Univ. Notre Dame – effort to help students find Catholicism

Ex corde Ecclesiae – governing Catholic education – has been for the most part ignored in these USA. The result is that many schools which still bear the name “Catholic”… aren’t, or just barely are.

Some are doing their best at Catholic schools to keep the flame alive.

At CNS (see their great feed on my side bar) there is a story about one such effort at the University of Notre Dame (which gave a honorary doctorate to the most obviously and aggressively pro-abortion president ever).

New Website Helps Students Find Authentic Catholic Education at Univ. of Notre Dame

In response to numerous concerns from students and parents over the years about the quality of Catholic education at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame history professor Father Bill Miscamble, C.S.C., launched a new project this week, NDCatholic.com, that he told The Cardinal Newman Society will help students find professors supportive of the University’s Catholic mission and an authentic Catholic education.
“I want to encourage serious Catholic students to attend Notre Dame. But they should come here with a clear-headed recognition that they must be very intentional in choosing their teachers and courses,” Fr. Miscamble said. “If they do so, they will find an education that allows them to face deep questions of meaning and serves to deepen and enrich their Catholic faith.”
The website, which is in its beginning stages, features profiles of approximately 100 faculty in the College of Arts and Letters personally recommended by Fr. Miscamble for their supportof the University’s Catholic mission. Fr. Miscamble hopes to expand the website soon to include the faculty from the other colleges including business, science, engineering and architecture.
“I realized that there were so many excellent faculty here but that students needed some guidance in finding them and selecting the right courses to take,” said Fr. Miscamble, who was inspired by the many students and parents who have requested personal recommendations over the years. “NDCatholic is the result of my desire to assist students.”
Each NDCatholic faculty profile includes the professor’s areas of research, teaching style and a brief description of their contribution to the University and its Catholic identity.
“Knowledgeable observers are aware that the University of Notre Dame can provide an excellent Catholic education for her students. But it certainly is not guaranteed. Students who simply drift through Notre Dame with its present core curriculum are unlikely to gain the full benefits that the University can offer,” Fr. Miscamble stated on the website. “Consequently, students must take the initiative in order to receive a genuine and rich Catholic education.”

[…]

Read the rest there.

The corrosion of the Faith that can occur at “Catholic” schools could be deadly.  Approach with caution!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Our Catholic Identity and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Univ. Notre Dame – effort to help students find Catholicism

  1. joecct77 says:

    Perhaps a reexamination of the Land O Lakes Statement 50 years on is in order? I think for many catholic universities “academic freedom” trumps faithfulness to the Magesterium.

  2. slainewe says:

    ““The faculty no longer comes close to meeting the University’s own Mission Statement test of Catholic identity: a majority of committed Catholics on the faculty. Perhaps 25 percent to 30 percent of the faculty may fit this description…”

    How can any practicing Catholic even think of supporting an institution where 70 percent to 75 percent of the faculty are traitors of the Church? How can anyone place receiving a totally unnecessary (in terms of one’s salvation) college degree before charity for all the souls being destroyed here?

  3. Dave N. says:

    I flipped right to the theology list and immediately found two professors—one of which I had class with in graduate school—that I would never recommend in a million years and certainly don’t fit what Fr. Miscamble is describing, at least not in view. If Fr. Miscamble feels students must jump through these sorts of extreme hoops simply to sort out a Catholic education at Notre Dame, perhaps he should instead align himself with an institution with a little more integrity.

    I often think that the Cardinal Newman Society has stars in their eyes whenever the Notre Dame glitterati come into view (e.g., their endorsement of the pro-gay-marriage Carolyn Woo). Perhaps they have a bunch of ND boosters on staff, I don’t know. I personally would never trust anything they report about Notre Dame.

  4. LarryW2LJ says:

    “I want to encourage serious Catholic students to attend Notre Dame. But they should come here with a clear-headed recognition that they must be very intentional in choosing their teachers and courses,”

    It’s a shame that it should even have come to this. You would think that you could safely enroll your child into a Catholic high school or university/college without having to vet it, first. You shouldn’t have to be “very intentional” about which instructors you choose. I can understand this for a secular institution, but for one calling itself “Catholic”? No, in that case, the affiliation with the Catholic Church should be removed. In my mind, it should be “All in – or nothing.”

