success stories

Cardinal John Henry Newman's Idea
of the Laity's Intellectual Place in the Church

How University Study Together with Clergy Benefits It

In his life, Newman became so preoccupied with the laity's need to be brought back into the fullness of the Church. They are, he says, ‘the measure of the Catholic spirit', or standard by which the effectiveness of the Church is to be judged. But they must be a laity able to relate their religion to their secular knowledge, or, as we should say nowadays, they must be theologically literate, even expert:

"I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity . . . . I mean to be severe . . . exorbitant in my demands. I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth . . . to understand how faith and reason stand to each other, what are the bases and principles of Catholicism."

Newman saw the university as the focus in which the fullness of the Catholic Church might best be realized, since if the intellectual layman were religious, and the devout ecclesiastic intellectual, they would learn by acting upon each other in a common community, namely the university, and then how to act upon society at large together when both minister to it.