundamental dignity of the human individualâ??s freedom. Certain versions of monotheismâ??not least, certain versions of Christian monotheismâ?? support the idea of human dignity; which is why humane liberal philosophers on both sides of the Atlanticâ??if not yet on both sides of the English Channelâ??have been edging toward it in recent years.
Some philosophers, however, go further. They see in monotheism not only a support for equal human dignity, but perhaps the only support. In his recent study of John Locke, the legal and political philosopher, Jeremy Waldron, observes how silent modern philosophers have been in explaining the equal dignity that they assume all human persons share. He then goes on to demonstrate how Lockeâ??s understanding of such dignity is irreducibly theological; and he ends up by stating that â??I actually donâ??t think it is clear that weâ??nowâ??can shape and defend an adequate conception of basic human equality apart from some religious foundationâ??.

Niger Biggar’s Inaugural Lecture at the (Oxford) McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life

People and knowledge flow

With the restructuring of government departments, higher education is now under the control of the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (â??DIUSâ??). We no longer have a Department for Education in this country. The idea of a university as â??a place of teaching universal knowledgeâ?? â?? Cardinal Newmanâ??s phrase â?? has, it seems, no relevance in Brownâ??s Britain. Higher education must now justify itself in terms of the â??innovation and skills agendaâ??. Crudely put, academic research must pay its way by generating real returns in the wider economy. The Research Councilsâ?? big new idea, driven by DIUS, is â??knowledge transferâ??. This is defined as â??improving exploitation of the research base to meet national economic and public service objectivesâ?? to be achieved by means of â??people and knowledge flowâ?? together with â??commercialisation, including Intellectual Property exploitation and entrepreneurial activitiesâ??.

Jonathan Bate The Wrong Idea of a University

Priest as ring master

The priest was gradually changed in the popular imagination from the celebrant of the Sacred Mysteries of salvation into the coordinator of the liturgical ministries of others. And this false understanding of the ministerial priesthood produced the ever-expanding role of the â??priest presider,â?? whose primary task was to make the congregation feel welcome and constantly engage them with eye contact and the embrace of his warm personality. Once these falsehoods were accepted, then the service of the priest in the liturgy became grotesquely misshapen, and instead of a humble steward of the mysteries whose only task was to draw back the veil between God and man and then hide himself in the folds, the priest became a ring-master or entertainer whose task was thought of as making the congregation feel good about itself.

Father Jay Scott Newman

Catholic theology in the UK?

Catholic Theology and the Public Academy

A colloquium in dual celebration of the establishment of the Durham Centre for Catholic Studies and the Bede Chair of Catholic Theology 8th-10th May, 2008 Durham University

Tina Beattie
Gavin D’Costa
Eamon Duffy
David Ford
Paul Griffiths
Karen Kilby
Michael Kirwan, S.J.
Paul Lakeland
Nicholas Lash
Gerard Loughlin
Andrew Louth
John Milbank
Francesca Murphy
Paul D Murray

I would certainly like to hear Gavin D’Costa, Eamon Duffy, and Paul Griffiths. The first Bede Professor of Catholic Theology will be appointed just before this conference, and the appointment will make it clear whether this is the long-awaited new start or not. There have been a lot of international applicants, apparently, so my breath is bated. But why aren’t Stratford Caldecott or Aidan Nichols among the speakers? Why doesn’t Ex Corde Ecclesia (JP II’s Apostolic Constitution on Catholic universities) appear anywhere on the Centre’s website? Why is a Protestant giving the opening address on ‘The Case for Catholic Theology in a Twenty-first Century University’? How much Protestant permission has to be sought?

From a Catholic point of view the contemporary secular university is not at fault because it is not Catholic. It is at fault insofar as it is not a university…

Alasdair MacIntyre (Commonweal October 20, 2006 / Volume CXXXIII, Number 18)


The Maryvale Institute – our International Catholic College for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Birmingham shows more energy than any other Catholic institution in the UK than I am aware of. Maryvale wants to see ‘the proclamation of the Catholic faith in its fullness and integrity‘. In the UK, this sounds like a bold new start.

Maryvale is advertising for a Director of its Marriage and Family Life Programme.

The Maryvale Centre for Marriage and Family Life is a new initiative set up following discussions between the John Paul II Institute in Rome and the Maryvale Institute. Its purpose is to make available, within the Maryvale Institute, a range of courses, modules and suitable educational materials pertaining to the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage and family life. The range will cover basic parenting information, through a ‘ladder’ of initiatives, co-ordinating with some existing courses already available at Maryvale, leading to the development of a new MA Course in Marriage and Family Life studies, modelled on those of the John Paul II Institute’s Theology of the Body Programme.

I would really like to see this sort of initiative here in London. I suppose I will have to be content with Spes – the School for Evangelism at St Patrick’s Soho.

Who sets the production goals for all those cultural factories of meaning?

Does the Harvard-educated manager of cultures function too much as a Nietzschean Ã?bermensch, operating upon the raw material of humanity from the supposed heights of critical understanding rather than leading from within the ranks? Will a person in a position of power who â??readsâ?? his fellow man, rather than listening to what he actually says, end up manipulating rather than serving? And toward what will the Harvard graduate manage culture? Who sets the production goals for all those cultural factories of meaning? Am I too cynical when I suspect that it will be the naked self-interest of those who have convinced themselves that culture makes no real claim of truth upon the human soul? In other words, is the new vision for general education at Harvard alarmingly illiberal?

