Newman’s Idea of a University Today


– [Casey] Welcome to all of you for attending this event. It goes without saying that the person we are all waiting for, not me, to hear from needs no introduction, but I’m gonna introduce him anyway because he deserves an introduction. I don’t think it is a stretch to say Monsignor Richard Liddy is
ubiquitous on this campus, and that- – [Richard] Throughout the world. – [Casey] Yeah, throughout the world, he’s ubiquitous, he’s everywhere. And most if not all of us here today have in one way or another
worked with Monsignor Liddy or at the very least
benefited from something that he has worked on or
has done on this campus, especially through his leadership role as a director of the Center
for Catholic Studies. In addition to his work with
the Center for Catholic Studies Monsignor Liddy is of course well known both nationally and internationally as a leading scholar of
the Jesuit Theologian and Philosopher, Bernard Lonergan. Monsignor Liddy’s scholarship
has made Seton Hall one of the leading
institutions for the study of Lonergan’s work. Recently in 2018, I guess
that’s recent enough, Monsignor Liddy’s highly
acclaimed 1993 book, Transforming Light Intellectual Conversion in the early Lonergan was
translated into Italian. And I remember asking him how do you know that they translated it correctly? And he sort of said we just have to take it on faith (laughs). (audience laughs) In 2006, he published
another monograph on Lonergan titled Startling Strangeness, Reading Lonergan’s Insight. I should also note that Monsignor Liddy is the founding editor
of the academic journal the Lonergan Review, which is sponsored by Seton Hall’s Lonergan Institute, which Monsignor Liddy also started. So he has his hands in
so many different things, that we are all the
wonderful beneficiaries of. In addition to his work on Lonergan, Monsignor Liddy is also a leading scholar of Saint John Henry Newman’s thought. He is the past president,
I think the past president, you’re not the current president,
you’re the past president of the Newman Association of America, and he has played a key role in advancing the recent canonization of Cardinal Newman this past October in 2019. Monsignor Liddy’s deep
study and appreciation for Lonergan and
especially Cardinal Newman is the driving force behind
his current book project, tentatively titled The
University and a New Key, the Mission of the
Catholic University Today. And I believe that
Monsignor Liddy’s talk today titled Newman’s Idea of a University Today will offer a sneak preview of sorts to some of the themes he is
working out in this new book on Catholic higher education. So without further delay, please join me in welcoming Monsignor
Liddy who holds the title of Professor of religion
and the university professor of Catholic thought and culture. Monsignor Liddy. (audience applauds) – [Richard] Thanks very much, Casey. Casey’s a dear friend,
good guy to work with. He’s a terrific guy to work with, so I’m happy to do this lecture today. Saint John Henry Newman,
it’s hard for me to get used to calling him Saint John Henry Newman, because I’ve always known
him as Cardinal Newman or John Henry Newman. I think he’d be surprised to
be referred to as a saint. He once made a remark about, theologians aren’t usually saints, something to that effect. So anyway, I was very privileged
to be at Saint Peter’s when they named Pope Francis, named John Henry Newman a saint. I had always had an interest, it really was not my
fundamental scholarly interest, which was Bernard Lonergan, as Casey said. But I always had an interest in Newman. I remember when I first
entered the seminary, which was up in Darlington New Jersey, up near Mahwah right
on the New York border. Beautiful park there, Ramapo Park now, but that was all part of the seminary. And I remember sitting by
the river, the Ramapo River, and reading Louie Boyet’s The Spirituality of John Henry Newman, a beautiful book, and I actually, it was the first week in the seminary and it was totally quiet. And I said well what do
you do when totally quiet, well you have to read a book,
you have to have something. So anyway I read the
book on John Henry Newman and it always has been
in the back of my mind. Different times in my
life I read Newman this or Newman on that. 80 volumes, 40 volumes of letters. About 40 some, I don’t know how many are in the collective works,
30 some I believe. So anyway, it’s a lot of writing. So he wrote about a lot
of different subjects, one of which was the
idea of the university. But in the early ’80s I
happened to be in Rome, and I was living at the
North American college, and a Jesuit priest by
the name of Vincent Blail was at the college and he was working on the process of going
through all Newman’s works to make sure they were okay
