Is Notre Dame Catholic First or University First?

By the honoring of President Barak Obama, a staunch supporter and robust ally to the Pro-Abortion movement, it seems the University is first.

    One great counter-argument to my position is based upon the notion of academic freedom and runs as follows. At any university worthy of the name, the free exchange of ideas must be tolerated as the condition for the possibility of coming to authentic knowledge. Therefore, even those intellectual positions that one finds unappealing or objectionable must, in the context of the university, be allowed expression in the public forum. Thus, if Notre Dame—or any other Catholic university—aspires to be taken seriously in the secular academic milieu, it cannot allow ecclesiastical orthodoxy to compromise its identity as a seat of higher learning. The first problem with this argument is that it is hypocritical. Anyone even vaguely associated with the secular academy knows that it is governed by a fairly strict ideological orthodoxy and marked by many forms of censorship, both explicit and implicit. If you think I’m exaggerating, try arranging for a speaker on a secular campus who advocates colonialism, apartheid, the subordination of women to men, or the denial of basic rights to gays. Mind you, I’m against these things as well, but I think it’s duplicitous to find one kind of orthodoxy perfectly acceptable and another inherently objectionable.

    The second and more fundamental problem is that it assumes that, at a Catholic university, the values of the secular academy ought to position those of the church. As Pope John Paul II argued, Catholic institutions of higher learning come out of the heart of the church and exist to serve the church’s mission. Therefore, the values that belong properly to the university—free inquiry, open conversation, the exchange of ideas—should be fostered, but they must be situated within the framework provided by the beliefs and practices of the church. If the church’s teaching does not position the ideals of the university, the ideals of the university will position the church’s teaching. There is no third option.

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2 Responses

  1. I don’t see what the big fuss is about. If you don’t like it, don’t go to that university. Plain and simple. Just because you are Catholic doesn’t mean you own Notre Dame. They can do whatever the hell they want and you can’t really do much about it except bitch and moan. So, instead of wasting all this time and effort to argue about why it’s wrong and yadda yadda people should just let it go. So Obama spoke at Notre Dame. Whoopdidoo. If Notre Dame raised Hitler from the dead and had him give a talk, then I’d be concerned, and when that happens, I’ll probably bitch too.

    • Actually they can’t do whatever they want and call themselves a Catholic University.

      The school was founded by Catholics to be a place to educate students within a Catholic context – and has affiliation to the Church. That doesn’t mean limiting discussion or material. But it does mean standing up for the principles that define the University.

      It means something to be Catholic.

      If the students looking to apply don’t like that foundation, then they don’t have to go. The University stands in the name of Notre Dame (Our Lady).

      Hopefully there will be a review of American Catholic schools to ensure adherence to Catholic principles or a revocation of their affiliation.

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