Thursday, September 03, 2009

Prof. Freddoso's Introduction to What Happened to Notre Dame? - Part 1: "Why I Was Not Scandalized"

In my preview the other day of Prof. Charles Rice's new book, What Happened to Notre Dame, the synopsis that I excerpted mentioned a Preface by Prof. Ralph McInerny and an Introduction by Prof. Alfred Freddoso. Either Prof. McInerny's Preface didn't make the final edits, or it is excluded for some reason from the review copies that were sent out, because it does not appear in the copy that I received. [UPDATE: Special thanks to Prof. Freddoso who emails to inform me that Prof. McInerny has been ill most of the summer and, therefore, was not up to writing the Preface. Prof. McInerny now appears to be well on his way to recovery.]

So, I'll start my review of What Happened to Notre Dame? with Prof. Freddoso's Introduction, which I will cover in 3 parts. The first of the 3 parts will deal with the reasons that Prof. Freddoso claims not to have been "scandalized" by Notre Dame's decision to award Pres. Obama an honorary law degree despite the President's abortion advocacy.

Freddoso asserts that he was not scandalized because, essentially, this is the sort of thing he has come to expect from Our Lady's University:
The reason I was not scandalized was that I had ... lived through the last thirty years of those historical trends that Charlie Rice ably identifies in this book: the university's steadily intensifying and often frustrated aspiration to be regarded as a major player on the American educational scene; the concomitant segregation of faith from reason; the deterioration of the core curriculum for undergraduates into a series of disjointed 'course distribution requirements' guided by no comprehensive conception of what an educated Catholic should know; the easy transition from a faculty dominated by 'progressive' Catholics to a faculty more and more dominated by people ignorant of the intellectual ramifications of the Catholic faith; the concomitant marginalization of faculty who professed allegiance to, or even admiration for, the present-day successors of the Apostles; and a succession of high-level administrators lacking in a philosophical vision of Catholic higher education and intent on diffusing throughout the university a pragmatic mentality at once both bureaucratic and corporate.
Freddoso argues that these trends have
put more and more strain on the relationship between the university and the Church it claimed to be serving and even to be 'doing the thinking for', to cite one astonishingly presumptuous catchphrase used by the university to promote itself.
Which brings Freddoso to conclude that, indeed, Notre Dame is NOT a Catholic university ... "i.e. an institution of higher learning where the Catholic faith pervades and enriches, and is itself enriched by, the intellectual life on campus."

A Public School in a Catholic Neighborhood
Rather, Freddoso uses the model of a public school in a Catholic neighborhood to describe the environment at Notre Dame, noting that when those associated with the university mistakenly proclaim it to be a Catholic university,
they assume without much thought that the Catholic character of the university is borne almost entirely by the 'neighborhood', i.e. by the university's sacramental life ... and by the sheer number of 'outdoor' and 'indoor' manifestations of Catholicism such as the statue of Our Lady atop the Golden Dome, Sacred Heart Basilica, the Grotto, the "Touchdown Jesus" mural, and scores of statues found all over the 'neighborhood'.
Freddoso contrasts the "neighborhood" part of the university with the "public school" part of Notre Dame:
The classroom or laboratory, by contrast, is a wholly different venue, despite the presence of crucifixes... This is where 'reason' resides on campus and where 'the mind is educated'; and it has little or nothing to do with Catholicism. (It is no accident that the newest science building on campus contains no noteworthy religious symbols in general, and no noteworhty Catholic symbols in particular. That's the way the science faculty wanted it.)
The professor laments that the
conviction that a Catholic student's intellectual life should be fully integrated with his or her Catholic beliefs and practices is very much a minority view.
Which brings us back to the reason for Prof. Freddoso's contention that he was not scandalized by the university's decision to honor the most pro-abortion President in history:
I have come to expect that the teachers and administrators of the public school will periodically decide to tweak the noses of the 'unenlightened' among their Catholic neighbors. That's just the way it often is with public schools in Catholic neighborhoods.

Coming up next:
Prof. Freddoso's Introduction to What Happended to Notre Dame? - Part 2: Why the Catholic Faithful WERE Scandalized.

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
What Happened to Notre Dame?

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At 9/03/2009 2:23 PM, Blogger Tito Edwards said...

Mind boggling.

Which would explain why so often many of my friends and acquaintances continue to say that the area is sooo "Catholic", yet the University is so worldly.



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