New Studies issue: ‘Newman’s University’

June 19, 2023 in Featured News, News

The summer 2023 issue of Studies has ‘Newman’s University’ as it’s title and main theme – articles relating to John Henry Newman’s short-lived rectorship of the Catholic University, between 1854 and 1858. In spite of the brevity of his tenure, Newman’s impact on the later incarnations of the institution has been considerable. It is a happy sign of that continued influence that University College Dublin has for some years now had a Newman Centre for the Study of Religions, a Recognised Research Centre based in the School of Philosophy. The stated role of the Centre is ‘to provide a national and international forum for interdisciplinary research into religion and faith in all their aspects, with inclusivity towards different religious traditions, perspectives, and values’. Also, one of its core aims is ‘to continue to promote the legacy of Newman and support research on all aspects of his work’.

In Octobr 2022, UCD’s Newman Centre, together with The Notre Dame Newman Centre for Faith and Reason, hosted a series of discussion panels over two days. The first day addressed the theme of ‘Newman’s Idea of a University’, and the second looked at ‘The University and Society in the 21st Century’. Thanks to the good offices of Dr. Daniel Esmonde Deasy, Associate Professor in the UCD School of Philosophy and Director of the Newman Centre, Studies has been able to publish a number of the panel contributions in this issue.

Two of the essays published in this issue of Studies relate specifically to Newman’s experience in Dublin. In ‘Newman’s Idea of a University’ Finola Kennedy presents an overview of his relations with Ireland in the context of the university project. She emphasises that the university, unlike specialised research academies, was meant to lay the stress on teaching, especially through a tutorial system that fostered relationships between students and teachers. The tutorial system is also the subject of Paul Shrimpton’s ‘Newman’s idea of a tutor and its implementation at the Catholic University’. The essay describes how Newman and like-minded tutors at Oriel College, Oxford, held the view that the tutorial system could fulfil a pastoral role, breaking down the distance between teachers and students so that the students could best be helped to mature. What worked in Oriel, however, was not so easy in Dublin, but Newman was determined to implement the system.

The two remaining essays on Newman relate to his understanding of development. The first, Katherine O’Donnell’s ‘The gentleman in Newman’s Idea of a University: A genderless model for Irish Catholics’, also pertains to Newman’s Dublin experience but it considers his idea of personal development rather than the functioning of the university itself. Specifically, it shows how Newman’s idea of a gentleman stands in striking opposition to the image of highly charged masculinity proffered by the apologists of ‘muscular Christianity’. Newman’s gentleman is ‘oddly genderless, or non-binary’; the image is not dependent on not being feminine but is simply about the cultivation of grace and dignity. The last of these essays, by Dermot Roantree, editor of Studies, was not delivered at the Newman Centre’s discussion panels but was inspired by them. ‘Newman’s idea of development: A note’ concerns the development of doctrine. It argues that the Church’s growth in wisdom and knowledge is comparable in structure to the psychological and maturation processes of an individual, and that to this extent it is markedly different from the narrower organic model of development proposed by St Vincent of Lérins.

In ‘A pilgrim church: responding in uncertain times’, Timothy Quinlan responds with his own reflections on some of the essays published in the autumn 2022 issue of Studies, on the theme of Derek Scally’s book The Best Catholics in the World. He notes the many ways in which the abuse of power in the Church, particularly through covering up corruption and placing loyalty to the institution before justice, has hampered its commitment to pastoral accompaniment and a culture of attention and dialogue. He argues that for the Church truly to become a pilgrim people it will be necessary to bridge the gap between the institutional Church and the local Church.

Sociologist Mary Murphy has just published an important book on Creating an Ecosocial Welfare Future (Policy Press, 2023), and in her article here, ‘The future of welfare is ecosocial: Making it happen’, she presents the key ideas of the book. The problem she identifies is that contemporary capitalism, both Irish and global, relies on growth and increased consumption as a legitimating narrative. This must be challenged, as it leads directly to inequality, environmental destruction, and global warming. A post-growth ecosocial solution is needed, one which is capable of effecting transformative change through people power, mobilisation, and collective action.

In ‘Rebalancing distorted science policy’, William Kingston addresses the hot topic of research funding in Ireland. He is critical of a policy that directs funds towards the universities even though the country does not have the firms necessary to utilise the research that results. Economic innovation, he argues, begins with ‘innovative individuals and managements in firms’. The policy of funding agencies, therefore, should be to support firms that are actually working in markets, and help them to forge links with universities for research that they cannot do themselves.

Journalist and academic Brian Feeney presents a comprehensive history of the Northern Irish Protocol, beginning with British Prime Minister Theresa May’s declaration in 2016 that Britain would push back against the EU on Brexit issues. He follows the story through the downfall of May, the ‘bad faith’ of Boris Johnson, the problematic response of the DUP, the UK-EU impasse under Liz Truss, and the drawing up of the Windsor Framework. Deep divisions remain, he notes, and much remains to be resolved.

Two review articles complete the essay section of this issue. In ‘How to address the climate crisis’, Peadar Kirby brings together two important and complementary books, Greta Thunberg’s The Climate Book and Gregory Claeys’s Utopianism for a Dying Planet: Life after Consumerism. He notes the breadth and depth of Thunberg’s book, a large compendium of essays by established climate experts, and he sees its work to be furthered by Claeys’s exploration of the utopian tradition as a necessary framework for realisable changes in human activity. The immensity and urgency of the climate crisis is such that a whole new way of thinking is needed, and these two books, taken together, provide a map for this. And in ‘Apocalyptic humanism in Hauerwas and Barth’, theologian Declan Kelly reviews Stanley Hauerwas’s recent publication Fully Alive: The Apocalyptic Humanism of Karl Barth. He dates the ‘apocalyptic turn’ in theology to Barth’s work in the aftermath of the First World War, and he broaches the question of to what extent Hauerwas may be considered to be ‘an apocalyptic theologian for our apocalyptic time’. But while apocalyptic theology sound serious and dire, Kelly affirms that for both Barth and Hauerwas, it entails a playfulness grounded in a deep eschatological hope.