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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Cardinal Newman Today: Issues of Culture and Faith

Riggs Library
September 23, 2010

Thank you all for joining us. We’ve come together today to commemorate the beatification of The Blessed John Henry Newman this past weekend during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to England.

I am so pleased that we are able to celebrate together with two significant intellectual leaders: Father Michael Paul Gallagher and Father John O’Malley.

Father Gallagher will share with us, today, his insights on Cardinal Newman and the foundation he provides for thinking about faith and culture. Following Father Gallagher’s presentation, Father O’Malley will briefly respond to Father Gallagher and then engage in a conversation with him.

I’d like to take a moment now to recognize two special guests who have joined us today:

  • Archbishop Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, D.C. and,
  • Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States

We are honored to have you with us today.

No one has captured the ethos and identity of the Catholic university more than Cardinal Newman. Gathered here—at Georgetown—for this lecture on Cardinal Newman’s contributions to the dialogue between faith and culture, I wish to emphasize two aspects of his framework for liberal education. First, in the lectures that became The Idea of the University, he argued that the purpose of university education is the “real cultivation of mind,” that is, “the intellect...properly trained and formed to have a connected view or grasp of things.”

By “connected view,” Newman means the ability to develop a “comprehensive view of truth, in all its branches, of the relations of science to science, of their mutual bearings, and their respective values.” Newman asks that we respect the unity of knowledge—the connectedness of the disciplines. This connectedness is an inspiration for us today we seek to foster interdisciplinary understanding in the contemporary academy.

Second, Cardinal Newman advocates, in concert with a “cultivation of the mind,” the need for a corresponding “discipline of [the] mind” in the development of proper thinking and judgment. We cannot simply expect truth to be delivered to us to be accepted and absorbed. Rather, Newman asserts, “The mind must go half-way to meet what comes to it from without.” These are habits of the mind that are as invaluable today in the lives of our students as they were when Newman so beautifully captured them in The Idea of the University.

Introduction of Father Gallagher

Today, we have the opportunity to engage with exceptional thinkers: Father Michael Paul Gallagher in his lecture “Translating Cardinal Newman for Today: Issues of Culture and Faith” and Father John O’Malley, in his response to the lecture. Father Gallagher is an author, professor, theologian, and intellectual interested in examinations of “faith and unbelief, culture and spirituality.” After studying literature at University College Dublin and Caen University, he entered the Jesuits at an early age.

As a student at Oxford in Renaissance literature, he focused on the poetry of George Herbert. His experience studying literature has provided a unique—but fruitful—background to the study of theology. From 1972 to 1990, he served as a lecturer in modern English and American literature at University College, Dublin. In 1979, he received his doctorate in theology at Queen’s University, Belfast—the first Roman Catholic to do so in theology. A few years later, he published his first book, Help my Unbelief (1983). Moving to Rome, he has worked on the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers and the Pontifical Council for Culture.

He then became a professor of fundamental theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, where from 2005-2008 he served as dean of the theology faculty. His courses include: “unbelief and culture, seminars on Newman, Bernard Lonergan, the relationship between theology and imagination, and the history of thinking on the act of faith.” Since September 2009, he has served as Rector of the Collegio Bellarmino in Rome, a Jesuit community for post-graduate students. His most recent book, Faith Maps: Ten Religious Explorers from Newman to Joseph Ratzinger was published this year. It’s an honor to be joined by Father Gallagher today.

Introduction of Father O’Malley

Before I invite Father Gallagher to the podium, I’d like to say a few words of introduction about Father O’Malley who—in the spirit of intellectual exchange that guides Newman’s ideas of liberal education—will be following Father Gallagher’s lecture with a brief response and conversation with Father Gallagher. Then, he will open up to questions from the audience.

Father O’Malley is a distinguished member of our faculty, serving as a University Professor in the Department of Theology. One of our world’s most well-known and widely respected church historians, Fr. O’Malley has held a number of prestigious fellowships, including those awarded by the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additionally, he has won life-time achievement awards from the Society for Italian Historical Studies, and the Renaissance Society of America.

He is past president of the American Catholic Historical Association, and of the Renaissance Society of America. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995, and to the American Philosophical Society in 1997. He is the author and editor of more than a dozen books. Among his most celebrated works are: Trent and all That; Four Cultures of the West; What Happened At Vatican II; and The First Jesuits—this one has been translated into ten languages.

After attending Loyola University, Fr. O’Malley received his doctorate in history from Harvard, and has taught and lectured at a number of institutions, including Harvard and Oxford. Before coming to Georgetown, he was Distinguished Professor of Church History at Weston Jesuit School of Theology.

We’re honored to have Father O’Malley’s leadership at Georgetown and his participation today. Now, I’d like to invite Father Gallagher to the podium.


Quotes by John Henry Newman are located in Ker, Ian. The Achievement of John Henry Newman. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990.

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