R. R. Reno Harvard’s Postmodern Curriculum


Certainly, philosophy, theology, and literature were weakened by the apparently embarrassing comparison to strict science. But the humanities were already in bad shape. The romantic emphasis on personal uniqueness had undermined the belief that universal ideas are conveyed in great texts. Perennial themes about nature and human nature looked like the furniture of grandmaâ??s attic, but the endless stream of facts surrounding each age and author appeared fresh and promising. The nineteenth century, we were repeatedly told, was the era of the factory worker and the assembly line. And since the generalist has no place in any fact-accruing business, the university must emulate the pin factory.

And so the disciplines multiplied, the specialties emerged, and the once-cohesive worldview of the humanities faded, carrying away with it the deep questions college was supposed to teach.

Not everywhere, of course. Realizing the need to educate students in â??the art of living,â?? â??the spirit of learning,â?? â??the best that has been thought and said,â?? many of the older universities retained or reinstated a remnant of their old curricula as core requirements and humanities sequences. Shortly after the Second World War, both Harvard and Yale established programs with the goal, they said, of intellectually defending the values of civilizationâ??liberty, democracy, human dignityâ??for which so many had just given their lives. Where religious convictions and a Christian worldview had once ordered the universityâ??s mission, secular humanism now stepped in.

Amanda Shaw Life, the University, and Everything reviewing Antony T. Kronman Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life

Lambeth research degree

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has announced a new higher degree programme as an expansion of the Archbishop’s Examination in Theology. Applications for PhD and MPhil degrees in Theology will be accepted from early 2008 with the first awards of the new MPhil degrees anticipated in 2012 and Doctorates shortly afterwards. Candidates will be examined to university standards in order to qualify.

Dr Williams said that improving access to higher degree education was a crucial step for the development of the Church’s theological resources:

‘We have never had a greater need or a greater chance to extend the opportunity of higher degree theological education to those who might benefit from it. I’m confident that this scheme can go some way to overcome the barriers of cost, competition and access which stop good candidates being able to pursue this kind of detailed study. The Church as a whole has always needed and encouraged the study of theology at its deepest level and this scheme seeks to extend that possibility to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to take advantage of it.’

Anglican Communion News Service

Revitalized classical learning in a Catholic context

Two generations later, new winds of change are blowing through Catholic higher education in America: the bracing winds of dynamic orthodoxy. Some elite Catholic schools are, sadly, lost â?? and quite likely lost for good. Yet others have made significant comebacks in recent years, thanks to generational change in theology departments, courageous presidential and board leadership, students who demand authentic Catholicism from schools that market themselves as â??Catholic,â?? and the work of alert alumni. Moreover, several smaller Catholic liberal arts colleges, in virtually every part of the country, are giving fresh life to Msgr. Ellisâ??s vision of revitalized classical learning in a Catholic context â?? and proving once again that that kind of learning is a better preparation for a professional future that the intellectual disarray that still reigns supreme on some campuses with stratospheric U.S. News & World Report ratings.

These new-wave Catholic schools consider their linkage to the Church an integral part of their lives. In doing so, they remind us that doctrine is liberating, even in institutions dedicated to critical thought.

George Weigel on how catholic colleges are becoming Catholic again

Christian University

Andy Goodliff has posted on The promise of a Christian university

Christian University? You have got to wonder where he gets these ideas from. Andy posts a handy list of titles then, as these bloggers do, asks for more ideas.

Obviously his list includes Bristol’s finest, Gavin D’Costa Theology in the Public Square: Church, Academy and Nation

and the forthcoming Stanley Hauerwas The State of the University: Academic Knowledges and the Knowledge of God

Then what? Well, how about these?

Michael J. Buckley The Catholic University as Promise and Project

John C. Sommerville The Decline of the Secular University: Why the Academy Needs Religion

George M. Marsden The Soul of the American university and his earlier The outrageous idea of Christian Scholarship

Robert Benne Quality with Soul: How Six Premier Colleges and Universities Keep Faith with Their Religious Traditions. The six are Calvin, Wheaton, St. Olaf, Valparaiso, Baylor, and Notre Dame. Hum, not too many Catholic colleges there.

and of course the massive James T. Burtchaell The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from Their Christian Churches

Then the greatest analysis of the whole project of the university, Alasdair MacIntyre Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition

Then on the wider faith-and-public-square issue there is the recent Ratzinger-Habermas dialogue of course Joseph Ratzinger The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion

But, wait a minute, the very first thing that should be on this list is the magisterial Ex Corde Ecclesia – the Apostolic Constitution of John Paul II on Catholic Universities

BORN FROM THE HEART of the Church, a Catholic University is located in that course of tradition which may be traced back to the very origin of the University as an institution. It has always been recognized as an incomparable centre of creativity and dissemination of knowledge for the good of humanity. By vocation, the Universitas magistrorum et scholarium is dedicated to research, to teaching and to the education of students who freely associate with their teachers in a common love of knowledge. With every other University it shares that gaudium de veritate, so precious to Saint Augustine, which is that joy of searching for, discovering and communicating truth in every field of knowledge. A Catholic University’s privileged task is “to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth”.

Ah, at last. In the long run, it is not just the Christian university, it is not just the Catholic university, it is the university that is born from the heart of the Church.