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The Value of a “Liberally” Catholic Education

Image by Picography via Pixabay. Image by Picography via Pixabay.

Last week, I wrote a relatively critical article about my soon-to-be alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross. While my relationship with my school is troubled, I do feel the need to defend it. It seems that religious conservatives are often highly critical of religiously-affiliated colleges and universities like Holy Cross (HC), Georgetown, and Notre Dame because they appear mildly heterodox or otherwise outside of the norm These critiques contain some validity, but they fail to appreciate the religious experiences that these institutions offer.

I’m the first to criticize Holy Cross’s campus ministry program. At best, it’s too service-oriented and, at worst, it promotes a sort of semi-Pelagianism that mentions Jesus about a tenth as often as it mentions social justice. I do wish we paid more attention to Christ's life, Passion, death, and resurrection.

That said, I do think that Holy Cross does well by emphasizing religion of any sort. I can go to mass everyday here. I have multiple mass options on Sundays, which I can go to with my friends, requiring minimal travel. Priests are always available.

It's crucial to remember that just because a priest is “liberal” or a “Jesuit,” does not invalidate his views. Some priests here at HC, who might otherwise seem “heterodox,” are, in reality” deeply religious men who have chosen to consecrate themselves to God. They care about their students, about their school, and about their God.

I’ve even seen this at other institutions. I have many friends who attend Georgetown and seem to enjoy a meaningful and orthodox religious experience. Is it perfect? Probably not. But we are all imperfect. Exposure to the religious life in a religious environment is not only beautiful but also nurturing. I’d be lying if I said that Holy Cross made me some sort of social justice warrior, when it actually made me more Catholic, and, in a way, more conservative.

Further, these more “liberal” institutions emphasize something frequently left out of conservative political discourse: Service. Can it be over-emphasized? Absolutely. But I have too often seen exclusion on our college campuses. There’s nothing wrong with praying for trans-youths who commit suicide. There’s nothing wrong with protest done correctly. There’s nothing wrong with joining the Peace Corps, or something similar; there’s nothing wrong with wanting to help others not just in prayer but also in action.

I would love to see more pointed and less general criticism directed at "liberal" colleges. I would love to see more dialogue and fewer labels. I recognize that dialogue is challenging, but I am also hopeful for more agreement among the varying sides. We have all heard platitudes used to dismiss the arguments of other sides, when, in reality, there is truth to be found within us all.

Dialogue is desperately needed.

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