  5. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Back in the bad ol’70s, Catholics helped Catholic students get through a Catholic university education (with their faith intact) by word of mouth, whispered, off-campus. “Take this guy; avoid this one” and so on. Now they have websites for the sort of thing. But we’re still making our way around like ancient Christians in catacombs.

  6. jltuttle says:

    I currently live down the street from Notre Dame. Witnessing the effort they put forth for football games vis-à-vis anything having to do with Catholic life leaves me a bit sick. During the weeks the Planned Parent baby-parts horror was playing on the news, I heard a sermon on campus on the importance of sharing with the poor, which is why it is important to bring cereal boxes for the offering. ND is just decadent, but they’re okay with it because they’re nice people.

  7. Jenson71 says:

    I remember doing a visit to Notre Dame Law School in 2009. The class I was able to sit in on, Property Law, was taught by Anthony Bellia Jr., and it began with a short prayer, which left a strong impression on me. I ended up not applying to the Law School, but I did leave the campus that day with a good dose of gratitude for my religious background. I ended up going to a state school for law, which was right after my state school for undergrad degree. I think it’s largely worked out for me, but I plan on encouraging my own kids to think strongly about attending a school with a strong Catholic identity like Notre Dame.

  8. jasoncpetty says:

    Some of the massive public universities have created “Honors Colleges,” etc., to fight the problems of getting too large and too overextended from their original mission that made them famous: educating people really well.

    Perhaps ND—or any of these big, bloated, once-glorious universities—could eventually create a school-within-a-school for students actually interested in getting a solid education? Rather than asking Catholics to be “very intentional in choosing their teachers and courses,” imagine a carefully-curated program of real study? Just think of the absolute gems on that ND faculty…. Imagine what the school could do if those professors’ efforts were focused on the thousand or so students who want more out of college than just a credential that they survived getting blackout drunk and going to sporting events? (Though those experiences can be an education in their own right!)

  9. jltuttle says:

    Thomas Aquinas College, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Christendom College, Wyoming Catholic College, these are the institutions you go to if you want a truly Catholic education. Concern yourself with finding the Truth, God will take care of everything else.

  10. TopSully says:

    I wonder how long it will be before the good father is called on to take down his list because someone not included feels it is some sort of micro-aggression. If I were a betting man I’d bet on under 30 days.

  11. avecrux says:

    I have a child at Notre Dame now – on a full scholarship. They take financial aid seriously, which is definitely a Catholic value.

    In some fields, there are NO Newman Guide schools which provide an education… so what do we say? Oh shucks… I guess we can’t have any “real” Catholic engineers. Oh well.

    Do you realize that chemical engineers do medical research? “But we can’t attend Newman Guide schools to study chemical engineering – so I guess no good Catholic can get into medical research…”
    Notre Dame can provide the education that young Catholic engineers need – in fact, Franciscan University sends their Juniors and Seniors there because they can’t complete the degree at FUS.

    Speaking of Franciscan – another of my children applied there and got accepted. Two years in a row – AND has been unable to attend either year because their financial aid is so poor. Can you encourage a child to go $100 to $120k in debt for a bachelors when they don’t even know what their vocation is?

  12. Benedict Joseph says:

    The winds sweeping in from the Mediterranean bode poor for this courageous and commendable endeavor. God reward the man for his intention and effort – ultimately futile.

  13. Thorfinn says:

    “Perhaps ND—or any of these big, bloated, once-glorious universities—could eventually create a school-within-a-school for students actually interested in getting a solid education?”

    They tried that with the St. Ignatius Institute at the University of San Francisco. It worked … for a while. Eventually the dissidents demolished it. The lesson: don’t build your nest in the serpent’s lair.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Ignatius_Institute

  14. a catechist says:

    My alma mater…it’s a great idea. When I was there, two lists competed word-of-mouth: who was actually Catholic, and who hated female students. Sadly, there was some overlap of those two lists. (The worst 2 have long since retired.) Unfortunately, given the politics of so much of academia, there are probably some not-yet-tenured faculty who’d be worried that being listed by the good Father would play badly with the tenure-granting committee, and if they aren’t tenured could be a serious liability in their job search.

