When it comes to articulating freedom of thought and religious freedom, few equal Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, who put the matter succinctly:
“I wish the intellect to range with the utmost freedom, and religion to enjoy an equal freedom; but what I am stipulating is that they should be found in one and the same place, and exemplified in the same persons.”
Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, “Intellect, the Instrument of Religious Training,” Preached on the Feast of St. Monica, Sunday after Ascension, 1856, in the University Church, Dublin.
Very few Catholic academic leaders have articulated the link between intellectual/academic freedom and religious freedom as did Newman.
In 2009, in the heat of the Notre Dame/Obama honorary degree controversy, I wrote an essay containing the following:
The startling omission of the relationship between religious freedom and academic freedom is not only apparent in Notre Dame’s governing documents, but was missed in four of the most important joint statements made by Catholic universities, with Notre Dame’s significant participation, from 1967-72: the 1967 “Land o’Lakes Statement: The Nature of the Contemporary Catholic University,” which was later adopted by many US Catholic colleges and universities; the 1968 “Kinshasa Statement on the Catholic University in the Modern World of the International Federation of Catholic Universities;” the 1969 “Rome Statement on the Catholic University and the Aggiornamento,” which was produced by the Congress of Catholic Universities; and the culminating 1972 document of the Second International Congress of Delegates of Catholic Universities, “The Catholic University in the Modern World,” which did mention respect for religions other than Catholicism, and freedom of conscience, but again not religious freedom explicitly. Ex Corde Ecclesiae (1990), the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, directly addressed, albeit briefly, freedom of conscience. But Benedict XVI’s April 17, 2008 Catholic University of America Address to Catholic Educators went directly to the heart of the question underlying considerations of freedom, by stating that “Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in–a participation in Being itself.”
From Albert J. Schorsch, III, “Notre Dame’s Forgotten Freedom,” 2009, at www.sanityandsocialjustice.net
Full texts of the documents named but not hyperlinked above can be found in American Catholic Higher Education: Essential Documents, 1967-1990, Alice Gallin, OSU, Ed., 1992, Notre Dame Press.
Near the end of my 2009 “Notre Dame’s Forgotten Freedom” essay, I wrote the following:
We must expand our conversations about Catholic universities beyond “bunkered” positions to reflect our Catholic universities’ role in establishing, defending, and maintaining religious and other freedoms, and to consider how academic freedom serves these other freedoms. From Pope Benedict’s profound insight into freedom as participation in Being itself, we can build a revised foundational document for Catholic universities in the next generation that explicitly relates religious freedom to academic freedom, and allows universities, their faculties, and students, to explore specific ways in which they can exercise these freedoms simultaneously.
The relationship between academic freedom and religious freedom should be complementary. This question should not simply be limited to universities founded by religious denominations.
Academic freedom does not exist in a vacuum for the sake of those so freed, but can serve to strengthen other human freedoms, especially religious freedom, which generates a free and open society.
By the way, that sermon of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman–
“Intellect, the Instrument of Religious Training,” preached on the Feast of St. Monica, Sunday after Ascension, 1856, in the University Church, Dublin
–It’s a masterpiece.
© Copyright 2011, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved