The idea of a modern Catholic university

A new set of banners, proclaiming “Intellect and Virtue: The Idea of a Catholic University,” appeared across the campus of the Catholic University of America last January alongside traditional banners with the school’s motto, Deus lux mea est (“God is my light”), reports NCR Online.

For John Garvey, the new banners signalled one of his chief goals as Catholic University president in his inaugural year and years to come: making the bishops’ national university a place where intellectual achievement is consciously and explicitly linked not only to traditional secular academic goals and to Catholic faith but also to moral virtue.

The relation of virtue to intellect was a major theme in Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University, a collection of lectures and essays by the great English Catholic intellectual in 1854.

Garvey acknowledged tensions between Newman’s idea of a university - Newman decidedly favoured undergraduate liberal arts education as the core of a university and opposed the idea of it being a research institution - and Catholic University’s long history as the second major US university, after Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, devoted primarily to graduate studies and research.

Since its founding in 1887 -- chiefly as a philosophical and theological graduate school for seminarians across the country - the Catholic University of America has expanded its curriculum to cover liberal arts, architecture, music, drama, social sciences, law, physics, nursing, social work and a variety of other fields.

It remains distinctive in that roughly half of its students - considerably more than in most US colleges and universities -- are in graduate studies.

Catholic University lectures and conferences marking his inaugural year, Garvey told NCR, “have been of two kinds.”

“One kind is about the intellectual life of the university, strictly speaking,” with a series of internationally noted speakers addressing topics as varied as religion and politics, music and faith, Catholic intellectual life in American literature and arts, and “a mathematical biologist from Harvard speaking about his faith and what that had to do with his work as a scientist,” he said.

FULL STORY Garvey's idea of a university (NCR Online)

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