    But Notre Dame’s too big, too ambitious, and has way too much money and influence to give up on. I got a great education there -yes, even while McBrien chaired theology- by mostly avoiding crapola. And avecrux is right that there are still some subjects/majors that are not available at the more hard-identity colleges. If my STEM son ends up there, he can attend the EF and find other hard-identity students that way.

  15. kjmacarthur says:

    avecrux,

    If you look carefully at the Newman Guide you will find that some of their recommended schools (such as St. Thomas in Houston, where I teach) have cooperative engineering programs. In our program, a student takes core requirements, such as Philosophy, Theology, and English at St. Thomas, and then transfers to a partner school (ours are Notre Dame, CUA, Texas A&M, and University of Houston) to complete the Engineering coursework. The student ends up with a BA in Mathematics from St. Thomas and a BA in Engineering from the other school. More important the student’s Philosophy courses were taught by committed Thomists and Theology courses by committed Catholics with the Mandatum from the Archbishop.

    I am not running an advertisement for my university; we have our own problems here. I am sure other Newman Guide schools have similar programs. These programs work: my own daughter-in-law followed the program and now has two Bachelor’s degrees, one from A&M in mechanical and Civil Engineering.

  16. roma247 says:

    This is like arriving at the Hospital and seeing a sign saying “We used to be a good hospital, but we decided it was exclusionary to hire only people with medical training. Not to fear! You’ll be just fine as long as you’re being treated by one of the people on this list!”

    Wow. Just Pathetic.

    I can attest that attending Notre Dame around 20 years ago was the straw that broke the camel’s back and caused me to leave the Church. I thank God alone for bringing me back.

    Who knows how many souls those professors–and the people who hired them–will have to answer for in the hereafter?

  17. SumusResNovarum says:

    Having gone to a not-very-Catholic catholic University, I have to say that finding Catholic professors and experiences on campus will most certainly involve some work from the student. Is the Catholic identity of a school really that badly hurt by having an atheist teach Quantum Mechanics, or a Lutheran teach Shakespeare? The way some of these comments read, you would have people believe that there are only 4 authentically Catholic universities in the country, and that all other schools look like the one from “God’s not Dead” – both of which or preposterous. It’s okay that some professors at authentically Catholic universities aren’t Catholic, and it’s really okay that in a university setting a student might be challenged in their beliefs and have to defend them (as in, you know, the real world).

  18. Cristero says:

    I agree with Topsully above. It will just be a matter of time before some complains to the Bishop or to the administration. Or actions that have played at Mizzou this past week.

  19. Semper Gumby says:

    Kudos to Fr. Miscamble for not giving up the fight at Notre Dame.
    Back in the early 1970s the College of Steubenville was mostly a den of iniquity. Then in 1974 Fr. Michael Scanlon took over as president. He created student “households” against the scourge of drugs and promiscuity, emphasized Sunday liturgy, founded a renewal center on campus, and restarted the theology program.
    James 1:2-4

  20. SpesUnica says:

    The best Catholic education in America is available at Notre Dame. There is no other school with the collection of scholars there. No, not every professor can be recommended, but I am glad that I took Reformation Theology from a Calvinist and Jewish History from a Rabbi. I am also glad I took some Philosophy courses from atheists. Those experiences helped teach me how to think, and to understand other systems of thought from those who actually profess them. I also got to listen to lectures with Cavadini, Fr. Daley, SJ, Fr. Miscamble, CSC, Fagerberg, McIntyre, and McInerny (RIP). If your kid wants to study Theology, or Business at one of the best business schools in the country, there is no better place–if they can get in. There is a TLM every Sunday morning, beautiful Masses in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a Byzantine Divine Liturgy the first Sunday of every month, the Blessed Sacrament in every dorm, two seminaries with around 50 seminarians…I could go on. There are problems, and the administration continues to underwhelm, to put it mildly. But in four years you can get a phenomenal education.

    Oh, and there is a reason the Dominicans and the Jesuits try to send as many of their PhD candidates there as they can. Because it’s a great school.

