Catholicity and Education

Introduction: Catholicity and Education

The Spring, 2013 edition of Communio is dedicated to the themes of “Catholicity” and “Education.”

We continue our series devoted to the mystery of the Church as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic with the theme of “Catholicity.” Adrian J. Walker begins our reflection with his article “‘Your Reasonable Worship’: Catholic Communion as the True Life According to Reason.” In it, Walker argues that the truly philosophic life is one lived in communion with the Church—that is, existence in and through the Body of Christ. “The Eucharistic existence that the Apostle calls ‘reasonable worship,’” writes Walker, “turns the whole of us, body and soul, into an argument for Christ. In part, it does this by making us flourish as ‘rational animals’ whose entire way of life unites passionate commitment to the truth with . . . intellectual humility. . . . It is here, in this renewal of the philosophic way of life, that we find the source and standard of good discursive arguments for the faith.”

In “Athens—Jerusalem—Rome”, Rémi Brague takes the oft-repeated polarity of the Western intellectual heritage—Athens and Jerusalem—and suggests the introduction of a third term: Rome. This “third”, Brague argues, is necessary to sustain the tension between the other two poles; it is Rome that transmits and preserves the heritage of the two great cities. Romans “had the courage to learn and to adapt what they perceived as superior. . . . Thus Rome worked not only for itself but just as much for others,” writes Brague. This ec-centric structurality is then passed on to Christianity, giving the Church space to preserve all that is best about the world.

Last on the theme of “Catholicity” is Olivier de Berranger’s “Becoming Catholic: John Henry Newman.” It presents an interesting and compelling picture of the development of the great Cardinal’s thought, which eventually led him to full communion with the Church. We find that one of the driving forces in Newman’s movement from the Anglican to the Roman Catholic Church was answering, “how a ‘national Church’ can claim to maintain communion with the orbis terrarum.”

Introducing our theme of “Education” is Robert Spaemann’s “The Courage to Educate.” Originally published in 1978, the article presents questions about the state of education that are perhaps even more important for us to ponder now. “Why has it become necessary to point out something self-evident? Why has it become necessary to be courageous to educate?” Spaemann asks. He sketches an outline of what education really is—a formation of the human being—and then points out a number of ways this idea has been mistreated. It seems we no longer believe that education is about an affirmation of the future—in a word, that it is worth truly educating our children. He writes that “we must ask ourselves what resources we are actually living on, and the questions of how our children should live can only give impetus to do so. Many things that are being said publicly today can actually be said only by people who have no children or who have written off their children.”

In “The Universality of the University,” Jean-Luc Marion reflects on the fragmentation of the university and points out that not only is universality being lost, but also even specialization and any goods that come therein. “If professionalization and specialization . . . allowed an individual truly to know a genus of reality,” write Marion, “then they would already obtain much more than simple qualification: they would provide access to an experience of truth in action.” But not even this exists presently in our universities. Marion goes on to argue that the principle for true universality of the university is the ultimately unknowable transcendence of God.

D. C. Schindler responds to Marion in his article “On the Universality of the University.” His response first attempts to formulate what Marion presents as the principle that accounts for the universality of the university, namely, the self and God, both of which transcend our knowledge and so ought to be understood primarily in terms of love. Schindler proposes an alternative approach to what it calls the catholicity of the university, an approach inspired by John Paul II’s call in Fides et ratio for a “philosophy of being.”  The argument turns on an affirmation of the traditional metaphysical understanding of truth as ontological, and suggests that a recovery of the language of truth, thus understood, in the disciplines would help heal the fragmentation that besets the modern university.  This is because a recognition of the matter studied in the disciplines as concerned with truth—that is, a recognition that each discipline studies being under a particular aspect—brings to light their common rootedness in a reality that transcends their particularity without compromising what makes each unique. Schindler concludes with a comparison between this metaphysical approach to truth and the one presented by Marion, specifically in relation to the question of what sort of conversation each generates.

Also in this issue we present the second part of Giorgio Buccellati’s “Trinity spermatiké: The Veiled Perception of a Pagan World (Part 2).” The author claims that trinitarian reality affects human experience at its most basic, even when no conscious position is taken vis-à-vis the nature of the “mystery” as understood in Christian thought. A series of “no exit” situations is described where the experience hits a barrier, whether one starts from a secular (polytheistic) or from a trinitarian (monotheistic) mindset. Thus if the logos is seen as a fragmented and controllable activity that accounts for all of reality (in a secular mode), one arrives at a very static and ultimately illusory paradigm of knowledge: “as we encase reality in our own finite logos, in the well construed, all encompassing frame of a static matrix, we come up against the ultimate aporia: precisely because we have nowhere to go, we point unwittingly beyond the ultimate barrier.” If on the other hand (in a monotheistic mode) one accepts that the logos is the Logos, one finds it difficult to see how the inherent unpredictability of personhood can be susceptible of definition and predictability, in the way in which we normally understand logic as based on explanation. This approach seeks to shed a stark light on both the trinitarian claim of a dynamics within the absolute and the secular self-assuredness that its absolute be accepted at face value. A conclusion is then drawn regarding the impact that this has for the confrontation that the missionary dimension of Christianity entails: the “mission” is in sharing the personal dimension of the absolute, relating “him” to common human experience and to a logos discourse, but without flattening the “him” dimension to the level of a pure stasis.

In Retrieving the Tradition, we include Hans Urs von Balthasar’s “The Absoluteness of Christianity and the Catholicity of the Church” wherein the author ponders what these extra-biblical words “catholic” and “absolute” mean, especially insofar as the Church does not include everyone (here represented concretely by Israel), and that the Church is made up of sinners, who never can live up to Christ’s comprehending love of the world. The key to both problems, Balthasar argues, is two structurally different points in the Church, where the fullness of Christ’s love receives an adequate answer: Mary and Peter. “Just as the aspect of holiness within the Church’s unity is centered in a person (in Mary),” Balthasar writes, “the official function of unity is and remains personal (Peter in the midst of the College), and it therefore demands a personal apostolic succession.”

Finally, to close our issue, we also include in Retrieving the Tradition George Grant’s “Faith and the Multiversity.” Grant’s guiding question in the article is how a man of faith, and therefore someone who believes in transcendent truth, goodness and beauty, is to live an intellectually serious life in a situation as fragmented as the modern multiversity. A deep disjunction “has fallen on Western existence, the disjunction between truth and beauty,” Grant comments. He identifies and elaborates this disjunction, arguing that it is the source of the destruction of a true university.

—The Editors