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Notre Dame needs Catholic faculty

Letter to the Editor | Monday, May 1, 2006

It is my opinion that recent letters to The Observer have presented the rationale for opposing certain elements of Father Jenkins’ closing statement on academic freedom both thoroughly and eloquently. As such, I will concern myself with addressing the April 24 editorial of Father David Kashangaki, CSC (“Closing statement response”).

Father Kashangaki argues that the hiring of Catholic faculty is not essential to maintaining and expressing Catholic identity at Notre Dame. He attempts to justify this in saying that students must engage the culture by encountering diversity, and that it was actually non-Christian faculty who imparted indispensable knowledge about Catholicism to him during his time at Notre Dame. However, at the same time, he laments the lack of Catholic perspective in academic disciplines outside theology and philosophy, stating that he “would have benefited immensely from such input.”

Father Kashangaki, what you need to realize is that the horrendous deficiency in Catholic catechesis among incoming Notre Dame students will not be remedied by the off chance that they will fruitfully learn about the faith from those who do not fully share it. I have been in many classes where non-Catholic professors (and, regrettably, even Catholic ones) have pressed inexcusably contrary interpretations of Catholic teaching upon a slew of impressionable Catholic students.

Father, you have correctly identified the problem: that the faith and the world are not engaging each other in the classrooms. But the solution is not to accept the situation and hope that a largely indifferent student body will seek out for themselves what Catholicism has to say. Rather, the University must pursue practicing Catholic faculty who are at the tops of their respective fields and who also have the ability to foster an engaging dialogue within the classroom. If you say there are certain non-Catholic scholars who can effectively present the Catholic worldview, is it too far-fetched to think that carefully chosen Catholic scholars can adeptly incorporate secular or contrary views into the curriculum?

As a genuinely Catholic university, we should start from the latter angle, with the aim of promoting knowledge and appreciation of Catholic insights while also maintaining academic excellence in a very secular world. Most importantly, a more visible majority of practicing Catholics among the faculty would provide an invaluable everyday example of faith in student life – Holy Cross priests need not be the sole, extraordinary models on campus. I do believe that Father Jenkins has expressed his support for this goal of Catholic hiring, and I hope it will be realized.

Brian MacMichaelgraduate studentTheologyApril 28