  21. mysticalrose says:

    I would second avecrux. It would be awesome if everyone’s children could attend the authentic Catholic schools in the Newman’s guide, but this isn’t realistic for a number of reasons . . . for example, not every major is covered, or because many of the schools are in the South and (no offense, seriously) not everyone is comfortable in the South, or maybe simply because you cannot persuade your adult children to go to the Newman schools, but you are able to compromise and get them to go to a “somewhat” Catholic school. These are real examples from friends — I cannot comment personally as my children are very young. There has to be a way to maintain the faith for those students who are outside the “bubble.”

    That having been said, I am not sure that this is the best approach. I hope all the professors on the list are tenured, as I doubt they will make tenure if word gets around about their orthodoxy. Some things are better passed on by word of mouth.

    Lastly, ND has its problems for sure. But of all the Catholic college campuses I have observed (and there are many and this includes FUS), ND formed the most pious and devout students that I have ever known, students who have grown into adults who sincerely live and defend the faith in the secular world. This, I think, is priceless.

  22. slainewe says:

    Dear God, where is the LOVE for Our Lady that Catholics can justify Her daily crucifixion on this campus for the price of a worldly degree?

  23. Veritatis Splendor says:

    The Newman Guide is by no means partial towards Notre Dame. Talking to some of the solidly Catholic students who went there, they are actually extremely frustrated, because if the hard identity Catholics all flee from the school because it isn’t perfect, it will only get worse. Several colleges that are teetering between Franciscan level Catholicism and Fordham are in the same boat. Unless real Catholics are there and vocal, nothing will change, similarly to how liturgical traditionalists won’t expand the EF if we stay in the ghettos of our EF parishes. Even broader, if we aren’t going to places that are not fully Catholic, then we will never draw others to the Faith and conquer more territory for Christ.

    That being said, there are other options. As mentioned above, Franciscan has horrible financial aid, and many of its academics are sub-par as well. I like to say it is a wonderful place to be as a young adult, but not necessarily a great school (some subjects are). Ave Maria is in much of the same boat. There are some that have the challenging academics as well as the vibrant faith, though. I’d like to mention four. Two have strong STEM programs, the others have strong STM programs, and three are on the Newman Guide (the fourth has been on it recently): The University of Dallas, Benedictine College, Catholic University of America, and Providence College.

  24. Former Altar Boy says:

    “…many schools which still bear the name “Catholic”… aren’t, or just barely are.” Count the University of San Diego in the group.

  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    This issue is a tad more complicated than people, here, are making it. To begin with, it is well-known that the most single powerful influence on the moral formation of young adults is peer-pressure. I suppose that one could argue that living among Catholic peers at a Catholic college might make one less likely to fall away from the Faith, but it has very little influence on students who are commuters, since their peers are localized, elsewhere. So, on the list of topics, the first item is living arrangements.

    Secondly, there is no, “influence of the professor,” thing, in a broad sense. STEM professors have almost no influence on the moral development of undergrads, although they can for graduate students, because they have, of necessity, a more intimate relationship. Any field where abstract, but quantifiable principles are learned have very little chance to influence moral development by student-teacher interaction. It is in the fields that touch animate matter – the humanities, the arts (although, not so much music), business, and the soft sciences (including psychology, sociology, and biology) – where moral influence can and often does occur in student-teacher interactions. All of these fields are opinion fields and professors, to become professors, have to be good at arguing their positions. Now, if the professor is orthodox to begin with, in moral matters, then there is nothing for the student to do, but learn. These are, largely, unchallenging classes because there is a consistent axiomatic moral system already in place. If professors are to have any morally deleterious influences, it is usually because of a combination of three factors: 1) charm, 2) poor moral formation of the professor, 3) the lack of prior formation in argumentation and resistance to temptation of the student. In other words, outside of peer pressure, the single biggest reason for a student falling away from the Faith with academics, proper, is poor moral formation in their youth – not having been trained to recognize and defend against temptations in behavior and argument. If a student is properly formed before they get to college, there is little that either peer-pressure or professor will be able to do to make them fall away from the Faith – sin, yes, that is always a problem where youthful passions are involved, but fall away from the Faith or become indifferent to it – not likely.

