Many Catholic universities ‘not recognisably Catholic’

Professor Tracey Rowland (Emmaus Academic/St Paul Centre for Biblical Theology)

Catholic universities should try to do more than run an assembly line of information for students who never learn to think, says a prominent Australian scholar. Source: CNA.

Tracey Rowland, of the University of Notre Dame, Australia, and a member of the International Theological Commission, said many contemporary Catholic universities are not recognisably Catholic, or living up to their mission.

“John Henry Newman famously described a Catholic University as ‘an Alma Mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill’,” Professor Rowland said.

“I would argue that most of our universities are what Newman would call factories, mints and treadmills, that is, places where thousands of students, known to the university only by their student numbers, pass exams to qualify for employment in a particular field,” she said.

Professor Rowland spoke at an October 12 symposium in honour of Cardinal Newman hosted by the Thomistic Institute at the Angelicum, the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas. Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher also spoke at the conference.

There are “only a very small number of academic institutions anywhere in the world where something like Newman’s vision has any possibility of success. Most of these institutions operate at the level of liberal arts colleges that are specifically Catholic,” Professor Rowland said.

“Excluded are numerous institutions with the adjective Catholic in their title where no attempt is made to offer a specifically Christian formation of every aspect of the soul, or a specifically Christian integration of the various disciplines, but where there are merely buildings named after local Catholic worthies, a chapel, a chaplain who is a priest if you are lucky, and lots of opportunities to improve the welfare of minority groups,” she said.

“The accountants who normally run such institutions might be members of the Catholic Church but the institutions themselves, their ethos, the content of their curricula, their marketing strategies, the beliefs of their faculty members, administrators, janitors and librarians and the bureaucratic idioms found in their policies are not only not Christian but in many cases simply the outcome of corporate ideology.

“Newman would not recognise these institutions as in any sense consistent with his own vision.”


Newman scholar critiques Catholic universities (CNA

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