Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
August 24, 2009
Newman Theological College enriches the mind, helps society
Secularists may well object to the federal government granting more than $4 million to Newman Theological College to develop distance learning facilities at its new site in Edmonton. The state, they would maintain, should be strictly neutral in regards to religion and not use its considerable resources in any way that might promote the advancement of any particular faith.
This is a point of view that has a high degree of currency in our present cultural situation where religious faith is widely seen, at best, as an optional add-on to the really important things in life - unrestrained economic development and unrestrained personal freedom. Indeed, religion is often seen (rightly!) as an impediment to these societal goals and thus should be subject to suspicion and constraint.
Little recognized is the fact that so-called religious neutrality - really, the secularization of advanced education and other aspects of the culture - is itself a form of faith that has done very well by the public purse.
This secularity also ought to be subject to critical examination, an examination that does not occur as often as it might.
More important to the issue of Newman College funding, however, is the fact that theological education itself makes an important contribution to the good of society. The study of disciplines such as philosophy, history and literature do not directly increase the gross domestic product. But they do enrich the mind, helping society not only to dream new dreams, but also to rationally examine those dreams.
Material prosperity is a good thing. It is also a shallow thing if it is all that individuals and society pursue.
No institution is as aware of this fact as is the Church. It is a crucial part of the mission of the Church to direct our awareness beyond the here-and-now toward transcendent realities that are the foundation of any meaningful life.
The study of theology, of course, does just that. And, by being a rational examination of divinely revealed truth, it forms the mind to examine crucial questions through the use of reason rather than by the transient fancies of feeling and emotion.
This emphasis on reason should itself be welcomed by even secular rationalists. It represents a challenge to a growing tendency to form opinions based on one's gut reaction, a tendency corrosive of efforts to find intelligent responses to current problems.
Alas, rationalists often have a too-restricted notion of reason to recognize this.
The federal government's financial contribution is welcomed then, not only for assisting an important Church institution, but also for helping to broaden the mind of society. It should be supported by all people of good will.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.