Monday, September 26, 2005

Fr. Jenkins' Inaugural Address

Here's a link to the new ND President's inaugural address. I thought it was excellent, stressing the need for a real relationship between faith and reason, academic excellence and strong faith. He seemed courageous, stating that it was controversial for Notre Dame to maintain this mission of a truly Catholic university. You can tell he is a Thomist, and a good one, at that. I was impressed from beginning to end. The sense I got is that we have been given the difficult task of pursuing the Truth. We can ask the hard questions while still knowing where the ultimate answer comes from - Jesus Christ in his Catholic Church. This allows for a certain confidence in our inquiry, a contribution much needed in the academic field today.

Thanks to Father Jenkins for inspiring the leaders of Our Lady's university to maintain the Catholic identity of this place. Be assured of our prayers as you embark on this difficult, but fulfilling task.

8 Comments:

At 12:57 PM, Anonymous ignoranus said...

Jenkins is a conservative. Jenkins is a Catholic. Jenkins is a Thomist. Shit.

 
At 1:00 PM, Anonymous wondertwin said...

Becky, I would agree with you - after just reading though the address, I was thoroughly impressed with the stress Fr. Jenkins put on the relationship between faith and reason. I especially like:

"A Catholic university rejects a faith that trumps all claims of reason, and rejects a rationalism that pre-empts all claims of faith. Instead, a Catholic university is a place where scholarly inquiry based on reason engages a theological tradition grounded in revelation."

This emphasizes his belief that blind-faith is just as uselesss and empty as blind-rationalism, and he seems to have an open mind to both science and theology. It seems a great way to be, since it would be a shame if ND lost it's Catholic tradition. Bear in mind that this comes from a non-Catholic, but I believe Fr. Jenkins's view of the mission of the University is one that I would hold as well.

The idea that faith and reason can coexist with one another as a central theme to his address is again a really great thing. Reason is not there for the sole purpose of validating our faith, but more for the purpose of gaining knowledge. I have always thought of the pursuit of knowledge (in my case, science) as "...not only part of a good human; it is the human activity in which we are most like God." I was definitely pleased as I read that.

This gives me great hope for the future of ND.

... oh yeah, and GO IRISH!!!

 
At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Becky said...

Wondertwin,

Thanks for the comment. If you're especially interested in this idea of faith and reason working in tandem, I would suggest JPII's encyclical, Fides et Ratio. It was the first encyclical that I read, and it was used in a philosophy class that I had back in high school. Both Jenkins and D'Arcy quoted it in their speeches, I believe.

 
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At 1:41 PM, Anonymous wondertwin said...

Interesting Becky, thanks for the suggestion. This paragraph especially hits close to home with me: (Here's a link to the encyclical)

"Finally, I cannot fail to address a word to scientists, whose research offers an ever greater knowledge of the universe as a whole and of the incredibly rich array of its component parts, animate and inanimate, with their complex atomic and molecular structures. So far has science come, especially in this century, that its achievements never cease to amaze us. In expressing my admiration and in offering encouragement to these brave pioneers of scientific research, to whom humanity owes so much of its current development, I would urge them to continue their efforts without ever abandoning the sapiential horizon within which scientific and technological achievements are wedded to the philosophical and ethical values which are the distinctive and indelible mark of the human person. Scientists are well aware that “the search for truth, even when it concerns a finite reality of the world or of man, is never-ending, but always points beyond to something higher than the immediate object of study, to the questions which give access to Mystery”.

I do research in basic science, and as such I always find that scientists (the true believers in the field - those that really enjoy learning about the universe) always enjoy the prospect of learning something new about the way things work much more than the prospect of applying that technology. From my (admittedly) brief read-through of the encyclical, I see that this matches with what JPII is suggesting for our field.

Indeed, too much focus (by scientists and non-scientists alike) has been placed on the over-use or bastardization of science, rather than the sense of wonder involved in learning. Too much focus is placed on the glory that science can bring us at the expense of the glory that science brings just by the act of learning about how it fits into the realm of nature.

That's not to say that applied science and the improvement on human life we have seen as a result of it is not important - in fact, just the opposite - but it is important that in developing new technologies, we must stand back with a sense of wonder at the spectacular laws of nature that allow us to accomplish and understand the universe a little bit better.

 
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