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The Benedict Centre and Public Life

The Benedict Centre and Public Life

On 6th May, the Catholic Herald published a news article by Dan Hitchens entitled:

“St Mary’s University launches Benedict XVI Centre to ‘play a key role in public life’”

The centre is a good fruit of Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain in 2010, when he came to St Mary’s and  spoke about the interdependence of faith and reason. The centre’s director, Stephen Bullivant, said that the centre would “bring the riches of the Catholic tradition of social thought, the riches of Catholic teaching on faith and reason, into the national conversation.” The centre’s website explains it will address “primarily economics and sociology, and political science”. It will also become “a meeting-place where believers can speak to non-believers”.

It is laudable that there exists such a centre and Catholic university in England, albeit rather modest in size and influence so far. But Pope emeritus Benedict's encyclical Caritas in Veritate speaks of the necessary, close relation between the natural sciences and theology. It is striking that neither this new centre at St. Mary’s, nor the university’s other research “centres”, seem to have any element concerned with this important aspect of human thought. In the light of the Pope’s below words the centre will then only partially enter into “the national conversation”.

In Caritas in Veritate, 31, Pope Benedict writes:

“The excessive segmentation of knowledge, the rejection of metaphysics by the human sciences, the difficulties encountered by dialogue between science and theology are damaging not only to the development of knowledge, but also to the development of peoples, because these things make it harder to see the integral good of man in its various dimensions. The “broadening [of] our concept of reason and its application” is indispensable if we are to succeed in adequately weighing all the elements involved in the question of development and in the solution of socio-economic problems.”

There are pitifully few Catholic scientists involved in ecclesiastical institutes and this is to the detriment of the dialogue with the world which recent popes and bishops have encouraged. It is to be hoped that as the centre develops in its work, so it will broaden its outlook so that the natural sciences, the single most influential strand of philosophical thought in modern times, is not left out of the conversation.

Faith Magazine

September-October 2016

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