Catholic professors


#1

Hello,

I am a student in college and am interested in becoming a professor in systematic theology in the Catholic tradition. I was wondering why there are so few professors/jobs in this field at the top institutions in America? In other words, is it an almost futile task - to try to become a professor who specializes in Roman Catholicism? It seems that way, but I'm not sure why that is. Thoughts?


#2

[quote="John_Yuhu, post:1, topic:277373"]
Hello,

I am a student in college and am interested in becoming a professor in systematic theology in the Catholic tradition. I was wondering why there are so few professors/jobs in this field at the top institutions in America? In other words, is it an almost futile task - to try to become a professor who specializes in Roman Catholicism? It seems that way, but I'm not sure why that is. Thoughts?

[/quote]

You are talking about which course?
In theology, generally the specialization is greater: New Teatament, Old Testament, dogma, Morals, Casuistics and so on.
Are you talking about a Professor for a Humanity course?


#3

I'm just wondering why there are so few professors at the top Ivy religion departments who specialize or have a research interest in Roman Catholicism.


#4

[quote="John_Yuhu, post:3, topic:277373"]
I'm just wondering why there are so few professors at the top Ivy religion departments who specialize or have a research interest in Roman Catholicism.

[/quote]

There are no Ivy League schools that are Catholic-that's part of the reason. Furthermore, those Ivy League schools that historically have had connections to Protestant denominations have distanced themselves from those historic connections, so, with the exception of the Divinity School at Harvard and the Divinity School at Yale (not their religion departments), there's really no sense of partnership with any Christian body (and some would question that it exists at Harvard Divinity and Yale Divinity). In the departments of religion at the Ivy League schools, you will likely find comparative religion, history of religions, and psychology and sociology of religion approaches. You are likely to find a few scholars who have research interests in Roman Catholicism, but not many. Also, in some instances, the environment may be ambivalent, if not hostile, towards Christianity.


#5

Hi,
I appreciate that response, but I have to ask if whether that’s just an evasion of the real issue at play here. I mean, that explanation doesn’t account for the fact that there are scholars of Tibetan Buddhism at almost every of these schools’ religion departments. I just feel like Roman Catholicism is such a major and influential world religion yet it is unquestionably underrepresented in secular schools. I wonder if it’s because conservative Roman Catholics who are interested in going into that field of academia are consistently going to seminaries and not the Ivy league schools. Doesn’t that make it hard to get a job at a top Ivy school because you don’t have a degree from one? And then you’be got a circular situation where the schools become more and more liberal and like you said, hostile to Christianity, because the liberal Christians are all getting their terminal degrees from these schools whereas conservative Catholics aren’t.


#6

Hi John Yuhu,

I can’t speak for the theology faculty worldwide, or the American Universities for that matter, but from an academic perspective, I work in the UK University sector, and the overriding culture within Universities is a secular one, based upon the study of the prevailing evidence for any given subject - that which can be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
Academic research methods are nothing if not relatively simple, man-made and objectively robust - requiring the utmost rigour to be applied to an argument or principle - in a similar context to a court of law before a jury. Arguments or principles for general acceptance must be repeatable or to some extent based on reliable evidence, and publications can only be made following peer scrutiny.

This is not to say that Catholicism, religion and spirituality are not relevant, simply that they require fundamental belief in supernatural concepts, and while these may be beyond doubt to many of us, our subjective experiences are not easily repeatable or reliable to the public at large, unless they themselves attempt the same spiritual journey - a uniquely subjective process.

Spiritual matters may extend well beyond that which can be proven in conventional human terms, and beyond the scope of the accepted rules of objective academic rigour - thereby creating reasonable doubt. Not only does this ***not ***mean that spiritual matters don’t exist - it means that such matters cannot be scientifically proven not to exist Any attempted extension of scientific methods or rigour to disprove spiritual elements must therefore be rejected as hypothetical on the basis of unreliable evidence.

  1. To the academic mind we are, and exist within, a physical presence which can be measured objectively, producing rational scientific evidence of some form of evolutionary physical development across many subjects or disciplines.
  2. To the spiritual mind we have a soul, or spiritual presence, which can be felt and experienced through many subjective facets within and beyond our physical presence, and there are numerous/countless personal experiences documented by rational people over several millennia to form a body of evidence for the existence of numerous spiritual dimensions.
  3. It can be proven also that we all have some form of free will, which allows us to either accept or deny the existence of a spiritual dimension to our physical presence, or to express a preference as to what form it may take.

In academia, quite often it can be seen that the more an individual adopts the scientifically rational approach to understanding problems, the less likely they are to consider any form of spiritual dimension to their hypothesis or intended solution. This is ok for conceptual theory, but it doesn’t always translate too well in the real world.