with the Catholic church. It’s quite a process,
and volumes of volumes. So I had to read 15, he
asked me to be part of that. I had to read 15 of Newman’s
works, philosophical and theological works,
and write an evaluation that he’s a good guy, it’s
worth listening to him. Anyway this is just one
volume that came out of that whole process,
called the Positsio, and it goes to the
Vatican, it goes to the, eventually to the Pope,
and a whole bunch of people sign their names. They thought that Newman
was truly a holy man and for some of us, a real
teacher of the church. So anyway, that was a very,
that was great privilege for me to be part of that process. It took a long time to
read through these volumes and then to write essays on all of them. But so that’s why Newman has
really meant a lot to me. It’s also, I found out
later that my teacher, Father Lonergan, who Casey mentioned, was also, oh this is a Seton
Hall connection in Rome at the canonization, I should’ve, anyway, I was, if you look closely you can see me- (audience laughs) So anyway it was a great
privilege to be part of that process and then to be there at the canonization on October 13th, just this past October 13th. And that’s the, they hang a
banner with Newman’s picture on the front of Saint Peter’s. And there were some Seton
Hall people in Rome, some students, maybe you
might recognize Ben Jarosz, right there. We went out to dinner, had a
nice Italian dinner that night. And they, somebody brought
a Seton Hall banner, I think it was Ben, and I
was hoping he’d come today so he could see his picture. But anyway, I’m just,
this is just a little bit of an introduction to the canonization, the process of going through all his works and getting testimony
of people that knew him. It was a long process. He died in 1890, and so
he was canonized in 2019. So quite a few years. So anyway, just to talk a little bit, what I’ll do is talk a
little bit about Newman, and then say something about
the idea of the university, which is probably the most
famous book ever written about the nature of the university, and I’ll quote some people on that. And then make some conclusions,
talk about some other aspects of this. Newman was a very religious man, and he always attributed a
spiritual experience he had as a teenager, 15, to his
interest in the spiritual life, and the presence of god in life. And he talks about it in his
book, the Apologia Pro Vita Sua which is sort of his
story, it’s his story. And he says, “When I was
15 in the summer of 1816, “a great change of
thought took place in me.” He had been reading Voltaire and Hume and some of the free
thinkers and materialists and rationalist thinkers who
were interpreting science in a very materialist way,
had been reading them. And then in the midst of
it, somebody gave him some other books, some Christian books, and so he says, “When I was
15 in the summer of 1816, “a great change of
thought took place in me. “I fell under the influence
of a definite creed, “received into my intellect
impressions of dogma “which through God’s mercy have never been “effaced or obscured.” So he was writing this
when he was in his 60s, and he’s saying you know,
I just know God touched me when I was a teenager. So sometimes when I’ll
bring this up to students I’ll say you know, you have to value your experiences as a young person, even as a teenager. You have to value what you
experience at this university. Because Newman’s a good example of someone who really had a drive
to figure things out, to get to know things,
and in the midst of that, he experienced a tremendous
inner conversion. And some people talk about his whole life as a process of change, of movement. Soon after that experience,
he said “I’m so sure “that God touched me at that age, “than that I have hands or feet.” He had such a sense of the
inner life, you might say, and that it was so powerful to him that looking back years
later he said that was really an important moment,
when I was a teenager. He then went on to
college, to the university, Oxford of course, and
his undergraduate college was Trinity College. Sometimes here at Seton Hall
we’ve made tours to Oxford, and Newman’s presence in
Oxford is very prominent. Trinity was his undergraduate college, and it’s amazing to see what he studied. Aristotle, Euclid, the
sciences, the classics. Tremendous classical
background and classical study. Looking back at it
later he said, you know, but the one thing I missed was
there was nobody to guide me. I didn’t have structure, I
was reading and reading a lot, studying a lot, but there was no influence that helped me to separate the pieces. And he said the happiest day of his life was when he was given a
fellowship at Oriole College. He describes sitting in
his room and the butler coming to tell him the news
