A Trinitarian Vision of Education
There has been spirited debate regarding the identity of Catholic colleges and universities in America in the fifty years following the Second Vatican Council. The tension of continuity and change was a crucial theme informing the Council, and it echoed throughout Catholic higher education. The development of Catholic higher education in the twentieth century exhibited a dialectic of cultural assimilation to American society, including the prevalent values and practices of its prized educational institutions, and retention of an identity reflecting commitments distinct from its host culture. Moreover, in recent years there has been a sharp decline in the number of priests and nuns on Catholic campuses; their presence once served as an easily identifiable and external marker of Catholic identity. These factors, among others, have contributed to the ongoing conversation regarding the role of the Catholic university in the world today. This conversation unfolds within the larger milieu of the American academy, which is characterized by the hyper-specialization of academic disciplines, the so-called fact/value dichotomy, and the commodification of education. Concerns that animated Blessed John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University during the nineteenth century persist in our day. Today the lively discussion includes many questions. What is the purpose of Catholic higher education and how is it distinct from secular higher education? What is the relation of Catholic theology to modern/post-modern thought and culture? What is the relation of theology to other academic disciplines at a Catholic university? What is the relevance of Catholic spirituality and its lived practices for the academic mission of Catholic higher education? How should the Catholic university relate to the magisterium? What is the role of doctrinal or ethical dissent in Catholic higher education? Do Catholic universities hold the same understanding of academic freedom as secular American universities? In sum, what does the adjective “Catholic” mean when applied to American higher education today, and what are the implications for the various facets of university life? This dissertation wades into these choppy waters by proposing an organizing vision of Catholic higher education rooted in Trinitarian friendship. Bernard Lonergan, S.J., provides a remarkable account of the synthesis of faith and reason – the logos of Athens with the heart of Jerusalem. His integral hermeneutics is fertile ground in the Catholic university’s quest for self-understanding. Lonergan transposed Thomas Aquinas by integrating theology with modern science and historical studies so that it can mount to the level of our times. He thus realized Pope Leo XIII’s program of augmenting and perfecting the old in light of the new. This dissertation plunges the riches of Lonergan’s Trinitarian theology and hermeneutics in order to propose a vision of Catholic higher education permeated by friendship. The thesis is that Lonergan’s integral hermeneutics – the mutual mediation of the ways “below upwards” and “above downwards” – provides a promising heuristic for the Catholic university’s self-understanding as a participation in the coordinated missions of the Son and the Spirit and therefore sharing in the life of the triune God – by exercising friendship. Lonergan’s Trinitarian theology developed the distinct and cumulative Augustinian-Thomistic tradition with deepened understanding of the psychological analogy and bestows upon the processions an ethical-existential import and heightens the role of divine intersubjectivity. Lonergan’s Trinitarian theology culminates in an analogy of the divine persons as a community of friends: three distinct eternal subjects in perfect friendship. In perfect friendship, they are completely bound together as “another self.” As the analogy of intelligible emanation elucidates, the divine persons are distinct in how they are in relation to one another. The immanent constitution of life in God is integrally related to God’s engagement in history because the divine missions are constituted by the processions of divine persons as bringing about consequent created terms (the hypostatic union and sanctifying grace) that enable human beings to share in the relationships among those divine persons in a new way. The divine missions, the sending of the Word and the Spirit into history, establish new interpersonal relations – friendships – with creation. Lonergan understands the mission of the Word in terms of friendship, specifically how friendship is perfectly expressed in the redemption achieved through Christ’s enacting of the gracious “Law of the Cross.” “For no love is greater than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Lonergan’s account of existential interiority progressed a theological understanding of the “invisible” mission of the Spirit as distinct and coordinated with the “visible” mission of the Word. Through friendship with God, a gift of the Holy Spirit, we are related to God as God is related to God. The missions of the Word and the Spirit enable our assimilation to the divine relations of friendship. Lonergan thus sheds light on Jesus’ extraordinary claim: “ I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). Lonergan’s integral hermeneutics is comprised by the mutual mediation of the vectors “below upwards” and “above downwards” in human development. In development “below upwards,” wonder drives the human subject from experiencing through understanding and onwards to judgment of values and loving commitment. Development “above downwards” originates in the dynamic state of being-in-love and cascades from judgment of values to understanding that colors experiencing. That Lonergan identified the extroverted, visible mission of the Word with development “below upwards” and the introverted, invisible mission of the Spirit with development “above downwards” is the basis for identifying his hermeneutics in terms of friendship. Thomas Groome’s renowned shared Christian praxis approach to religious education provides a pedagogical enactment of Lonergan’s integral hermeneutics. Groome has traced the correspondence between the five movements of shared Christian praxis and Lonergan’s philosophy of cognitional interiority. Shared Christian praxis may also be understood as a pedagogy of friendship because it invites friendship with oneself, the Christian Story/Vision, and the other participants throughout its five movements. Shared Christian praxis is a way of education that enables a community of learners to exercise their friendship with God. A pedagogy of friendship is epitomized in Christ’s journeying with the two on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). Shared Christian praxis may be summarized as a life to faith to (new) life in faith approach. This dissertation is organized accordingly. Friendship has universal practical meaning in people’s lives and is profoundly significant in the process of education. Conversation, the option for the poor, and worship are three practices whereby a Catholic university may exercise its friendship with God. In each case, friendship’s benevolentia heals wonder “above downwards” from its contraction and atrophy by supplanting concupiscence with love. God has offered us divine friendship in the outer Word made flesh in Christ Jesus and the inner word of love poured out in our hearts by the Spirit who has been given to us by the Father and the Son. Our friendships with one another and with God is wonder therapy and therefore completely integral to the intellectual formation at a Catholic university in our time.