Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Here it is, folks: The Mission of the University of Notre Dame, with my comments. Let me tell you, I was impressed by how good it sounds, and how poorly it's actually executed. If Notre Dame followed THIS Mission (it is its Mission, after all.), then there would not be any doubt that it was a Catholic University.

"The University of Notre Dame is a Catholic [See, this is the first thing they say] academic community of higher learning, animated from its origins by the Congregation of Holy Cross. The University is dedicated to the pursuit and sharing of truth for its own sake.[Truth] As a Catholic university, one of its distinctive goals is to provide a forum where, through free inquiry and open discussion, the various lines of Catholic thought may intersect with all the forms of knowledge found in the arts, sciences, professions, and every other area of human scholarship and creativity. [This is one of our goals, to promote explicitly connecting Catholic thought with all forms of knowledge. I LIKE this. It is a Great Sentence]

The intellectual interchange essential to a university requires, and is enriched by, the presence and voices of diverse scholars and students. The Catholic identity of the University depends upon, and is nurtured by, the continuing presence of a predominant number of Catholic intellectuals. [I think predominant means a greater quantity, and from all I've heard, there's not a predominant number of Catholic Intellectuals. In other words, the University is failing in its mission. This is a valid concern that could easily be addressed.] This ideal has been consistently maintained by the University leadership throughout its history. What the University asks of all its scholars and students, however, is not a particular creedal affiliation, but a respect for the objectives of Notre Dame [I can understand that they will allow non-Catholics to go here and teach here, but is it too much to ask people to experience a truly Catholic University if that's what they applied to?] and a willingness to enter into the conversation that gives it life and character. Therefore, the University insists upon academic freedom that makes open discussion and inquiry possible.

The University prides itself on being an environment of teaching and learning that fosters the development in its students of those disciplined habits of mind, body, and spirit that characterize educated, skilled, and free human beings. In addition, the University seeks to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many. The aim is to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.[This is considered the "Mission Statement". It has nothing to do with Catholicism. Whatever? It seems like they want to preach but not explicit teachings of the Church. Someday, they have to realize that the Church is the only way to true humanitarianism.]

Notre Dame also has a responsibility to advance knowledge in a search for truth [There's that word truth again. It seems important. What is Truth? If we're searching for it, shouldn't we start with what we already know? Like the teachings of the Church.] through original inquiry and publication. This responsibility engages the faculty and students in all areas of the University, but particularly in graduate and professional education and research. The University is committed to constructive and critical engagement with the whole of human culture.

The University encourages a way of living consonant with a Christian community and manifest in prayer, liturgy and service. Residential life endeavors to develop that sense of community and of responsibility that prepares students for subsequent leadership in building a society that is at once more human and more divine. [Could of course apply to any Christian University. What makes us specifically Catholic?]

Notre Dame's character as a Catholic academic community presupposes that no genuine search for the truth in the human or the cosmic order is alien to the life of faith. [Faith, in the Truth. We search for the truth in the Truth that we believe in.] The University welcomes all areas of scholarly activity as consonant with its mission, subject to appropriate critical refinement. There is, however, a special obligation and opportunity, specifically as a Catholic university, to pursue the religious dimensions of all human learning. [Once again, something very specific to what we want. The Religious dimension of learning. We need to emphasize this. It's all here in the Mission, folks.] Only thus can Catholic intellectual life in all disciplines be animated and fostered and a proper community of scholarly religious discourse be established.

In all dimensions of the University, Notre Dame pursues its objectives through the formation of an authentic human community graced by the Spirit of Christ."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Center for Ethics and Culture Conference at the University of Notre Dame: 11/12-14/09


That is basically all I can say. This weekend, the New Tractarians, with many other members of the Notre Dame community and people from across the country and around the world gathered on Notre Dame's Campus for a Conference on the Common Good entitled "The Summons of Freedom: Virtue, Sacrifice and the Common Good." We went to a number of talks by speakers ranging from the extremely well known Alice Von Hildebrand to the "lowly" graduate students here at ND. Here is a list of the talks that we went to:
  • A Summons Unmet: Presidential Triumph and Institutional failure at Notre Dame, May 17, 2009 1) True for us, But not True for You: the Dictatorship of Relativism and the President's Honorary Doctorate 2) Apologia for an Institution and a President: Notre Dame and President Obama give Accounts of Themselves 3) Better Late than Never: Truth and Dialogue at Notre Dame
  • Freedom, Goods, and Persons: Christian Responsibility in a Post-Christian Age
  • Misconceptions about the Common Good
  • Vicious Circles, Virtuous Circles and Getting from One to the Other
  • Religious Freedom and the Modern Liberal State 1) Religious Freedom and Its Virtue: The Legacy and Limits of John Courtney Murray 2) Pius XII and John XXIII on Religious Freedom and the Common Good: Re-reading John Courtney Murray's The Problem of Religious Freedom 3) The Modern Political Drama of Man and State: Maritain and the Common Good
  • The Demands of Virtue 1) The Capital Sin of Avarice and the Need for a New Asceticism 2) The Call of Duty: Saints, Heroes, and Self-Sacrifice 3) Contribution of Older Women Religious to the Common Good
  • Thomistic Themes 1) The Two Ends of Marriage and the Common Good according to Thomas Aquinas 2) A Thomistic Consideration of the Eucharist and the Common Good 3) The Common Good as the Defining Element of Christian Love in the Greek Fathers and Thomas Aquinas
  • Divorce as Fracture of the Common Good: Ingmar Bergman on Guilt, Art, and Confession
  • Pope Benedict on Modernity 1) The Middle Way: How Caritas in Veritate Illuminates Catholic Social Teaching 2) A Worldview in Three Acts: Pope Benedict's ministry to Advanced Modernity in his Encyclicals 3) Pope Benedict XVI's Critique of Modernity
  • Education and Moral Formation 1) Henry Adams and John Henry Newman on Liberal Education 2) Library as Temple: J.P. Morgan on the Reordering of Modern Culture 3) Education as Soulcraft: Exemplary Intellectual Practice and the Cardinal Virtues
  • Man and Woman: A Divine Intervention
  • Religious Freedom in America Today: "Freedom from", "Freedom of", or "Freedom for"
  • God, Notre Dame, Country: Rethinking the Mission of Catholic Higher Education in the United States
  • Spacial and Temporal Aspects of the Common Good 1) Easter in the "Meantime": Faith in the Crossfire 2) The Wheel and The Wasteland: Eliot's Celebration of Christian Space in Modern Time 3) Human Happiness and the Built Environment
  • Front Porch Republic: The Places of Virtue
  • Family, Sex, and a Free Society 1) Chastity, the Foundational Virtue of a Free Society 2) Chastity and the Common Good: True Freedom in Being Bound to Another
And did I mention that there was Mass both Friday and Saturday nights (Mass of Anticipation)? Well, there was. And the Bishop Designate of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese was there and we met him.

