Patrick Reilly takes a turn on the NCReg site to promote his Cardinal Newman Society as the solution for the “crisis” of Catholic higher education. He’s referring to (I presume) the recent release of a CARA working paper “Catholicism on Campus.” (I’ll note that CARA referenced Mr Reilly’s piece, but the favor wasn’t returned.)
Mr Reilly focuses on two important moral issues that do not appear in the Creed. In each case, we have the bystander approach seemingly coming out of Catholic-educated young adults: I wouldn’t have an abortion or marry someone of my sex, but I’m not willing to adopt the political approach for others. An argument can be made against these stances, but do they reflect faith so much as politics or morals?
Mr Reilly takes a swing at CARA (“CARA deserves much of the blame for how it interprets — spins, really — its own data.”) but I don’t think he’s engaging the working paper with decent logic. CARA seems to be skeptical of the influence of college administration on students. Obviously, it would be great (and CARA agrees) that imparting a strong Catholic identity from the top down would be a good thing.Is it reasonable to think it can happen where the parental example has been lax?
I’ll grant that in a mature believer, faith informs one’s politics and one’s moral outlook. So don’t misread me: I’m not criticizing Mr Reilly for being totally off-base. As founder of the Newman Society, he certainly has it in his interests to promote his brand (“Franciscan University of Steubenville, Christendom College, Thomas Aquinas College”) of Catholic higher education. But if he’s promoting the CNS good citizenship list as being the solution, let me offer a three brief observations:
The CNS brand attracts a certain kind of college student, your hardcore Catholic young people. Like Mr Reilly I would expect his institutions to do better because they self-select for the kind of orthodoxy they promote.
It’s not just or accurate to pick on universities alone for erosion in Catholic identity, morals, or faith. A case could be made for the parish grade school, especially the top two or three grades. A stronger case could be made for Catholic high schools. Lots of parents send their minor children to Catholic schools. And they may even take them to church on Sunday. But that doesn’t guarantee that external participation in the Catholic school culture aligns to an adult faith.
If the Church were serious about growing Catholic identity as our children grew up, there would be more emphasis on parish-based youth ministry. Not youth ministry in schools or regions or specialized centers.
How about any talking points of your own? Feel free to comment … liberally.