Cardinal Timothy Dolan reflects on Notre Dame’s role in Catholicism
Marisa Iati | Friday, May 24, 2013
At the University Commencement Ceremony on May 19, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Notre Dame students strive for “not just a degree, but discipleship.”
In an interview with The Observer on May 22, Dolan said discipleship requires being “intensely dedicated to the intellectual apostolate.”
“What it is is a return to the old scholastic maxim from St. Thomas Aquinas that … what we do flows from who we are,” Dolan said. “If we are first and foremost an overtly Catholic institution with no apologies for our Catholic mission and Catholic identity, then a very rigorous academic identity will flow from that.”
Contrary to what some people say, Dolan said the terms “Catholic” and “university” are compatible.
“The crusaders of secularism would have us believe that the term ‘Catholic university’ is an oxymoron,” he said. “One of the reasons that I love Notre Dame and other Catholic universities … is that if you believe that ‘Catholic’ and ‘university’ can’t go together in the same phrase, come to Notre Dame.”
Dolan said because young people are in a formative stage, all disciplines and modes of thinking, including that of faith, are relevant to them.
“We actually think when you have an openness to the beyond … you’re going to be a more liberal person than ever, in the classical sense of the word,” Dolan said. “Those who say, ‘I want to be open; I don’t want to go to a university where the faith is obvious,’ … they’re closed to the faith, aren’t they? … They’re really the close-minded ones.”
A Catholic university must acknowledge all points of view while maintaining its basis in Catholicism, Dolan said.
“A university is always open to probing, criticisms, questions, getting the other view, because that’s part of the pursuit of truth, … with the utter conviction that the conclusion that we reach is going to be consonant with the faith,” Dolan said.
Dolan said “prudential judgments” must be made when a Catholic university such as Notre Dame considers whom to invite to speak at an event such as Commencement.
“When a university stands for something, even though it says, ‘All are welcome,’ what you’re saying is, ‘You’re welcome to a community that cherishes that identity,'” Dolan said. “For instance, if the leader of the Ku Klux Klan wanted to come speak [at Notre Dame], … I’m sure everybody would agree that’s not consonant with our values. If the leader of the [National Rifle Association] wanted to come to speak, I would guess it would be a prudential judgment. It was a prudential judgment when [President Barack Obama] came to speak four years ago.”
As an institution of higher learning that considers itself “the nation’s preeminent Catholic university,” Notre Dame must spread Catholicism by teaching theology and philosophy, executing service projects and maintaining an atmosphere of faith, Dolan said.
“We often say that faith is not so much taught as caught,” he said. “This happens, I would contend, at Notre Dame. The faith, yeah, it’s taught in the classroom, yeah, it’s evident in our service projects, but it’s also just a very, very beautiful, tangible part of the climate, of the atmosphere, of Notre Dame.
“When you’ve got the Blessed Sacrament there in every student residence, when you’ve got a priest who lives in every student residence, we’ve … got hundreds of kids every day just whispering a quick prayer at the Lord’s Grotto, … there is an atmosphere at Notre Dame that somebody absorbs, somebody picks up, somebody catches.”
Dolan said the University promotes a positive approach to faith, learning, service, friendship and country. He said Notre Dame is “a big ‘yes’ to the faith.”
“[Faith is] taught well and it’s practiced well in the service projects,” he said. “But it’s caught in the liturgy, in the sacraments, in the friendships with people who share your values. … And I think that’s what a [Catholic] university is all about.”