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Closing statement response

Letter to the Editor | Monday, April 24, 2006

In his response to University President Father John Jenkins’ closing statement, Rev. John J. Coughlin, O.F.M. argues that “the University needs to hire more devout Catholic professors who cherish the Catholic approach to reason and are also top notch in their respective academic disciplines” (“A response to Father Jenkins,” April 20). I wonder if this is absolutely necessary since for the most part Catholic reason does not seem to enter classroom discussion, outside of possibly Theology, and Philosophy – never once in my courses in political science did I hear any mention of religion or get a Catholic perspective on issues, and I would have benefited immensely from such input.

Unless a student gets to know a professor on a one-on-one basis, the faith and beliefs of the professor seem to be irrelevant. There is a long held tradition in academia that seems to separate the personal beliefs in both the secular and religious spheres from teaching. If this is the case, why would a person’s religious background matter? In my two years at Notre Dame, the most enriching conversations I had about Catholicism were with a non-Christian faculty member who, out of personal interest, knew an immense amount about Catholicism and challenged me to understand more deeply what it is about Catholicism that is important.

Notre Dame’s Catholic identity is expressed in ways that go beyond hiring mainly Catholic professors. The top quality and the willingness to engage the students in thought and discussion seem to be important in the hire of faculty at Notre Dame. Besides being taught the faith and having it deepened and nourished, Catholics also need to learn how to engage it with the rest of the world, and a diverse faculty and student body is one of the best ways to understand, live and deepen one’s faith.

Fr. David Kashangaki, CSCAndre Formation HouseJinja, UgandaApril 20