Colloquium "Catholic Universities and secularism"
ICES organized in October 2012 an international colloquium on the following subject : "Catholic Universities and secularism".
In preparation for the 2013 reunion of ICUSTA (International Council of the Universities of St Thomas Aquinas) at ICES in La Roche sur Yon (Vendee, France), the President of ICES and ICUSTA, Bertrand Doat, along with the Executive Director of ICUSTA, Professor Joseph McFadden, hosted a colloquium in October 2012 on the theme of Catholic Universities and Secularism, under the patronage of his Eminence Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard, President of Honor of the Colloquium. His Excellency, Monsignor Jean-Louis Bruguès, Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, will give the inaugural address.
The idea for this project came from the realisation that it is increasingly difficult to evangelise in the intellectual world of Catholic universities, at least in France; the reason being the intrusion into institutions and consciousnesses of secularism and notably one of its aspects, relativism.
To be more precise, it is emerging that students who enroll in Catholic universities in France, whether they come from state or private Catholic schools have a “mechanistic” and very often “atheistic” view of the world. Furthermore, they consider that these are neutral initial standpoints on which to base further reflection. However, in fact, these positions are the result of a choice which has already been made and which, albeit coherent, is arbitrary. Under these conditions, the kerygma is virtually impossible. Any proclamation of the Christ is immediately refuted and rejected as being non rational as it does not enter into the prerequisites of the contemporary world. It is, in fact, often devalued and presented as a discourse for children.
The professors themselves, educated in state universities, often share this same point of view. At best they juxtapose faith and ideology, refusing to allow their faith to question and put into doubt their intellectual positions.
It follows on then, that the Catholic university which should be a place for the quest for truth, is reduced to being a space in which there can be no real debate and where only the commonplaces of the politically and culturally correct are examined.
Consequently, Catholic universities whose mission is to stimulate critical reflection to encourage the receiving of the Truth, which is Christ, might find it impossible to accomplish their task. Faith, which should be a stimulation of the reasoning process, is ridiculed and marginalised as being unworthy of interest.
This conference was able to bring together intellectuals and university academics to :
1 - review the different aspects of secularism in Catholic universities in France and also in the rest of the world, as well as the differences which can exist between universities or between different countries. It will be advisable to examine the question from both pedagogical and research points of view.
2 - offer as examples, the universities which have succeeded in attaining a form of excellence as the result of introducing evangelisation into the heart of both their pedagogical and research programmes.
3 - offer perspectives which will help to reintroduce into Catholic universities, the fundamental element of their mission, which is the evangelisation of the intellectual world
Composition of the Scientific Council
List of members :
- President : Professor François Boulêtreau, previously General Director of ICES, Director of the Scientific Council
- Professor Joseph McFadden, Executive Director of ICUSTA, President Emeritus of the university of Saint Thomas, Houston
- Professor Dominique Vermersch, Agrocampus West, France
- Father Antoine Novawi, Director of the Theology department, ICES, France