New CUA President Appeals to Newman

John H. Garvey, President of the Catholic University of America

On 25 Jan. 2011 at the Catholic University of America,  John Garvey, former law professor at Notre Dame and Dean of Boston College Law School, was inaugurated president of the University. The CUA is blessed to have Dr. Garvey as their new president, not least because Newman and Aristotle serve as inspirations for his vision of what a Catholic University ought to be.

His address, entitled, “Intellect and Virtue: The Idea of a Catholic University” exhibited the perspicacity which is attributed to those intellectual virtues a university is meant to develop. His address was frank, lucid, and altogether avoided any kind of smugness. You can read the entire address HERE; the eight pages are definitely worth the read. My only serious complaint about Garvey’s address is that it was delivered at the National Shrine, D.C., rather than at Sint-Pieterskerk, Leuven.

In addition to Dr. Garvey’s straight-talk, refreshing was his not un-critical diagnosis of the impasse in Catholic higher education.

I think the fault for this flat, crabbed, cartoonish vision of Catholic higher education lies not with the critics of religion but with us. We have been so intent on defending ourselves against charges of fundamentalism and censorship that we have failed to create, let alone promote, a serious Catholic intellectual culture. Think of the schools of thought we have seen come (and go) in the academy in our lifetimes: Marxism, modernism, post-modernism, feminism, law and economics, critical race theory, queer theory, and so on. And ask yourself whether, in the Catholic intellectual tradition, there is not enough material to get our own movement going.

In typical Newmanian fashion, Garvey points out not only the inter-connectedness of all disciplines, but the ubiquity of the moral dimension which pervades university studies:

You cannot study migration, the environment, the economy, interpersonal relationships, death and dying, or the history of capitalism without making ethical judgments of the kind Aristotle had in mind. Sociology is not, pace Comte, a value-free science. Nor is Anthropology, Economics, Psychology, or History.

Garvey mentions that the CUA was founded “after the pattern of the ancient Catholic University of Louvain.” Today, perhaps Leuven could benefit from the reverse.