Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"unquestionable, and not to be suspected by Catholics"

"as regards mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, and similar subjects, one man will not, on the score of his religion, treat of them better than another . . . the works of even an unbeliever or idolator, while he kept within the strict range of such studies, might be safely admitted into Catholic lecture-rooms, and put without scruple into the hands of Catholic youths. . . .  so long as it is man who is the geometrician, or natural philosopher, or mechanic, or critic, no matter what man he be, Hindoo, Mahometan, or infidel, his conclusions within his own science, according to the laws of that science, are unquestionable, and not to be suspected by Catholics, unless Catholics may legitimately be jealous of fact and truth, of divine principles and divine creations."

     John Henry Newman, The idea of a university II.3 ("English Catholic literature").2.1; The idea of a university, ed. Frank M. Turner (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 1996), 180-181.
I have been speaking of the scientific treatises or investigations of those who are not Catholics, . . . but I might even go on to speak of them in their persons as well as in their books.  Were it not for the scandal which they would create; were it not for the example they would set; were it not for the certain tendency of the human mind involuntarily to outleap the strict boundaries of an abstract science, and to teach it upon extraneous principles, to embody it in concrete examples, and to carry it on to practical conclusions; above all, were it not for the indirect influence, and living energetic presence, and collateral duties, which accompany a Professor in a great school of learning, I do not see (abstracting from him, I repeat, in hypothesis, what never could possibly be abstracted from him in fact) why the chair of Astronomy in a Catholic University should not be filled by a La Place, or that of Physics by a Humboldt.  Whatever they might wish to say, still, while they kept to their own science, they would be unable, like the heathen Prophet in Scripture, to 'go beyond the word of the Lord, to utter any thing of their own head'" (181, italics mine).


Elaine Butler said...

And yet, all education is ultimately discipleship. What we teach cannot be separated from Who we trust. This the challenge of Faithful teachers in secular schools as well.

Steve Perisho said...

Agreed. But as for your "Whom we trust", the question would be, Do you trust Him as Creator, both objectively, in terms of what "the heavens reveal", and subjectively, in terms of the capacity of the human mind (a creature endowed with logos) to grasp truths of the natural order. Note how carefully Newman (in the middle of a long and complicated book given over almost entirely--in one way or another--to teasing out the relation between faith and reason) qualifies what he says here: "while he kept within the strict range of such studies", etc., etc.