Tag Archives: The True

The problem of the Catholic university


As with every subculture, there are some ugly sides to the Catholic bubble. Some–like the radical traditionalists–are somewhat prominent in the public eye. Others, however, are rarely addressed. Like the oft-unspoken (but sometimes actually said) prejudice against secular universities.

The sad blunt truth of the issue here: Catholic schools suck at STEM. Full stop. They kinda suck at art and design, too. …Actually, if it’s not liberal arts, it’s probably not a very strong program.

The second part of the sad, blunt truth: it doesn’t matter if you want to go into a STEM field, or study art or design. Those people who live in the Catholic bubble will still judge you for going to a secular university (or sending your children there). CUA, Steubie, Christendom, and the UDs become the be-all/end-all for students in the Catholic school system. Places like Notre Dame and Drexel are declared “acceptable” for students wishing to study architecture or design, but they’re obviously not nearly as preferable as the Great Catholic Universities. And don’t even think about going to Georgetown.

What’s wrong with this picture? you might ask. Why can’t students just go to a secular university and deal with it? or, if they want the Catholic experience, why can’t they just accept that the program won’t be nearly as strong? I ask in return: why must students choose? The first universities arose out of monasteries, and the most prestigious ones were run by the Church for the longest time. Some of the most famous Doctors of the Church (like Thomas Aquinas) taught at these universities.

Historically, universities as a whole tended towards the liberal arts. Technical training was received through apprenticeship and on-the-job experience. Today, however, that is not the case. Students in the STEM world often need a bachelor’s degree to get anywhere. They are also more likely than liberal arts students to be employable with only a bachelor’s degree. For STEM students–and often art and design students as well–their undergraduate university is the top name on their resume, not a graduate school.

How do we solve this problem, then? A few solutions come to mind. If you happen to be marvellously rich and extremely generous, and you support this cause, donate to an existing Catholic university to help boost their science program. If you’re extravagantly rich and every bit as ambitious, start your own Catholic university which focuses on STEM as opposed to liberal arts. (I’m not saying to completely ignore the liberal arts but to instead put lots more attention into the STEM side.) If, like me, you lack money to do anything, you can help bring the issue to the attention of the world. If you go to a Catholic university, you can be grateful for the environment. You can stop judging students who go to secular universities to follow their dreams. You can not assume the worst of us. If you go to a secular university, you can try to get involved in the Catholic center. You can keep going to Mass and keep praying for the state of the world. You can quietly witness the Faith even amongst the heathens or fallen-aways.

Some part of me thinks that this divide is also propagated by the false dichotomy between faith and reason, between science and the Church. The Church employs an enormous number of scientists, but they’re never spoken-about. And a whole heck of a lot of those scientists went to secular schools. See? they’re not all bad.



…all this sounds… elevated. My own rhetoric begins to approach that of John Henry Newman, or even some of his less reputable Victorian contemporaries: Felicia Hemans, perhaps, or even Robert Browning on a bad day. That’s almost inevitable when writing or thinking about heaven; we begin to sound like a high Victorian Christmas card.

Dr. Paul Griffiths in his lecture The End of Sacraments (lecture 6 of the 2012-2013 Stanton Lectures)

Full audio of this lecture can be found here and the entire collection of lectures can be found here.

Re-charging one’s “batteries”


One of my friends asked me the other day if I meditated. I asked for what purpose would I meditate? She said she didn’t know, if I ever needed some peace of mind or something. I said that if I need quiet time, I go someplace beautiful and spend time there. Pretty churches work best because then I’m surrounded by beauty and by God’s presence.

I discovered over this past year that I really, truly, desperately need to be regularly exposed to lots of beauty. The Catholic Center on campus is a little… well, it’s kind of drab and boring, like many Catholic Centers of secular universities. And while the Sacrifice is the same wherever you go, as a fallen human being, I often need external stimulation. My way of doing so is enjoying beauty.

For others, they may have different ways of “re-charging” and “re-focusing” whenever they need it. My theory is that so long as you’re within the Transcendentals–Goodness, Truth, or Beauty–you’re in good shape. So if your “thing” is working at a soup kitchen (Good) or reading up on apologetics (Truth) or spending time surrounded by icons (Beauty), or any variation thereof, you’ve found your way to talk to God.

A gorgeous German Gothic church from my home diocese