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St. Thomas Aquinas, Patron of Catholic Schools

St. Thomas Aquinas, Patron of Catholic Schools

I’m not one of those people who regularly reads my campus newspaper. Since I only work on campus for a limited number of hours each week,  I don’t really have the opportunity to go to many events at school or even to go to the library as often as I would like. I tend to stay in the bubble that is my job and to have very few meaningful interactions with the larger community such as meetings with friends and so on.

One of the reasons why I don’t read my local campus newspaper is because there are many things which make me angry. In September, I wrote a short column on Catholic education and how it cannot be divorced from ideology. I even began writing a series of Pope Pius XI’s encyclical on education, but that didn’t get off the ground because I took a long hiatus. Yet the issue of education and ideology is one that I have been thinking about a great deal lately and it is also something that appears very often in the campus newspaper. This column, therefore, is focused on the question of ideology and the Catholic university.

A Catholic university by its very name professes to see the world in a particular way. Since it is a private school funded by a religious Order or other donors, the university itself has been established and maintained with the particular Order’s ideas on education in mind. A school established by the Brothers of the Christian Schools and another founded by the Jesuits will each share a unique vision of what Catholic education is. Each also has a different sense of mission and the faculty will try to educate their students in a way that is compatible with the philosophy of the founder.

Originally, Jesuit schools were established for the education of young men who were considering a vocation to the Society. Therefore, the schools of the Society originally sought to teach the young men those things that would bring them closer to God. There was a great deal of emphasis on theology, philosophy, and the humanities as well. St. Ignatius of Loyola believed that in order for a man to be a good priest, he should be as well rounded in his education as possible. This was not only true for St. Ignatius himself, who practically went through an entire seminary and university course of studies on his own among boys much younger than himself, but also of the Jesuits as a whole. Indeed, they are among the best educated priests in the world because the Society puts such a premium on being education.

Another important element of Jesuit education is the emphasis on the education of the whole person. Although this term has been thrown around in university brochures for years, a real Catholic college does not merely seek to give its students the basis for a career, but also allows the individual to grow into a vocation. This means that the school offers enough opportunities for growth in the faith as it does for academics and physical fitness. In the end, the goal of a university is to make a person well rounded and this is one of the main aims of a Jesuit education.

It seems to me that when liberals attack Catholic schools for their ideology, they do not look or examine the points that I have made above. The things which they write about ad nauseaum are the need for more diversity and that repressed voices be allowed to speak. By repressed voices, these individuals are talking about people who are pro-choice, gay, etc. These individuals are strident in their opinions and would like to see the universities transformed into hotbeds of liberalism and tolerance.

Catholicism is not a PC religion and a Catholic university cannot be PC. While it can accomodate those people who are marginalized in society, it must not sell out to their ideas. If it does, then it is no better than any other state school that exists. Indeed, what’s the point in going to a liberal Catholic school if you can get the same education at a state college? Something to think about, I’m sure.

It seems to me that we are too focused these days on what we would our universities to be rather than what they are. While it is most certainly good for us to question why our university presidents make the decisions they do, it is also important for us to realize the reasons why a particular university exists. Therefore, I highly recommend that those who would like to know more on this topic to read the histories of their respective institutions of higher learning. I am sure that you will be surprised by what you find there and I hope that this astonishment allows you to realize exactly what your university stands for.

Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!