    Seen in this light, it doesn’t really matter where a properly formed student goes. As long as there is a Catholic Church available with valid and easy to approach sacraments, such a student would have no problem maintaining the Faith, although they might not have a large circle of friends and might have to forego certain social functions. When we started college as budding geeks-in-training, we were told, point blank, that we should expect not to see anybody or have a social life for four years. I only watched tv on the weekends (Friday night and Saturday) and did nothing but study or play in performing groups every other hour of the week. There was little chance for moral corruption. I, also, commuted, so my friends never changed from growing up.

    In graduate schools, I lived both at home and away from home and most of my friends wound up being a Catholic or Christian – I just simply sought them out. What is so hard about doing that? There is almost always a Catholic Church near campus where students go. It is not hard to find peers who are Catholic and with the explosion of knowledge available on the Internet, it is not hard to find out what the Church authentically teaches.

    Thus, I find the idea that college students will become mesmerized by professors to be a weak argument, provided that the student is properly formed in morals and apologetics before they get to college. I suggest that the proper emphasis be put, there. Sadly, most youth formation programs are poor, at best. So, if you don’t want to have to worry about a student after they leave home, make sure you don’t have to worry about them before they leave home.

    The Chicken

  26. Montenegro says:

    How long before the UND Administration shuts the website down?

  27. ndmom says:

    Any student who “loses” his or her faith at Notre Dame didn’t have much faith to begin with. I agree with those above who point out that although Notre Dame is not perfect (no human institution is perfect), it is one of the best places in the country for a serious Catholic student. Our family lives, works, and studies here. We are on the ground, so to speak, and know about the many solid Catholics on the faculty and among the students. There are more than 100 Masses on campus each week, and though most students attend their dorm Masses on Sunday night, a substantial cohort can be found at the Basilica Masses (not including the 100+ students who sing with the Liturgical and Folk Choirs). The student body runs the gamut from the ultra-orthodox to the seriously lapsed, and there are a substantial number of non-Catholic students who nevertheless have chosen to attend a university with a crucifix in every classroom and single-sex dorms with chapels and the Blessed Sacrament. We know personally several faculty members who have converted to Catholicism as a result of their encounters with faithful colleagues and students.

    Those who insist that their children attend only one of the handful of schools approved by the Newman Guide must not have much confidence in the formation they provided at home and in the parish.

  28. mysticalrose says:

    Chicken:

    I cannot agree with your assessment as I was once a youth with a very solid moral and doctrinal background, but I was mesmerized by liberal professors . . . all of whom were nuns. My parents did a such a good job at fostering respect for authority, that it never occurred to me that my professors could be almost certainly pagans. There is also a human element here: I trusted my professors and esteemed them, therefore, I wanted to be like them. Obviously, truth should come before esteem, but surely I am not the only person to have confused the ordering of the two in my young adulthood. For this reason, I think it matters much whether or not you have solid professors teaching in the humanities at a given school.

  29. teachermom24 says:

    “Seen in this light, it doesn’t really matter where a properly formed student goes. As long as there is a Catholic Church available with valid and easy to approach sacraments, such a student would have no problem maintaining the Faith, although they might not have a large circle of friends and might have to forego certain social functions. . . Thus, I find the idea that college students will become mesmerized by professors to be a weak argument, provided that the student is properly formed in morals and apologetics before they get to college. I suggest that the proper emphasis be put, there. Sadly, most youth formation programs are poor, at best. So, if you don’t want to have to worry about a student after they leave home, make sure you don’t have to worry about them before they leave home.”

    Thank you, Chicken. Our eldest son graduated ND in 2012; our 2nd son is now a freshman. Their formation before entering ND was solid and they have and are benefiting from what is truly good at ND. Before our eldest enrolled, I read the Newman Guide’s assessment of ND, that a student whose faith is not well-formed before coming to ND will “sink like a stone”–I believe that’s true. But it’s not only the “Faith” in terms of teaching and doctrine that needs to be well-formed, it is the sense of self, “Who Am I? Why did God make me?”, that needs to be solidly established in the student before confronting the culture of drinking and sexual immorality that hits the student square in the face upon arrival. My son is happy, thriving and challenged at ND. He has found a great group of friends who enjoy drinking milkshakes and discussing philosophy to getting drunk on Friday nights.

