Responding to Pope Benedict’s address to Catholic educators during his U.S. visit, “Personality, Place, and Catholic Education” by R.R. Reno offers some good meat to chew on. I saved it a while back, intending to blog it with commentary. I’m still chewing, so I don’t have much commentary yet. Just filing it away under Catholic higher education with a million other things that need to simmer (to muddle my cooking metaphors).
Here’s a good bit to think about:
Newman�s realistic sense of the limits of mental training and the importance of personality has helped me see the true nature of the problem Catholic educators face in living up to Benedict�s rightful call for an evangelical core to a genuinely Catholic university. In the past, the genius loci of American Catholic colleges and universities came from the distinctive charisms of the religious orders that ran them. Their drastic decline is the simple, devastating fact that explains nearly all the aimlessness and uncertainty in contemporary Catholic higher education. Half-hearted half measures have produced, at best, half successes. The retreat of Catholic identity into campus ministry, social-justice programs, and courses on ethics has kept the flame alive but at the cost of giving up on the classroom and the professoriate. Many institutions are seeing the secularizing results, which is why the question of Catholic identity has become so important in the last decade.
There is no blueprint, no ten-point action plan for renewal. Benedict�s call for Catholic colleges and universities to evangelize can only be realized by building and sustaining living Catholic intellectual cultures. A genius loci, a real institutional personality, cannot be made by formula any more than a child can be raised by checking off boxes in a how-to manual. Instead, the future will be made at each college and university by way of thousands of decisions: whom do we recruit as students, to whom do we offer scholarships, whom do we hire, whom do we tenure, who gets the endowed chair, who is made dean or president. People matter, and, as Newman points out, when it comes to influencing the will, people matter most.
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