[CUA Office of Public Affairs]

Commentary on Papal Encyclical

October 27,1998


 "Fides et Ratio," Pope John Paul II’s recent letter to the Catholic bishops, "stresses the validity of reason, the autonomy of reasoning and the ability of religious faith to confirm reason in some of its conclusions," said the Rev. Robert Sokolowski, a speaker at a symposium on the pontiff’s 13th encyclical, held recently at The Catholic University of America.

"Philosophy – or human reason – finds expression in ordinary human life, in politics and in religious belief," said Sokolowski, a philosophy professor at Catholic University.

The pontiff’s call for the renewal of philosophical inquiry that is animated by faith is especially important in today’s social and political climate where "theoretical distortions of the truth have gained dominance in public life," said panelist John C. McCarthy, who also is a professor of philosophy at Catholic University.

The pope is uniquely qualified to address the relationship between theology and philosophy today because he is "the first pope who is thoroughly educated in modern philosophy and literature," said McCarthy.

Catholic University Professor Robin Darling, an expert in patristics, praised the document for its discussion of the debt modern theology owes to the ancient philosophers and great medieval Christian philosophers, such as St. Thomas Aquinas.

"In the encyclical, theology is called to be more diligent and studious and to employ philosophy in pursuit of faith and divine knowledge," she said.

"Fides et Ratio," released by the Vatican on October 15, "challenges Catholic colleges and seminaries to strengthen the study of philosophy, which is central not only to priestly formation but important for anyone who seeks a fuller grasp of the Catholic intellectual tradition," said Jude Dougherty, dean of the university’s School of Philosophy and moderator of the discussion.

Other speakers included Catholic University’s president, the Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., and the Rev. J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., executive director of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Doctrinal and Pastoral Practices.

In his remarks, O’Connell reminded the audience that it is fitting that Catholic University, the national university of the Catholic Church, provide a forum for the study of issues that impact the Church and the Catholic academic community.

The Catholic University of America is a unique academic learning center: the national university of the Catholic Church and the only higher education institution established by the U.S. Catholic bishops. Established in 1887 as a graduate and research center, the university began offering undergraduate programs in 1904.

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