    Regarding the “list”–we are glad to see it. It has already been a great help to our son in selecting his second semester courses. God bless Fr Miscamble!

  30. DonL says:

    Why support financially any university that so desecrates the very name, Catholic, by requiring that a student must tread so carefully lest they be contaminated? I recall something in my Catholic upbringing many decades ago about avoiding occasions of sin. Certainly Notre Dame is such a place.

  31. roma247 says:

    Allow me to answer ndmom…

    My faith was always exceptionally strong, even more so than my siblings, and bolstered by my grandparents who truly “walked the walk”. I lacked formation, of course, as did most of us who went through catechism in the 70’s and 80’s when all they taught us was “Jesus loves you.”

    But it certainly wasn’t a lack of accessibility of the hundreds of Masses at ND that put the nail in the coffin. It was the wasteland offered by those Masses. I, who had never experienced a TLM before (and didn’t even know they were still being done anywhere) looked at the Masses celebrated and saw that we were not worshipping God but ourselves. We were so proud of ourselves for our music, our girl servers, our avant-garde-ness, and the fact that we could mosey down to the dorm Mass in our PJs and Bunny Slippers. I couldn’t detect God’s presence anywhere. It was hollow–an echo chamber. It was just us, holding hands and singing. I saw no escape from this wasteland called Catholicism and didn’t know there was any alternative. So I left the Church and just wandered aimlessly. Then, without the sacraments, I was an open target for Satan, and he hit hard.

    Perhaps now that there are real Masses available at ND, where God is worshipped, I should be less judgmental. The Chicken does indeed make a good point, and perhaps he is right. But I’m once bitten, twice shy I guess, and I tremble at the idea of sending my children to my alma mater lest they be devoured as I was.

  32. ndmom says:

    roma247,

    My experience was similar to yours, but in a large suburban parish in the 1970s and 1980s. Unfortunately, much of American Catholicism was a wasteland during that period of vapid folk music, angry nuns, mediocre priests (some of whom, we now know, had serious psychological problems and many of whom had abysmal formation), and widespread ignorance of fundamental Church teachings. Most of us lacked solid formation in the years before St. John Paul II and the publication of the Catechism. Many of us wandered away, and sadly many have not returned. Notre Dame at that time was a reflection of the larger Catholic culture, as it is now. Before writing off the university, you might come visit and see how much has changed, for the good, since your time here.

  33. vandalia says:

    Interesting that Notre Dame provides and has the EF Mass information on their campus ministry website. Also, they are one of the few minor Basilicas that does not reserve the Eucharist in a side chapel but has it in a huge, heavily (traditionally) decorated tabernacle in the center of the Sanctuary.

  34. slainewe says:

    Those alumni who support ND — but this very fact — prove they lost their Faith at ND. No person of Faith collaborates voluntarily with institutionalized evil. Those “prestigious” sheepskins they want for their children are ripped from the Lamb Who was Slain.

  35. ndmom says:

    “I hope all the professors on the list are tenured, as I doubt they will make tenure if word gets around about their orthodoxy.”

    I just had to respond to this statement. It might have been true at one point (see Janet Smith) and may still be true in a handful of departments, though in those departments the issue is not tenure but getting an offer in the first place. However, I don’t know of any recent instance in which an orthodox Catholic with a solid record was denied tenure because of orthodoxy, though the true reasons for a tenure turndown are seldom apparent to those outside the department. I do know a number of younger faculty members who are regulars at daily Mass AND were recently tenured. Some of their names appear on The List. There are also more than a few junior and senior faculty who were recruited by or attracted to the University precisely because they support the Catholic mission. The level of support for the mission varies from one department to another, but the one I know best has done a fabulous job of recruiting and retaining serious Catholics who are also serious academics. Please don’t believe everything you hear or read about Notre Dame, because it’s not always accurate.

  36. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear mysticalrose,

    You wrote:

    “I cannot agree with your assessment as I was once a youth with a very solid moral and doctrinal background, but I was mesmerized by liberal professors . . . all of whom were nuns. My parents did a such a good job at fostering respect for authority, that it never occurred to me that my professors could be almost certainly pagans. There is also a human element here: I trusted my professors and esteemed them, therefore, I wanted to be like them. Obviously, truth should come before esteem, but surely I am not the only person to have confused the ordering of the two in my young adulthood. For this reason, I think it matters much whether or not you have solid professors teaching in the humanities at a given school.”

