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America mag, Robert George & Ave Maria University

In a lengthy interview just published on the website of the liberal-leaning [1] Jesuit magazine America, conservative Catholic intellectual Robert George was asked about “the future of Catholic higher education.” George’s observation that “people do not know what it means to be a Catholic University” vindicates the very reason the AMU project was undertaken. AMU should also be heartened by George’s observations that the recovery of what it means to be a Catholic university is a large mission that “cannot be accomplished by any one administrator or any one university” and that the “laity are certainly up to the task.” It’s okay if AMU doesn’t immediately solve this problem all by herself; we should be pleased to know that AMU is one of the (sadly) few institutions playing a role in this important recovery and that she continues to move closer to the ideal described by George.

“[F]or every Catholic institution, this is a period of real challenge, and it is not because there are so few members of the orders now to staff these places. It is that people do not know what it means to be a Catholic University… [I]t is complicated and obscure, but somehow, from the enlightenment you get this idea that faith is one thing, learning is another thing, and there is this strong divide between faith and reason… People like me who so admire John Paul II’s encyclical on the subject, we have all to some extent absorbed that understanding of the relationship between faith and reason. And, it has plainly been absorbed quite uncritically in a lot of circles where people are running historically religious universities—and that means on the Catholic side… Well, what we have to recover is, I think, is an understanding—and it is really an understanding… [t]hat really does see faith and reason as the two wings on which human beings ascend to contemplation of truth, and integrates the life of faith of the members of the university with the intellectual project of the university… [that] the whole spirit of the place, including the sciences, is infused with an underlying view about the nature of reality and the world and of the moral life and of faith. That the world is there for us to understand, that our understanding of the world is possible because there is an ordered, intelligible reality. This is a big mission, and it cannot be accomplished by any one administrator or any one university to tell you the truth… I do think the laity are fully capable of playing leadership roles, not only on the faculty, but also in the administration in Catholic higher education. I do not see Catholic higher education as in jeopardy because we do not have enough clergy; the laity are certainly up to the task.”

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