Very reasonable

I would like to take this opportunity to respond to Professor Joseph Harry’s letter of Oct. 13 alleging the Catholic faith’s incompatibility with the free exercise of reason required in a university. First, Professor Harry’s argument is internally incoherent. He says a university’s function is to explore ideas held by the Catholics. Why not? Because they are “absolutist.” It seems that for Professor Harry the purpose of a university is to explore all ideas except those that have the poor taste to claim to be true.

Moreover, Professor Harry mistakenly implies that the “sole function and purpose” of the Catholic Church’s authority is to “foreclose thought, to limit intellectual alternatives,” and thereby to “render the intellect inoperative.” The Church’s purpose is to save souls by proclaiming the Truth as it was given to her by her Founder. Her authority to pronounce on faith and morals is properly understood as a means to that end. And the limiting of intellectual alternatives that accompanies the exercise of that authority is properly understood as a necessary side effect, and not as a “purpose” or “function.”

At any rate, does adherence to the Church’s teaching so limit intellectual alternatives as to make the believing Catholic incapable of the free exercise of reason demanded in a university? By no means. Again, the Church speaks with authority on faith and morals. This leaves the faithful Catholic mind free to venture as far as reason will take it in the fields of literature, history, philosophy, political science, sociology, mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, and so on.

Finally, in his dogmatic declaration of “relativism Uber Alles,” Professor Harry occupies a position far more hostile to the cultivation of the mind than Catholicism. For a believing Catholic the exercise of reason takes on the urgency and nobility of the pursuit of truth. For those who deny the existence of a truth for reason to discover, however, the exercise of reason can finally be no more than a pointless and self-indulgent mind game.

Carson Holloway

Graduate Student

Political Science