The Mind That Is Catholic

We came across the below interview while working on another post and thought it of interest since there is a discussion going on about what being a Catholic university really means.  It was conducted to help promote the publication of a book by former Georgetown professor Father James V. Schall  entitled The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays" (available from CUA Press).  



ZENIT: What are the necessary habits or practices for forming and maintaining a "mind that is Catholic?" Likewise, where are the primary sources from which the Catholic mind draws its inspiration?

Father Schall: Of course, one of the good practices will be to know Aristotle, a great mind who, if I might with some irony put it that way, was "Catholic" before there was Catholicism. 

This is but another way of saying that Catholicism is more than eager to know what the human mind can know by itself. The mind that is Catholic in this sense is more than Catholic. Or, to put it another way, we cannot be Catholic if we are only Catholic. 

We think, in the end, that what is peculiar in Catholicism is not opposed to reason but rather constitutes a completion of it. 

It was Aristotle who warned us that the reason we do not accept the truth even when it is presented to us is because we do not really want to know it. Knowing it would force us to change our ways. If we do not want to change our ways, we will invent a "theory" whereby we can live without the truth. 

The "primary" source of the Catholic mind is reality itself, including the reality of revelation. 

We are not primarily students of what other people thought, but of what is. This is why ordinary and unlearned people are not excluded from the Catholic mind. 

The source of our knowledge is not a book but experience of being and living, an experience that will often include those whose lives are already touched by grace. 

So I read with great profit everyone from Justin Martyr to Aquinas and Benedict. But they take me not to themselves but to the truth. 

The great "habit," as it were, is that of acknowledging the truth when we see it. This implies both reason and grace which are not the same, but neither are they contradictory to each other.

ZENIT: Do you believe that Catholic schools do a good job of fostering a Catholic mind in young Catholics? 

Father Schall: Briefly, no. 

No one could think that the curriculum and spirit of Catholic schools today are based in the tradition of specifically Catholic intelligence. That requires discipline, study, and virtue. 

In the modern world, we find no group more deprived of the glories of their own mind than young Catholics.  This is why those small enclaves that do address themselves to it are in many ways remarkable. 

Catholic institutions of higher learning, as they are called, simply gave up what was unique about themselves and the reasons for having Catholic universities in the first place. This lost source was the active vigor of the Catholic mind read not as an historical phenomenon or as a social activism, but as a search for and testimony of the truth, that towards which all mind is directed.

You can read the whole interview here.

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