Aside from the rare individuals who naturally experience the living presence of supernatural forces, people generally have shown a tendency throughout the ages of turning towards spiritual concepts in times of need where no physical or scientifically rational explanations are available. Earthly forces beyond our comprehension or control are thereby reasoned to be ‘Acts of God’, and as our understandings of such forces have improved in recent times, the number of occasions that humans feel the need to turn to spiritual explanations are being proportionally diminished in line with the number of events
that cannot be explained. Science is fashionable right now - but it only takes an, ‘Act of God’ like a tsunami around twenty minutes to raise serious questions about the prevailing wisdom and shortcomings in that department.

The best exponent I have seen of both academic rigour and spiritual understanding in the world today, based on the published evidence, is Pope Benedict XVI, a uniquely gifted individual.


#7

Hi,
Thanks for your response. I feel like that kind of rhetoric, however, is exactly why Catholics are being kept out of these top schools.

Unlike what you said, academic research in the area of catholocism requires no more belief in the supernatural than you would need to be a professor who specializes in Tibetan Buddhism. So that argument, to simply say that the object of study is otherworly, is a total cop out. Frankly it makes me mad to see Catholics just sitting back and saying thay they are too spiritual to perform academic research in Catholicism at a secular universtity. I think Catholics themselves are fully to blame for this problem I pointed out in my first post.


#8

[quote="John_Yuhu, post:7, topic:277373"]
Hi,
Thanks for your response. I feel like that kind of rhetoric, however, is exactly why Catholics are being kept out of these top schools.

Unlike what you said, academic research in the area of catholocism requires no more belief in the supernatural than you would need to be a professor who specializes in Tibetan Buddhism. So that argument, to simply say that the object of study is otherworly, is a total cop out. Frankly it makes me mad to see Catholics just sitting back and saying thay they are too spiritual to perform academic research in Catholicism at a secular universtity. I think Catholics themselves are fully to blame for this problem I pointed out in my first post.

[/quote]

  1. I am Catholic, and I'm not being kept out of these top schools, far from it. You are misquoting me throughout your response - where did I say the object of study is 'otherworly' ?
  2. I'm not sitting back and saying anything as you suggest - I am taking an active part in the spiritual debate.
  3. If you can articulate your own thoughts a little more coherently, you may find a way forward. I'm sure there's plenty of scope for academic research into Catholic theology, but you must first find out through secondary research methods how far the existing knowledge extends, to define where and what the new knowledge gaps might be. Perhaps when you have progressed further in your field of study, you will find some of the answers. Keep up the enthusiasm in the meantime,

#9
  1. I'm Catholic too. Great for us. You said that you can't speak for American universities, which are exactly what my question was directed toward, so don't pretend that now you can say that you're not being kept out of those schools.
  2. Also, I think you're confused. You say that this about a spiritual debate; however, spiritual debates have absolutely nothing to do with being a professor of religion. It's never about the truth of the religion; it's about the academic study of it.
  3. Don't be condescending. I go to a top Ivy school and am a major in religion. I know most of the professors in my department and have spoken to some of them about this topic and the ones I've spoken to feel similar to me about it. This is an actual problem. Ivy League schools - these are American schools, not British, by the way :) - are underrepresented when it comes to professors who are researching Catholic thought. It is becoming hard for students who want to enter into PhD programs of the Ivies to study Catholic thought because there just aren't the professors there. And I was simply asking why. I think it's because most of the professors who specialize in Roman Catholicism feel the same way as you; that is, that religion and spirituality "require fundamental belief in supernatural concepts, and while these may be beyond doubt to many of us, our subjective experiences are not easily repeatable or reliable to the public at large, unless they themselves attempt the same spiritual journey - a uniquely subjective process." The study of religion is NOT subjective. It is an academic discipline.

#10

Bernward, thank you for your interesting points.

My own midwestern stab at the Ivy schools thing is that generally universities and colleges are hardly tolerant of anyone really wishing to study religion. . . at best they okay a superficial sociology/history approach. How many such places offer theology degrees as opposed to "religious studies"?


#11

[quote="Captain_America, post:10, topic:277373"]
Bernward, thank you for your interesting points.

My own midwestern stab at the Ivy schools thing is that generally universities and colleges are hardly tolerant of anyone really wishing to study religion. . . at best they okay a superficial sociology/history approach. How many such places offer theology degrees as opposed to "religious studies"?

[/quote]

Thanks for that Captain America - it doesn't sound too encouraging - there are instances in the UK /EU where good researchers are granted significant funds to develop new understandings about theological concepts, such as the author Miri Rubin in particular - but she is an eminent professor of History I believe. In general, our universities have expanded five-fold in the past twenty years, and are increasingly focused to educate people for employment opportunities rather than philosophical issues, although there are quite a few universities that focus on theology at both undergrad and post-grad levels.

I don't know about your area, but I do detect a certain misplaced arrogance from some secular quarters over here - that they occupy some form of higher ground of 'detachment', typical of the human condition - not realising the inseparable spiritual dimension. I hope the tide turns in your favour soon,

God bless


#12

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