that he had passed the exam to be a fellow at Oriole College. Oriole was probably the most
prominent college at the time, in Oxford, and it’s probably
the most known scholars and teachers that were at Oriole College. And he talked about the butler giving him the notice that he had
been named a scholar, a fellow, of Oriole College. And he tried to look
relaxed and nonchalant, but as soon as the butler left, he went running down the
stairs and charging over. And met, he went to
the Oriole common room. If they talked about
the Oriole common room, some of the great minds of the times, John Kebel, was an author of a famous book called the Christian Year. And Newman looking back
talks about the people and the books that influenced him. And eventually he’ll say
that’s what a university is. It’s what happens to
you when you meet people and they help you to change and deepen, and you read the books
that are important and, so the Oriole common
room was, you might say, the place where he met all
these very important people. And the people that
brought him out of himself. He’s a very introspective young man, and he talks about Richard Whately, who later he helped write a book on logic, John Stewart Mills’
logic was used in Oxford for many years, and
Whately’s book on logic, the nature of logic, Newman
helped him to write it and helped him to publish it. It was used before Mills’
famous work on logic. But Richard Whately was
the person who helped, he said Newman was very introspective, he was very quiet. So they said go for a walk with Newman and help him out of himself. So he really did that, and Newman says, “He helped me to think for myself “and to walk on my own feet.” A beautiful tribute to what
a university should do. To help a person to think for themselves and realize that they
can think for themselves, they don’t have to accept
everything that comes along. And you can walk on your own feet. So anyway, the people, he writes about the people who influenced him. Another was a friend of
his, Richard Harold Prude, who helped him to look back in history beyond the reformation to middle ages, and to a time when
Catholicism had integrated many aspects, the
intellectual and the personal, and the symbolic, the artistic. Catholics call it the
sacramental, the sacraments. God acting through nature. So the influences of people and books that influenced him,
obviously the classics, a man names Thomas Scott,
a Protestant writer who talked about the importance
of holiness before peace, and growth the only evidence of life. So these are themes that will come up again and again in Newman’s writings and in his sermons and in his teaching. Holiness before peace, and
growth the only evidence of life. And then his friend John Kebel, who if you go to Oxford now, you’ll find a Kebel College. And he wrote a book
called the Christian Year and Newman says, “There
was music in that book.” He uses that image of music as to indicate that somebody’s speaking in
a really deep personal way and communicating from
the soul, as it were. And Newman was comparing that with a very utilitarian and materialistic
interpretation of science, and a man named Jeremy
Bentham who was the founder of the utilitarian school. And Newman said, “Bentham didn’t have “an ounce of music in his bones.” (audience laughs) You know, and Newman
used this image of music, how important for writers
to write from their hearts. So one of his famous lines,
one of his famous sayings was “Cor ad Cor Loquitur,”
heart speaks to heart. If you speak from the heart,
you’ll speak to the heart. And so, that, the fathers of the church became especially important,
the ancient writers. So Newman said, “I looked
at the church around me “and it seemed to be floundering.” And then I read about the early church, the early centuries of the church, and especially the church
of Alexandria in Egypt and early Christian church there. And he said, there’s a quote there, a beautiful quote about Saint Athanasius, and the church of Alexandria. “The broad philosophy
of Clement and origin “carried me away. “Some portions of their teaching,
magnificent in themselves “came like music to my inward ear, “as if in response to ideas
which with little external “to encourage them, I
had cherished so long. “These were based on the mystical
or sacramental principle. “I understood them to mean
that the exterior world, “physical and historical was
but the outward manifestation “of realities greater than itself.” So, he experienced
contemporary life in England and the English church, and
then he read the fathers of the church and he said
there’s something wrong here, they’re not in sync with the
best of the Catholic history. And the Christian history. And so this all worked on Newman’s life and on his mind and on
his decision making, and he finally wrote an
