Fr. Tom Weinandy’s speech labeling many theologians a curse has received a great deal of discussion our our website (see Dana Dillon’s post Against Divisiveness) and across the blogosphere. For those who have been following the conversation, I recommend taking a look at Pope Benedict XVI’s recent address to younger university professors, the text of which can be found over at Whispers in the Loggia.
On the important mission of the University, Pope Benedict states:
In truth, the University has always been, and is always called to be, the
“house” where one seeks the truth proper to the human person. Consequently it
was not by accident that the Church promoted the universities, for Christian
faith speaks to us of Christ as the Word through whom all things were made (cf.
Jn 1:3) and of men and women as made in the image and likeness of God. The
Gospel message perceives a rationality inherent in creation and considers man as
a creature participating in, and capable of attaining to, an understanding of
this rationality. The University thus embodies an ideal which must not be
attenuated or compromised, whether by ideologies closed to reasoned dialogue or
by truckling to a purely utilitarian and economic conception which would view
man solely as a consumer.
In an age where pragmatism and utility reigns, Pope Benedict reminds us of the primary role of the university is not simply to prepare professionals but to actively inspire and support students search for truth and wisdom.
Young people need authentic teachers: persons open to the fullness of truth in
the various branches of knowledge, persons who listen to and experience in own
hearts that interdisciplinary dialogue; persons who, above all, are convinced of
our human capacity to advance along the path of truth. Youth is a privileged
time for seeking and encountering truth. As Plato said: “Seek truth while you
are young, for if you do not, it will later escape your grasp” (Parmenides, 135d). This lofty aspiration is
the most precious gift which you can give to your students, personally and by
example. It is more important than mere technical know-how, or cold and purely
As our parents and grandparents often remind us, wisdom comes with age and experience – but there is something special in the eagerness and energy of youth. This energy and inspiration provides us with the habits we seek to sustain through life. In particular, I find the quote from Plato’s Parmenides quite poetic.
And, in the conversations surrounding Fr. Weinandy’s controversial (and in my opinion polemical) speech, the Pope’s speech has an important lesson for all of us. He reminds us of the connection between goodness and truth, faith and reason; and beyond that – the need for humiltiy in our pursuits.
we need to recognize that truth itself will always lie beyond our grasp. We can
seek it and draw near to it, but we cannot completely possess it; or put better,
truth possesses us and inspires us. In intellectual and educational activity the
virtue of humility is also indispensable, since it protects us from the pride
which bars the way to truth. We must not draw students to ourselves, but set
them on the path toward the truth which we seek together. The Lord will help you
in this, for he asks you to be plain and effective like salt, or like the lamp
which quietly lights the room (cf. Mt 5:13).
As many of us prepare for a new academic school year, I highly recommend the reading the entire address.