Catholic colleges to lead revival
WORCESTER, Mass. — Philadelphia Archbishop Charles
Chaput encouraged Catholic universities to rediscover the Church’s
intellectual tradition and use it to shape society’s future.
“Catholic higher education is heir to the greatest intellectual,
moral and cultural patrimony in human history,” the archbishop said
in a Nov. 10 address at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass.
The Catholic intellectual tradition, he said, offers a “deeply satisfying
answer” to the questions of human life and is “beautiful because
“It has nothing to be embarrassed about and every reason to be on
fire with confidence and apostolic zeal. We only defeat ourselves, and
we certainly don’t serve God, if we allow ourselves to ever think
The Philadelphia archbishop said that Catholic institutions of higher
learning have suffered even more than other Church ministries from secularization
that has taken place under the banner of “academic freedom.”
“Instead of Catholics converting the culture, the culture too often
bleached out the apostolic zeal in Catholics while leaving the brand label
intact,” he noted.
“And the lack of a vigorous Catholic witness . . . applies
in a uniquely hurtful way to Catholic higher education.”
He acknowledged several reasons for the decline of Catholic academic life,
including economic pressure and the loss of teaching personnel from religious
“But another cause is the discomfort too many Catholics feel with
a scholarly tradition that can be made to seem shabby and primitive in
an age of scientific doubt,” observed the archbishop.
Instead of seeking to impress the world on its own terms, he said, Catholic
schools must recapture the “genius” that once gave life to
Western civilization, with its harmony of reason and faith.
This type of education “refuses to separate intellectual and moral
formation because they are inextricably linked.” And while honoring
all subjects, “ it gives primacy to the disciplines that guide the
formation of a holistic view of reality: philosophy and theology.”
Authentic Catholic learning, he noted, also makes an impact outside the
university campus because it “aids in the creation of a Christian
culture and explains what this means for human thriving.”
This type of cultural renewal is not a luxury, but an urgent need, Archbishop
Believers, he said, must use all of the Catholic tradition’s resources
to shape the future.