essay on the development of Christian doctrine. We have Monsignor McCarren
here who did his doctoral dissertation on that. I won’t call of you to, (laughs). But the idea was to live is to change, and to be perfect is to change often. Beautiful line. To live is to change and to
be perfect is to change often. And the church changed, and it did change, but it kept a commitment to the gospel, to Christ, it implemented that in new ways and new situations even
using Greek philosophy to speak about the gospel. So my teacher, Father Lonergan said if you really wanna understand
the second Vatican counsel read Newman’s essay on the
development of Christian doctrine which took human culture and human history and human development very seriously, and God working through
all, through all of that. Finally he decided to become
a Catholic, a Roman Catholic. He was in a lot of controversies. And to read Newman,
you’re reading somebody who was involved in a lot of battles. And even though he was very introspective he became the leader,
most well known teacher and preacher in England. Some people say well he
really wasn’t a saint because he really responded to so many, he was hypersensitive in some areas. And then I read Father
Boyet, it’s in this book, he said “Well who’s to say that sensitive people can’t be saints?” In other words, God takes our humanity, our personality, as we are and as, so finally he decided to become a Catholic and he was received into the
church by an Italian priest on October 9th, 1845. My, Father Lonergan said his
conversion process took years. To change your mind, to do something new, to make decisions, that’s a long process. And for Newman, he writes about it, he said you know I struggled,
I didn’t wanna be led by my feelings, I wanted
this to be reasonable. Someone said that Catholics
had talked him into it, he said “Catholics didn’t make
me a Catholic, Oxford did.” Which is beautiful. The people he met, the books he read, the things that happened in him, that’s why he eventually
became a Catholic. Now let me talk a little
bit about the idea of the university. I wanna hear from Mike
and I hope we’re able to have a little discussion
about university life here today. After he became a Catholic
in 1852 he was named the rector of university college Dublin, the Catholic university in Ireland. The Irish bishops wanted a university for the Catholics of Ireland,
who were traditionally looked down upon by the English. And Newman wrote this
book eventually published as the idea of the university, and a recent book, 2007 said, “The most influential,” called it “The most
influential book ever written “in the English language
about universities.” James Joyce said that Newman
was “the best writer of prose “in the English language.” Quite a statement. And then a man named Frank Turner who had his problems with Newman wrote this. “No work in the English language has had “more influence on the public
ideals of higher education. “No other book on the
character and purposes “of universities has
received so frequent citation “and praise by other
academic commentators. “Like the negotiator who succeeds
by being the first person “to get his material on the table, “Newman against all odds and experience “established the framework
within which later generations “have considered
university academic life.” That’s quite, so there, and
there were a lot of quotes like that from various
writers about the importance of the Idea of the University. I’ll just say a little bit
about what does Newman think a university is about? Well it’s about getting people together and talking to each other,
and conversations like this, and changing in the process. Being willing to have,
to change your ideas or to think the ideas through in such a way that you
even become more yourself. So he called it a liberal education, which means freeing. An education is something
that should free you from everything that narrows. From biases and everything
that makes you a narrow person. Universities should open
your mind to everything, to everything. And it’s a personal thing. And he has some great
quotes about the importance of personal presence. I was at a group the other day that were talking about online learning and the upshot is that nobody
ever has to meet anybody they just, you’re in the
computer all the time, and they can go and live in Florida and teach a course no matter where. But, and if I can just find
this one quote about the, let me see, “The general principles of any study “you may learn by books at home, “but the detail, the color, the tone, “the air, the life which
makes it live in us, “you must catch all these from those “in whom it lives already.” So the importance of the
personal presence of the teacher is so important for Newman. Obviously students come from all over because there are people
