Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Preface

Academic journal article Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture

Preface

Article excerpt

The Modern University continues to be an exemplar of the complex but often hidden bonds that connect the various regions of contemporary culture in accord with an inner coherence that is open to rational exploration and illumination. Even relatively recent developments such as the emergence of business as a field of academic study composed of a set of disciplines such as finance and marketing gives evidence of the felt need to find a place within the rational wholeness of the university for the powerful modern institution of business. The drive toward professional status in business provides at least a tacit recognition that the power of any cultural institution is somehow insufficient as the basis of its own legitimation for that institution--it must seek its legitimacy within the university where its connection to the rational coherence of the whole can be discovered and established. The university, in turn, expects to exert a transformative power upon each of its components as it participates within society so that cultural practices extending well beyond its boundaries become shaped by its inner vision of coherence. Widespread conversations about business ethics and the social responsibility of the corporation give evidence of this shaping influence exerted by the university.

A more subtle demonstration of the importance of unity within the university is found on many Catholic campuses in recent years in the emergence of Catholic Studies programs. Such programs make explicit what is sometimes only tacitly true in the universities in which the programs emerge--that the complementarity of faith and reason serves as a deep source of the unity of the diverse fields of study at home in the academy, that theology has both the capacity and the responsibility to fulfill an integrative function among the many fields of study, that the dialogue of faith and culture and the many intercultural dialogues themselves provide the threads that connect the academic disciplines, and that each academic discipline is enriched when illuminated by its particular connection to the dimension of faith. Here again the university seeks to strengthen its inner coherence in an effort to fulfill its mission to strengthen the coherence of the cultures it serves.

We find a remarkably profound account of the mission of the academy in a recent address by Pope Benedict XVI, "Faith, Reason and the University: Memories and Reflections."' The Pope movingly recalls his own experience as a professor at the University of Bonn, noting especially the extensive interaction among faculty in many different disciplines: "We made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason-this reality became a lived experience." The participation of theology within the university was an especially important feature of academic life, and the Pope claims the integrating role of theology was acknowledged by faculty in all disciplines: "It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the 'whole' of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole" (first paragraph). Even the rational challenge to the question of the existence of God provided further evidence of the complex nature of the university in which such questions had their proper place.

The lecture goes on to propose succinctly that two great and troubling historical developments have threatened our ability to grasp the coherence of the university and of culture as a whole. On the one hand, a process of "dehellenization" in Christian theology unfolded in various stages in the Middle Ages and in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and this process sought to dismantle what the Pope seems to suggest was perhaps the providential convergence of biblical faith and Greek philosophy. …

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