Diakonia of truth and intellectual charity

The Pope was warmly received by Catholic educators when he gave his talk at The Catholic University of America yesterday. Heads or representatives of all Catholic colleges and universities had been invited as well as the heads of education departments in US dioceses. The talk was interrupted twice by applause, first when the Pope expressed the Churchs gratitude for the sacrifices and commitments, past and present, that had made our Catholic schools possible and valuable, and then when he urged that Catholic schools in poor neighborhoods not be abandoned.Two phrases the Pope used to describe the purpose of Catholic education struck me: it was a "diakonia of truth" (service to the truth) and an embodiment of "intellectual charity." He stressed that it was an act of love to try to communicate to students that it is possible to seek and to reach the truth and thus to help free them from the narrowness of positivism and relativism. The talk was positive in tone throughout and belied the predictions that he would offer a "stern rebuke" of our educational institutions.The headlines today, of course, are about the Popes having met with survivors of clerical sex abuse. The Washington Postdoes havea short piece on the Popes comments on academic freedom, which read:

In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university's identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church's munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.The Pope didnt offer any advice as to how conflictsbetween the two principles he set outare to be resolved. Earlier hehad echoed the First Vatican Councils insistence, "that the truths of faith and of reason never contradict one another." That they often seem to contradict one another the same Council also acknowledged, indicating that this false appearance may arise either because the faith is improperly or wrongly understood or because some scientific view is mistakenly considered to be established. (Newman, in The Idea of a University, had similar things but remarked also that much patience may be needed before it can be determined which side is at fault. In his Apologia, of course, he has a memorable discussion of the advantages to human reason that derive from its having to confront the doctrine of the Churchs infallibility.)As with all his talks on this trip so far, the emphasis was positive, encouraging and uplifting. He urged Catholic educators to personal, joyful commitments to Christ and to bring that joy to their work and to their institutions which should be permeated by the commitments of faith, hope and love. He ended:
To all of you I say: bear witness to hope. Nourish your witness with prayer. Account for the hope that characterizes your lives (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) by living the truth which you propose to your students. Help them to know and love the One you have encountered, whose truth and goodness you have experienced with joy.

Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.

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