Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More feedback on Fr. Jenkins' closing statement

Professor John Cavadini, chair of the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, has issued his response to closing statement Holy Cross Father John Jenkins in the school's discussion on the relationship of academic freedom to its Catholic identity.

Professor Cavadini doesn't address the issue of future performances of The Vagina Monologues but rather the broader topic of the relationship of Notre Dame to the Church upon which, in his opinion, the discussion about academic freedom and Catholic identity is based. In his letter he expresses his concern that those participating in this increasingly public dialogue are forgetting this crucial aspect of it.

Its text can be found here, on the Web site of The Observer, an independent newspaper at Notre Dame and nearby Saint Mary College.


The President's statement, as a way of going forward, seems to ratify our unspoken declaration of independence from the Church, to permit it as the "default" mode of operation, and to invite the reduction of any model of the university which entails any explicit relationship to the magisterium of the Church as a "seminary" model (pace all intellectually rigorous seminary programs, including our own). This is to invite and to cultivate an intellectual tradition that is not moored to any ecclesial community or authority that could have a claim on defining that intellectual tradition. It is to invite and to cultivate an intellectual tradition in which "Catholic" is not normed by accountability to any incarnate, historical body but only to the disincarnate, a-historical church of the mind.

Fr. Jenkins' closing statement may have marked the end of his participation in this discussion. (Although one might hope that he would respond to some recent statement's by the school's faculty.) But it would seem that the discussion is going on...and on...and on.

...and on it would seem. Go here to read a letter to The Observer by Franciscan Father John Coughlin, a professor in Notre Dame's School of Law.


I think we ought to be honest and acknowledge that many, and perhaps most, members of the faculty are skeptical about the validity of Catholic truth claims based upon faith. Likewise, many would be suspicious about faith claims as proper participants in public discourse. Vatican II rightly urged that the Church be open to the world. The on-going dialogue continues to bear fruit for all the participants. It must be admitted, however, that the effects of the ensuing dialogue with secular culture have not always been beneficial to the life of the Church. When secular culture rather than the Church begins to serve as the primary formator, the effects are not likely to foster the gospel life. The Catholic intellectual life here at Note Dame has not been immune from the negative effects of the dialogue as it has transpired in the Church over the course of the last four decades. ...

Given the less than ideal state of Catholic intellectual life at Notre Dame, how might the president of the University respond? To be sure, he should not retreat from the dialogue as it was intended by Vatican II. Whoever the President of the University is at this perilous yet promising time, he would be well advised to come to terms with reality, drink deeply from the living fountain of faith and act with all in his power to strengthen Catholic intellectual life. Unfortunately, nowhere in his Closing Statement does Jenkins affirm that Catholic belief is necessarily normative within the Catholic intellectual community.

No comments: