The Catholic Church has been a prominent feature of the European and American intellectual landscape for more than a thousand years. In its medieval monasteries, Catholics preserved not only the writings and values of early Christian roots but also much of the heritage of Greco-Roman civilization and philosophy. More important than the past contributions of Catholic theologians, philosophers and religious leaders is the voice of the contemporary Catholic intellectual.
The idea of a Catholic Studies program at a secular university is to provide students with the opportunity of understanding and appreciating that heritage. Further such a program will provide the next generation of leaders with the tools for interpreting the intellectual legacy and value-systems of Catholicism as they deal with contemporary problems.
The challenges of the 21st century—to build just relationships between nations and diverse cultures—are unprecedented. Over one billion denizens of our global garden claim a Catholic tradition. If we are to foster understanding between cultural and religious traditions and to bring justice into our economic systems, should we not open our minds to the concepts of Catholic social justice? As we seek to preserve our environment, and to protect the health of the world’s peoples, the cogent assessments and moral direction of Catholic thinkers and ethicists must be weighed.
This is the task of the university—to educate, nurture and challenge its graduates to take on these public roles of intellectual leadership. Because it is a secular university with a highly respected reputation in religious scholarship, Claremont may well become an academic haven for Catholic intellectuals and ethicists from diverse strands of Catholic culture, experience and theological perspectives. Without an agenda of its own, Claremont can offer an arena of intellectual freedom, encouraging thinkers to speculate on the future directions of Catholic theology, culture, and traditions.
The heart of the Claremont Catholic Studies program would be two endowed chairs. The first would be for a reputed scholar familiar with the Catholic Church, its institutional history, its varied theological traditions, and the place (and future) of such theology within an ecumenical/ global perspective. The second chair would be awarded to a contemporary Catholic theologian trained in Catholic ethics working on problems of social justice and issues of global concern facing Christianity.
The two chairs are viewed as interdependent, representing the traditions and heritage of the Church as well as the emerging voices of the contemporary, post-Vatican-II Church. Thus, with two chairs, the Catholic Studies program will allow students, scholars, lay ministers, theologians, and religious leaders to explore the entire interlocking spectrum of Catholic intellectual and religious thought, in its doctrinal and historical traditions, in its multicultural voices and visions for the future—and in both its venerable core of systematic theology and its progressive branches of theological exploration. This exploration will take place in a setting that encourages creative speculation, demands a sound and sensitive connection to issues of social justice, promotes mutual respect, and provides full academic freedom of expression and conscience.
A Catholic Studies program would exist as an academic program de rigueur, for all scholars,and (no less importantly) as an enrichment program for the Catholic faith community in the Los Angeles area. The two purposes—never mutually exclusive—will be realized in several ways, as noted above and in the examples of proposed programs or events listed in the following section.
FMI, contact the office of the Department of Religion at firstname.lastname@example.org or 909.621.8612