    I understand the conflict that can occur between worldly authority and truth. In my case, when I was a freshman, my professors went out of their way to break us of the habit of professor-worship. Possibly because of the prestige of the university, they knew we would hold them in awe, which is a very bad thing when one is seeking the truth. One professor said something like, “Look, I may be a professor, but who’s going to know the difference between you and I when we are in the shower?” There was a woman in an honors physics class I was taking who got into an argument with a professor and I will be forever grateful to her. The argument went something like this:

    Woman (raising hand): Ah, professor, I don’t think I belong in this class.
    Prof.: Why? You scored over 700 on the math SAT, didn’t you?
    Woman (looking at her fellow students): I could tell you how I did and you would all be impressed, but I don’t think I belong in this class.
    Prof shakes head.

    The woman knew herself enough to know being flattered by being allowed into a class isn’t the same as being prepared and mature enough to really get into the material. Many students, for instance, take philosophy when they haven’t the foggiest idea of who they are nor how to go about seeking or even recognizing the truth. They are easy prey. Other students, many from good backgrounds, such as yourself, put their hands and souls into the hands of the professor, trusting that they wouldn’t be where they are if they didn’t know their subject. They get led astray all of the while thinking they are doing the right thing.

    When we teach children the virtue of obedience, the Fourth Commandment, we often have to dumb it down because they are often very young, but we fail to update the teaching as they get older. Indeed, atheists are, often, better at this than Christians, because skepticism is the holy doctrine they are taught. Obedience is a matter of the practical intellect – of doing what is right, but this presupposes that the abstracting or theoretical intellect has first examined the proposed action for moral conformity and then released it to the practical intellect to dispense how the obedience ought to be done. Obedience is not, simply, a practical matter, only. Thus, children have to be taught to evaluate the nature of the obedience and the commanded obedience before acting on it. If this is done, then when an authority speaks rubbish, it can be seen for the rubbish it truly is, without worldly awe.

    Such maturity in understanding and applying the virtue of obedience is rare, especially in children, who have not had the station of command put upon them. Parents in a college class show much less awe for professors than young adults, let me tell you, because they know the very human effects of Original Sin on one who is in a position of authority.

    Such training is a part of the moral formation of the young I am espousing. Professors are, by right of their station, entitled to a certain respect, as all teachers should be given, but respect for the office is not the same as respect for the teaching. That respect is subservient to the respect that we owe to God. One must always ask,”What would the Church think of this idea?” If one cannot tell, then one has a doubtful conscience and that must be resolved, usually by research or good counsel, before the idea can be entertained.

    It used to be that there was a consistency in education and theory in the formation of professors in the Humanities – there still is in the sciences – but the dirty secret is that after WWII and most especially from 1960’s on, that is no longer the case, except, possibly, in music, which hasn’t really changed in a hundred years. Nowadays, you can actually pass a Ph.d course spouting absolute rubbish, if you are clever enough. If you want to see the myth of the consistency of Humanities education, one need look no farther than the Sokal affair. Wikipedia explains:

    “The Sokal affair, also called the Sokal hoax,[1] was a publishing hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University and University College London. In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies. The submission was an experiment to test the journal’s intellectual rigor and, specifically, to investigate whether “a leading North American journal of cultural studies – whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross – [would] publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions”.[2]

    The article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity”, was published in the Social Text spring/summer 1996 “Science Wars” issue. It proposed that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct. At that time, the journal did not practice academic peer review and it did not submit the article for outside expert review by a physicist.[3][4] On the day of its publication in May 1996, Sokal revealed in Lingua Franca that the article was a hoax, identifying it as “a pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense … structured around the silliest quotations [by postmodernist academics] he could find about mathematics and physics.”[2]

    The hoax sparked a debate about the scholarly merit of humanistic commentary about the physical sciences; the influence of postmodern philosophy on social disciplines in general; academic ethics, including whether Sokal was wrong to deceive the editors and readers of Social Text; and whether Social Text had exercised appropriate intellectual rigor.”