here who know things, and the students they learn
teaching and learning. But the importance of personal presence, I’ll say something about
Seton Hall in my life at the end of this. But liberal learning, it’s
personal, it’s relational, it enlarges the mind, involves method, learning how to do things
in a methodical way. Aiming at the whole, so for
him relating the sciences to each other, how does
sociology relate to physics. How does mathematics relate to literature. Is there a sense that there’s
a whole circle of knowledge, a whole circle of the disciplines. That it’s important for students to have the feeling for and a sense
of and an openness to, with a priority especially for the human. So the physics and the natural sciences are very important but what does it mean to be a human being, as a central question for the human person. And of course for Newman, it’s important that the question of God be part of that. All the great religions of the world point to the openness of the
human heart to the beyond. And Newman especially
emphasizes the beyond that guides our consciences. To the extent that you say hey,
I think I ought to do this, and I ought not to do that. Is there a personal
dimension of the universe, a personal good, or a good person at the core of the
universe that’s calling us, leading us, guiding us, and
saying hey stay away from that. And is this an important
question to raise, for people to raise. The openness to the question of God. And all of that rooted in the self, in a knowledge of oneself. He has a beautiful line,
this is from a book he wrote some years later, the Grammar of Assent. “I am what I am or I am nothing. “I cannot think, reflect,
or judge about my being “without starting from the very point “which I aim at concluding. “I cannot avoid being
sufficient for myself, “for I cannot make myself anything else, “and to change me is to destroy me. “If I do not use myself, I
have no other self to use. “What I have to ascertain are the laws “under which I live.” So Newman, he wasn’t a
professional philosopher, but he had a philosophical
temperament that lead him to say who am I, what’s going on in me, what’s happening. My own teacher, Father
Lonergan called Newman my fundamental mentor and guide. Newman was his fundamental
mentor and guide, even though Newman was a
lot more popular writer and not as systematic as Father Lonergan. Some people are laughing because
they’ve seen this before. This is Father Lonergan’s
systematic account of all the disciplines in the university and what’s going on in
the minds of teachers who teach history or
research or interpret writers or talk about big movements or what’s happening in
the battles that we’re all involved in, the dialectic. And what are our principles? For Newman, your principles
are where you are in your life. Where you’re coming from. Why do you vote this way politically and why do you stand for this? And the policies you make, the doctrines, the planning that you do. And Newman wrote hundreds of sermons, and they’re very beautiful,
’cause he was interested in communicating with people. So I threw that in, that’s
just what Father Lonergan calls functional
specializations in theology. But I’m trying to write
this book on Newman and through the eyes of Lonergan, and it’s very interesting
how it all falls into place. Newman’s own conversion, his
thinking about conversion, and his communicating. So anyway, I’ll skip this,
Father Lonergan on his method. “It’s not a set of rules to be followed “meticulously by adult,”
I love that word adult. “It’s a framework for
collaborative creativity. “It would outline the various clusters “of operations involved
in any investigation.” So just one final point
about the university that Newman makes, both in
the Idea of the University and elsewhere. He said it’s not enough for a university to teach as well as it
can, liberal learning, and really inspire students to study and to ask questions and to
think as clearly as they can. But students need more than that. They also need colleges, like Oxford. Oxford had Trinity
College, Christ’s Church. From the middle ages,
ways for students to grow morally and religiously
as well as intellectually. So the small group
principle at the university for Newman was very very important. “Regularity, rule, respect for others, “the eyes of friends and acquaintances. “The absence from temptation,
external restraints generally, “are of first importance in
protecting us against ourselves. “Faith and morals are in great danger “when we leave our own
home and the remedy is “to form other homes
and small communities.” So anyway I’ll just leave you with that. I have a couple more slides
but I’m not gonna show them. But looking back at my
experience of Seton Hall, there were the key people
and the key groups. Key people I think of my
