Friday, October 12, 2007

The Church and the University -- Naked History Revealed

The Catholic Educator's Resource Website has an interesting article on the Church's relation to the rise of universities. Here are a few snippets:

It was, after all, in the High Middle Ages that the university came into existence. The university, which developed and matured at the height of Catholic Europe, was a new phenomenon in European history. Nothing like it had existed in ancient Greece or Rome. The institution that we recognize today, with its faculties, courses of study, examinations, and degrees, as well as the familiar distinction between undergraduate and graduate study, comes to us directly from the medieval world. And it is no surprise that the Church should have done so much to foster the nascent university system since, according to historian Lowrie Daly, it was "the only institution in Europe that showed consistent interest in the preservation and cultivation of knowledge."

The papacy played a central if not exclusive role in the establishment and encouragement of the universities. Naturally, the granting of a charter to a university was one indication of this papal role. Some 81 universities had been established by the time of the Reformation. Of these 33 possessed a papal charter, 15 a royal or imperial one, 20 possessed both, and 13 had none. In addition, it was the accepted view that a university could not award degrees without the approbation of pope, king, or emperor. Pope Innocent IV officially granted this privilege to Oxford University, for example, in 1254. The pope (in fact) and the emperor (in theory) possessed authority over all of Christendom, and for this reason it was to them that a university typically had to turn for the right to issue degrees. Equipped with the approval of one or the other of these universal figures, the university’s degrees would be respected throughout all of Christendom. Degrees awarded only by the approval of national monarchs, on the other hand, were considered valid only in the kingdom in which they were issued.

The popes intervened on behalf of the university on numerous occasions, as when Pope Honorius III (1216-27) sided with the scholars at Bologna in 1220 against infringements on their liberties. When the chancellor of Paris insisted on an oath of loyalty to himself personally, Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) intervened. Later, when the Bishop of Paris and the chancellor of the university continued to encroach upon the institutional autonomy of the institution, it was the Pope, Gregory IX, who in 1231 issued the bull Parens Scientiarum on behalf of the masters of Paris. In this document the Pope effectively granted the University of Paris the right to self-government, whereby it could make its own rules pertaining to courses and studies. The Pope also granted the university a separate papal jurisdiction, thus emancipating the institution from the interference of what had been an overbearing diocesan authority. "With this document," writes one scholar, "the university comes of age and appears in legal history as a fully formed intellectual corporation for the advancement and training of scholars." The papacy, writes another, "has to be considered a major force in shaping the autonomy of the Paris guild [i.e., the organized body of scholars at Paris]."
Shocking! Especially since Dr Dawkins has assured us all that Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular, is no more than an irrational, barbaric and violent institution at odds with logic and free thought.

For the whole article, click here.

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