    Let me be clear: good Catholic professors are good catholic teachers because they are good Catholics, first, not because they are good professors. Especially in the Humanities, one must be very careful, because many people go into the Humanities because it gives them freedom to be a dissident – the faculty who judge them thinks that this puts them on the cutting edge of new ideas, whether those idea have been properly vetted or not. They don’t care. In the sciences, respect is earned by being right; in the Humanities, it is earned by being new. The whole area of Twentieth-century music was created by composers trying to be new, never mind that what they were composing wasn’t really music.

    So, even Catholics can be skeptics, indeed, must be skeptics in the classroom, because truth is more important than the man. In the words of Flaubet: l’Homme n’est Rien; l’Oeuvre Tout, which is misquoted by Sherlock Holmes in the Red-Headed League as, “”l’Homme c’est rien; l’Oeuvre c’est tout,” which, in either case means, “The Man is nothing; The work is all.”

    The Chicken

  37. iamlucky13 says:

    “Why support financially any university that so desecrates the very name, Catholic, by requiring that a student must tread so carefully lest they be contaminated? I recall something in my Catholic upbringing many decades ago about avoiding occasions of sin. Certainly Notre Dame is such a place.”

    Taken too far, this logic would have you avoid any place but the church and home (and depending on the circumstances, possibly even those).

    Looked at more rationally, the alternative to supporting a university that poorly represents the Catholic name and allows an environment that presents numerous occasions of sin to exist is very often to instead support a university where Catholicism is openly reviled and sin is actively promoted by the staff.

    We have to face the reality that if you feel called to support yourself and contribute to the world through engineering, science, medicine, and many other professional fields, the opportunities to get there through the orthodox Catholic universities are close to non-existent. The same applies to lower level post-secondary programs. I’ve never heard of a Catholic vocational school.

    I’m sure there are some real exceptions. I know there are some perceived exceptions, but unfortunately, as far as I know, none of my friends who have engineering degrees from Steubenville were able to get engineering jobs because of the general nature of their curriculum and the lack of accreditation.

  38. slainewe says:

    Faith is not theology. Faith is not celebrating the TLM or scheduling Holy Hours or placing the King front and center in the church. Faith is loving the Person of Jesus Christ to the degree that all “Catholic privilege” is rejected for the sake of His Sorrowful Passion. Faith is sacrificing the dreams we have for ourselves and our children because we love Jesus more.

  39. bookworm says:

    “Can you encourage a child to go $100 to $120k in debt for a bachelors when they don’t even know what their vocation is?”

    That’s one reason why I would like to see one or more Catholic “work colleges” established along the lines of the 7 institutions that currently belong to the Work College Consortium. These are schools whose students are encouraged, or in some cases required, to earn their tuition, room and board via jobs on or off campus, and therefore graduate with little or no debt. (One of the WCC colleges actually forbids students to take out student loans; cases of financial difficulty are resolved through direct assistance or other means besides borrowing.) Although the current WCC schools are all either Evangelical Protestant or historical/secularized Protestant, I see no reason why this concept could not also be applied to a small or medium-sized Catholic institution.

    I also would like to see greater emphasis placed on providing strong, orthodox Newman Centers at secular schools. A really good Newman Center at a secular university (Texas A&M and the U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign come to mind, but I’m sure there are others) can produce as many or more conversions, reversions, religious vocations, and sacramental marriages as a typical “Catholic” university would. It also costs a lot less than the typical “Catholic” university, even for out of state students (many state universities actively recruit out of state students and offer them scholarship and financial aid packages).

  40. bookworm says:

    “I’ve never heard of a Catholic vocational school.”

    They used to exist under the name of “industrial” or “business” schools in the pre-World War II era, mostly as high school level institutions. My aunt (father’s sister), now deceased, attended a parish high school in a nearby town that was called St. Joseph’s Commercial School and taught girls secretarial and domestic skills (this was in the early 1940s). She worked as the bookkeeper at a local grain elevator for many years. It would be nice IMO to see a revival of Catholic vocational schools, but without the physical infrastructure (school facilities) and the religious orders that used to teach them, I’m not sure how it could be done, except maybe in the form of a Newman-type ministry that serves career/technical students and perhaps provides apprenticeship or internship placements.