Daniel McInerny, English language editor for Aleteia, has written a compelling commentary about the essential role that Catholic identity and culture play in a Catholic university’s vitality. He does so by contrasting the state of two well-known Catholic universities, now better known for their lack of faithful Catholic culture than for it, to a thriving college whose catholicity permeates the campus culture at all levels.
The commentary begins with a marked admission: “I no longer watch Notre Dame football. To those who grew up with me, especially, this pronouncement will come as a cataclysmic shock. After all, I was raised in the shadow of the Golden Dome at the University of Notre Dame, where my father taught philosophy for over fifty years.”
McInerny explains that for many years he has watched with sadness as Notre Dame increasingly lost its sense of faithful Catholic identity, and that this peaked in 2009 “when the university awarded President Barack Obama, an unapologetically pro-abortion president, an honorary degree.
“Yet watching Notre Dame teeter from her former greatness has often raised the question in my mind: when ought we to declare a Catholic institution dead?”
The validity of McInerny’s question is bolstered when he briefly describes the equally disturbing state at another, once-esteemed Catholic institution: Georgetown University. As reported by Catholic Education Daily, Exorcist author William Peter Blatty and other Georgetown alumnus have submitted a canon law petition, now before the Holy See, asking that Ex corde Ecclesiae be enforced at the school. Or, if Georgetown refuses to do so, that they relinquish identifying the institution as Catholic or Jesuit. McInerny succinctly explains the rationale behind this petition stating that Blatty and company “have judged that Georgetown’s degeneration has reached a point in which the Catholic essence of the institution is in jeopardy.”
It is at this point that he offers, “A vivid contrast to the situation at Notre Dame and Georgetown is that of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan.” McInerny fesses up to a slight bias because his eldest daughter attends the school, but assures us, “my bias is pretty well informed by the facts culled not only from my visits to[the campus], but also from my seventeen year-career in academia.”
Comparing Benedictine directly to Notre Dame he describes the former as, “A tight-knit, faithful, truly family community, passionately devoted to the Catholic intellectual tradition.” He offers that this may have been what the latter, Notre Dame, was once like, but, “Today, however, in the words of my friend, Notre Dame philosophy professor Fred Freddoso, Notre Dame is best described as ‘a secular school in a Catholic neighborhood.’”
Read the rest of Daniel McInerny’s column here.
Benedictine College is recommended in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity.
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