National Catholic Register

Education

Faith Seeking Understanding

Theology’s Role in a Complete College Education

BY Joseph Pronechen

Register Staff Writer

September 12-25, 2010 Issue | Posted 9/4/10 at 1:46 PM

 

Faithful Catholic colleges know why theology is the pre-eminent subject.

Jeremy Holmes, assistant professor of theology and academic dean designee at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyo., says, “Without theology, the university becomes a multiversity.”

Because theology is faith seeking understanding, a curriculum that includes theology becomes a more unified curriculum, says Father Daniel Pattee, chair of the theology department at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.

“It’s the realm of faith that unites things and brings them together,” he explains. “It has a unifying effect on the whole curriculum instead of thinking of the disciplines as being so disparate and separate from each other.”

Why is it the great unifying subject? “Because the author of what science studies is God and the author of what we study in revelation is God,” stresses Father Pattee.

Michael Dauphinais, dean of faculty and associate professor of theology at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Fla., says, “To leave aside theology and the truth it conveys means that a university education no longer can answer our deepest questions about God, the universe, and our purpose and destiny. Such an education fails to prepare graduates for their future roles as citizens, professionals and members of families, roles that require a sound understanding of man’s unique dignity and vocation.”

According to John Zmirak, writer in residence at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, N.H., “Unless he has grown up inside the tiny subculture of believers that are ‘H.V. (Humanae Vitae) positive,’ the average Catholic college student is likely to be ignorant of the core beliefs of his own religion at best. If his religious education came at the hands of dissenting Catholics, he will have actually been vaccinated against the truth. Serious, substantive, challenging theology courses that present the Church’s claims may offer such students their last real opportunity to reclaim their baptismal birthright before they make critical decisions about career, marriage and childrearing.”

Says Zmirak, “We know that theology really is a matter of eternal life and death. Theology classes should be required, demanding and catechetical. Catholic colleges that demand any less are really just whispering to their students that the faith is, at best, a hobby.”

Dauphinais points out that Cardinal John Henry Newman, who wrote The Idea of a University and who will be beatified Sept. 19, observed that “an education that precludes theology inevitably replaces the revealed truth about God and the human person with faulty and incomplete views drawn from other disciplines necessarily resulting in a reduction of reality.

“In contrast,” he says, “when theology forms the center of the curriculum and its view of the human person and God, the other disciplines, ranging from literature to economics, from psychology to biology, are freed to illuminate the majestic and countless aspects of the universe and our place therein.”

Staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.