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I just got back from Notre Dame where I attended the great conference “Radical Emancipation: Confronting the Challenge of Secularism,” at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. We brought Gregorian Fellows mentors and other Benedictine College people: Fourteen of us in all.
Conferences like this will have consequences we can hardly imagine. Universities were built to address the great questions, but they don’t do that anymore. Instead they focus on “the production of new bits of knowledge” as Anthony Kronman put it (quoted by Todd Buras of Baylor at the conference). That cedes the ground of the fundamental task of the university to institutions like this center and our own Gregorian Institute.
By sinking deep roots into Western culture, the scholars I heard last weekend are literally preserving academia. For now, here are 10 great quotes from the weekend:
“We are the diversity at Notre Dame.” — David Solomon, Director, Notre Dame Center for Ethics and culture, opening the conference.
“To evangelize is to declare to the various areas of the culture that Jesus Christ is Lord. … Evangelization doesn’t compromise culture, it elevates it.” —Father Robert Barron, Director, Word on Fire Ministries, on his breathtaking series Catholicism.
“You can never successfully evangelize a culture you don’t love.” — Father Barron quoting Cardinal Francis George, who launched Father Barron’s apostolate at the instigation of Pope John Paul II.
“Christian morals without God are neither Christian nor moral. When God is removed, they lose meaning and purpose.” —Ryan Topping, St. Thomas University, Fredricton, New Brunswick, Canada.
“My subject in fiction is the action of grace in territory held largely by the devil.” — Dan McInerny quoting Flannery O’Connor to explain why he likes No Country for Old Men.
“When your premise is an idea you feel you must prove to the world, and you design your story as an undeniable certification of that idea, you set yourself on the road to didacticism. In your zeal to persuade, you will stifle the voice of the other side.” — Dan McInerny quoting Robert McKee to explain why he doesn’t like Fireproof.
“Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of and the existence of free wills involve, and you will find that you have excluded life itself.” — C.S. Lewis quoted by Benedictine College counselor Jennifer Schmidt on the need for “perinatal hospice” for infants diagnosed before birth with fatal diseases.
“The goal of all marketing is the reduction of a big desire to a small desire. In other words, you long for beauty, love, friendship, wisdom, and it is the job of the marketer to convince you that the way you will achieve these desires is to purchase a certain brand of shampoo.” — Kimberly Shankman, Dean of Benedictine College, riffing on Benedictine colleague Salvatore Snaiderbaur.
“Shakesepeare was probably a Catholic who kept his views hidden because to reveal them to the public would have been too dangerous.” — Lucy Beckett, author of the great In the Light of Christ: Writings in the Western Tradition which she explains here.
“If I had known Carter Snead would be leading the center I would have retired years ago.”— David Solomon at the close of his last conference, introducing his successor, the incomparable Carter Snead.
… and a bonus eleventh quote, from Stephen D. Minnis, president of Benedictine College, speaking at Notre Dame: “You may have heard of us. We are a Catholic university in the Midwest with a winning football tradition, a catchy fight song, a Marian grotto that people come from all over to light candles at — and we are 100% faithful to the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.”
Also posted at CatholicVote.org.