In John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio, a seminal document which, I would estimate, was read by less than one percent of graduates of Catholic colleges during their past four academic years. Leading us all to “the truth is ultimately an act of love.”
What is lacking in our universities is precisely this openness to all reality. “Faith’s recognition of the essential unity of all knowledge provides a bulwark against the alienation and fragmentation which occur when the use of reason is detached from the pursuit of truth and virtue,” Catholic institutions have a role to play but only if they are able to recognize what is at stake in their purpose for existing. Evidently, many have failed in this matter. The pope speaks of a “culture that is genuinely Catholic.” What is obvious today is that, with the decrees constantly coming from the government, the culture is becoming less and less open to any sort of Catholic presence except that which is confined to a narrow range of itself.
It is consoling that the bishops seem to recognize what is at stake. It is, shall we say, “unsettling” that the universities largely do not. In an official statement (May 15), the President of Georgetown has affirmed, even in cases like the current one, that the university does not approve of anything that is contrary to basic Catholic teachings. Kathleen Sebelius speaks because she recognizes the value of her role as a nominal Catholic in submitting the freedoms of the Constitution to the control of a “rights-state” that is all too willing defines for us what religion must mean if it is “allowed” to participate in public life. We are perhaps seeing the end of the great American experiment of religious freedom by those who have little understanding or sympathy for it. Catholics, ironically, are seeing their freedoms restricted and ended by the aid of other Catholics, political and academic, who have denied, in practice, any real connection between reason and revelation.