Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

Science, Technology, and Catholic Identity in the Education of Professionals

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

Science, Technology, and Catholic Identity in the Education of Professionals

Article excerpt

Introduction: The Value Commitments of a University

We must ask ourselves whether both science and religion will contribute to the integration of human culture or to its fragmentation. It is a single choice, and it confronts us all ... Simple neutrality is no longer acceptable. (John Paul II, 1988)

The release of Ex corde ecclesiae (ECE) by Pope John Paul II in 1990 marked a threshold in discussions of the distinct characteristics of Catholic higher education. ECE articulated an expansive vision for Catholic universities, and elaborated specific roles and responsibilities for various parties in fulfilling their distinctly Catholic mission (Morey & Piderit, 2006). Some smaller Catholic schools welcomed the document and proudly proclaimed their Catholic identity, but many--especially larger Catholic universities that depend upon external research funding--expressed concern about the potential erosion of institutional autonomy and academic freedom (D'Souza, 2002; Dosen, 2000; Janosik, 1999). Some administrators and faculty questioned the value of a distinctly Catholic identity, and whether the vision of ECE could be compatible with the culture of American higher education.

With respect to the meaning(s) of distinctly Catholic higher education, there is substantial agreement that "because reason and faith are ultimately related in the Catholic tradition, every part of a Catholic School's curriculum should be informed in some way by philosophical, ethical, and theological perspectives" (Heft, 2010, p. 10). The presentation of faith and reason as linked is generally done in undergraduate theology and philosophy courses, where it has been said that "the Catholic School is free to teach whatever, and however, it deems best" (Lawler, 1950, p. 53). And in the rest of the humanities curriculum, integration of Catholic values is at least easily imaginable; for example, in "the study of history, the presence, forms, and vitality of various religions are studied as an integral part of the human story" (Heft, 2010, p. 10). Thus nearly all Catholic university websites promise an education influenced by Catholic traditions, teachings, or values; and their respective departments of mission typically hold workshops to help faculty integrate Catholic social teaching. There is controversy, to be sure: (1) concerns over academic freedom (Thiessen, 2001); (2) accusations that some "elite Catholic schools are sadly lost" to secular models of education (Weigel, 2007); and (3) whether an emphasis on values, and not Catholic values, is sufficient to advance Catholic identity (Orsy, 1987).

Resistance to ECE has focused on Part II, "General Norms;" however, its positive vision of the contributions of Catholic universities to the well-being of society, elaborated in Part I, "Identity and Mission," has received less attention. Critics of ECE have failed to engage the broader philosophical propositions of Part I: how universities are to provide service to society, pastoral ministry, cultural dialogue, and evangelization. Generally speaking, it is remarkable how little consideration has been devoted to any distinctly Catholic approach to pedagogy outside of religious studies, philosophy, and the humanities. Substantially less attention has been devoted to fostering Catholic identity at the graduate level (Hellwig, 2000). Of course, some efforts have reached beyond the humanities to integrate Catholic values into professional training. In Catholic legal education, successes have been reported concerning many Catholic legal scholars in law schools who integrate "Catholic social and intellectual thought into the mainstream of American legal education" (Mengler, 2010). And while we focus in this article on science education in law and engineering, and not medical training, "the Christian vision of the human person will fundamentally shape the care given the sick, the poor, and especially the dying" (Heft, 2010, p. 10). …

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