The fusion of the secular and religious in education

While educating in a Christian setting, Newman was careful to respect education’s inner autonomy; he understood the relationship between education and religion by recognising that ‘Knowledge is one thing, virtue is another’. (Idea of a university) This is why he could claim that ‘the University is, we may again repeat, a secular institution, yet partaking of a religious character’. (‘Architectural description of the University Church’)

Newman recognises the harmonious fusion of the secular and religious in the education which was introduced in the twelfth century: ‘the germ of the new civilisation of Europe, which was to join together what man had divided, to adjust the claims of Reason and Revelation, and to fit men for this world while it trained them for another’. (Rise and progress of universities)

In the same way he distinguishes in equally stark fashion between a secular university and a fully Christian one: ‘A great University is a great power, and can do great things; but, unless it be something more than human, it is but foolishness and vanity […] It is really dead, though it seems to live, unless it be grafted upon the True Vine […] Idle is our labour, worthless is our toil, ashes is our fruit, corruption is our reward, unless we begin the foundation of this great undertaking in faith and prayer, and sanctify it by purity of life.’ (‘The secret power of Divine grace’, sermon preached at the Catholic University Church, 1856)

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