professor, Father Holiwell. First exam I took in
his course I got a 19. (audience laughs) And that weekend I learned Greek. I laid on the rug and really studied and it broke the back of things. It was probably important,
and he was wonderful. He had these sayings from Augustin. “You have made us for yourself, oh lord, “and our hearts are restless
until I rest in thee.” And I knew my heart was restless, and Augustin’s words
came through Holiwell, and spoke to me. He also had another one, I
think it was from Longfellow. “‘Tis better to have loved and lost “than never to have loved at all.” See somebody nodding here. I still am not sure I
know what that means. “‘Tis better to have loved and lost “than never to have loved at all.” And then in Bolin Hall we
would meet late at night, a lot of the students
and I remember saying we would argue about what is science, what is science? And you know, years
later I think I was able to get a few answers to that. But those small groups
are really important. And I look at our students now and I say yeah we probably give
them a good general view, but how does that fit with their lives? And I can see that at its best, Seton Hall provides a whole lot of
different small group settings where what’s true academically
and intellectually also becomes part of
their minds and hearts. So anyway, I’m sorry if
I’ve spoken too long. I’m glad Michael is here to
refute everything I’ve said. And I’m happy to, Casey? – [Casey] Thank you
Monsignor Liddy (laughs). (audience applauds) Just to get some conversation going, I’d like to welcome
Doctor Mike Shea up here just to provide a brief response to get us to think about questions that
we can talk about together. Doctor Shea is a teaching fellow in the university core program and he is a leading Newman
scholar in his own right. He is the author most
recently of a book titled Newman’s Early Roman Catholic Legacy, published by Oxford University Press. So I am very happy that
he’s here to join us. (audience applauds) – [Mike] Well, thank you Father Liddy. I don’t think I have very much
to critique in your lecture. But as a 19th century historian I think I do have something to add. And that’s a word about
the material context in which Newman wrote about the university and the tutorial system. In the 1820s through the 1850s, faculty members lived with their students. They were also bachelors
and they were all male, so some of the problems that
would be involved with that today wouldn’t have been
the case in Newman’s day. But in the tutorial system people met with their tutors or their fellow. There actually weren’t too
many professors in that age. But they would meet with the
person who was educating them. They might have a
relatively short composition that they wrote about a
set of reading assignments that they would’ve been given. And then they would return to their, to their suite or to their library for another week of
reading and then they would come back for another
conversation with their tutor. So there was a lot of
give and take involved and a lot of intellectual probing involved in the formation of young people in Oxford in the 19th century. And what this made me think of
with respect to your lecture is that the truth, much in the same way that as a conversation, the
truth has a claim upon us. When someone is standing in front of you, they have a claim upon your attention much more than they have a
claim upon your attention when you’re typing on a keyboard. So you mentioned online
education as not really rising to the same level as
interpersonal interaction. So I would say, if there’s one thing that I wanna draw out of your presentation it’s that the truth has a claim on us and for Newman the truth is
always part of the whole. The truth is a body, and as a whole, it’s not simply abstract. It’s always embodied in a life, and the truth, and therefore learning is also a process of conversion. And for Newman, learning
was equally a process of religious conversion. So, what is the take away? What is the take away from this? I think we can ask a lot
of questions about what, what does an ideal
university look like today, given its different contexts,
different constraints, different strengths? Do we, how do we form our curricula? How do we think about the
physical space of universities and the way that we use that space? How do we think about the way
that we manage classrooms? How do we think about core curriculum and how things come together? So I guess I would just
like to leave everyone with some of those questions. I don’t want to ask every question. I think some of you have
questions for Father Liddy, maybe for me too, but. – [Richard] It’s great to hear. – [Mike] Sure. – [Casey] Great, thank you. – [Mike] Sure, thank you. (audience applauds)

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