This weekend is a lot to process and we probably won't be done for a long time, but it is also much food for thought in our Tractarian line of work, so hopefully the fruits show soon.

Monday, November 9, 2009


We had a meeting yesterday where we discussed many things including:

  • Arranging for a representative of the American Chesterton Society to come and speak at Notre Dame
  • The specifics of the proposed theology classes for each department/major/college.
We of course realize that WE can't host the American Chesterton being merely an unofficial student group.

Here are the specifics:
  • Discussion-sized seminars
  • 1 credit
  • once a week
  • Theology class that concerns the students' disciplines
  • 2 professors, one in the discipline, one a theologian or a trained theologian in the discipline
Of course, his Eminence the Cardinal was referenced.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Happy All Saints Day, for those of you who like to celebrate the Church Triumphant.

Happy All Souls Day, for those of you who like to pray for the Church Suffering.

Happy Monday for those of you who have the experience of being a member of the Church Militant.

We had a meeting yesterday. We discussed the bearing of theology on Math and Vocal performance. As usual though, we went of on a tangent, and as also often happens, the tangent was more productive.

Tangent: What if a Catholic University had a Theology course for each field of study? Specifically, we talked about what it would mean to have a Theology course for Architecture/Engineering and Natural Science.

We thought that perhaps this could be something we could write about. Next meeting, we will come up with a good cohesive topic. Look for the first Tract coming soon.

Friday, October 30, 2009

2nd Semester

Does anyone know when Cambridge does Triposes?

Even though the second quarter has only just started for us here at Notre Dame, we have to start thinking about what courses we're taking for next semester. We have to figure out which classes reflect best our understanding of how a Catholic University should teach different subjects. Being at Notre Dame, you can't guarantee that every professor will teach their subject from a standpoint sympathetic to the Catholic outlook. We can either take two approaches: Take classes with professors with which we disagree and be willing to challenge him, or take classes that you can trust to teach a Catholic understanding of the subject. On the one hand, the second is easier but perhaps we shouldn't always look for the easy way. Of course, if we are not prepared to argue a professor's view, we should choose the second choice. The main thing to remember is that we are searching for Truth and so whatever classes we take, it must be chosen for this reason.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Where do we get all this?

We're following in a long tradition that started with Jesus Christ himself, namely the Church. It has been the mission of the Church to get people thinking about things, to put hard teachings before the world to challenge it to holiness. That's what we're trying to do. Challenge the Catholic University to holiness.

Think back throughout history. The University was invented for the purpose of seeking truth through the knowledge of different disciplines. If we look back on the oldest Universities in existence, Oxford and Cambridge come to mind, their origins are so deeply rooted in a Christian tradition. The Church always seeks Truth "faith toward understanding". This task is inseparable from the mission of the University. Specifically, the original universities were run by clergy and religious showing that there is no dichotomy between the Church's teaching and faith and the Sciences taught at a University.

That is the general tradition from which we work. More specifically, we look to major figures in the history of the Church that can be seen as champions of higher learning. St. Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, other Fathers and Doctors of the Church and our specific patron, almost Blessed John Henry Newman, a member of the Anglican Oxford Movement who later converted to Catholicism and wrote extensively on the University.

We are not primarily trying to promote devotions, religious practices, and specific moral behavior at the University, although that certainly comes with the territory. We are instead trying to promote an educational and intellectual atmosphere permeated with the Truth of the Gospel and the highest regard for the teachings of the Church. As Newman says, because God is the origin of all things, to know about all things we must first try to know God. The Church, in its Tradition, Scripture and Magisterium, is the primary source of our knowledge of God. Thus, these three things should inspire our study of our universe since to know God is to know his creation.

As a Catholic University, we should not forget that we have a source of Truth from which to start. It's not like we're starting from the middle and deciding which way to go, but there are things we unabashedly believe to be beyond dispute and that has to form every decision we make. We must already be on the path that we know to lead to the Truth and never leave it.