OK, so last month's announcement of faculty layoffs at The College of Saint Rose has sparked outcry in several different forms.
To hear that programs will be eliminated is one thing. To see proof of this and that future is another matter. Consider this irony: the invitation to pursue questions of faith, rationality, politics, and culture preceded by the notice: "no more applications are being accepted." From the College's own website:
Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies
**No new applications are being accepted for this program**
Do you ask the big questions about faith, God, humanity, and the fate of the world?
Are you interested in the relationship between Religion, Culture, and Politics? Do you want to live a good life? Is your life shaped by Scripture and prayer? Do you appreciate intellectual discipline? Do you long to reflect on the extraordinary character of life’s spiritual purpose and meaning? Do you want to make your time at College really count? If so, we hope you will consider a course of study in Religious Studies.
In other words, don't bother.
This, too, indicates the pervasive reality of spiritual diabetes; in this case, the belief--because that's what it is--that students can handle such spiritual (but, presumably, not intellectual) pursuits on their own.
First, this emerging reality leaves the entire field of battle to a de facto individualistic relativism wherein each individual decides for her/himself what's true. This is the most obvious "hidden in plain sight" intellectual landmine of the postmodern age. The notion that, left to their own devices, all individuals will all make "good choices" is demonstrably false. What if an individual decides to join ISIS? or the Shining Path? or some other violent group? That is, according to this sort of thinking, a completely legitimate choice. As William F. Buckley once said (roughly), "Liberals love to welcome different views, but then are shocked to learn that, in fact, views different from their own actually exist." So the point: relativism eventually caves in upon itself.
Second, and certainly appropriate to discussions of Catholic higher education, eliminating the study of religion from the curriculum at a Catholic institution runs directly counter to the purpose and telos of said Catholic institution. There is this thing called "the Catholic intellectual tradition"animating, sustaining, and challenging Catholic higher education. Such questions are part of the endeavor's ontological makeup. As St. John Paul II declared in 1990: (italics in original, bold highlighting mine)
4. It is the honour and responsibility of a Catholic University to consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth. This is its way of serving at one and the same time both the dignity of man and the good of the Church, which has "an intimate conviction that truth is (its) real ally ... and that knowledge and reason are sure ministers to faith"(7). Without in any way neglecting the acquisition of useful knowledge, a Catholic University is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God. The present age is in urgent need of this kind of disinterested service, namely of proclaiming the meaning of truth, that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished. By means of a kind of universal humanism a Catholic University is completely dedicated to the research of all aspects of truth in their essential connection with the supreme Truth, who is God. It does this without fear but rather with enthusiasm, dedicating itself to every path of knowledge, aware of being preceded by him who is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life"(8), the Logos, whose Spirit of intelligence and love enables the human person with his or her own intelligence to find the ultimate reality of which he is the source and end and who alone is capable of giving fully that Wisdom without which the future of the world would be in danger.
5. It is in the context of the impartial search for truth that the relationship between faith and reason is brought to light and meaning. The invitation of Saint Augustine, "Intellege ut credas; crede ut intellegas"(9), is relevant to Catholic Universities that are called to explore courageously the riches of Revelation and of nature so that the united endeavour of intelligence and faith will enable people to come to the full measure of their humanity, created in the image and likeness of God, renewed even more marvellously, after sin, in Christ, and called to shine forth in the light of the Spirit.
6. Through the encounter which it establishes between the unfathomable richness of the salvific message of the Gospel and the variety and immensity of the fields of knowledge in which that richness is incarnated by it, a Catholic University enables the Church to institute an incomparably fertile dialogue with people of every culture. Man's life is given dignity by culture, and, while he finds his fullness in Christ, there can be no doubt that the Gospel which reaches and renews him in every dimension is also fruitful for the culture in which he lives.
7. In the world today, characterized by such rapid developments in science and technology, the tasks of a Catholic University assume an ever greater importance and urgency. Scientific and technological discoveries create an enormous economic and industrial growth, but they also inescapably require the correspondingly necessary search for meaning in order to guarantee that the new discoveries be used for the authentic good of individuals and of human society as a whole. If it is the responsibility of every University to search for such meaning, a Catholic University is called in a particular way to respond to this need: its Christian inspiration enables it to include the moral, spiritual and religious dimension in its research, and to evaluate the attainments of science and technology in the perspective of the totality of the human person.
I am, as it should now be clear, no Father Z.
Just studying the bottom line--the material causes and even the materials themselves--isn't enough IF you hang out your shingle as a Catholic institution. Do that and there are other avenues of investigation to pursue. Of course, there are plenty of institution that don't hang out that shingle. (And, yes, St. John Paul would, with a gleam in his eye, suggest that those places, too, have the same questions--they just don't want to recognize them as such.) So you can claim the heritage or deny it, but it seems ontologically impossible to claim the heritage and then deny some or all of the intellectual pathways within that heritage.