For Notre Dame
Battling for the Heart and Soul of a Catholic University
by Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C.
St. Augustine's Press, 2013
(232 pages, $17.00, paperback)
Soldiers, religious believers, and scholar-philosophers all have a uniquely paradoxical relationship to the virtue of courage. The first two are enjoined to give up their lives, if necessary, for their country or their faith. The third are rarely called upon to make the supreme sacrifice but are enjoined, as definitive of their vocation, to dedicate themselves entirely to the pursuit of truth, no matter how inconvenient that pursuit might be.
Yet in practice it appears that it is often easier to live out a higher kind of courage than a lower one. Soldiers who willingly court death in battle often compromise amidst Pentagon politics. Clergy who would be willing to suffer martyrdom are not willing to live at odds with the clerical culture. As to scholar-philosophers, the universities that allegedly exist to guarantee the freedom to pursue the truth without fear or favor have instead become perfect environments of enforced intellectual conformity.
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James Hitchcock is Professor emeritus of History at St. Louis University in St. Louis. He and his late wife Helen have four daughters. His most recent book is the two-volume work, The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life (Princeton University Press, 2004). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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