What is the Catholic Intellectual Tradition?

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.
Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio

It is a fashionable belief today that wisdom resides in unbending scepticism. Liberal arts education is grounded in the opposite idea: that wisdom can be found in certain truth.

To the Greeks, the eternal logic of mathematical proofs provided a glimpse of absolute truth, accessible to reason. For Christians, that idea is fulfilled in knowledge of both the God of love and His rational creation. Without such a foundation the life of the mind risks becoming a restless journey with no end, 'ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth' (St Paul).

By contrast, an education centred on the existence of truth is profoundly liberating: it provides firm ground on which students can stand to contemplate reality for themselves.

Catholicism and the liberal arts

The Catholic faith and liberal arts education share a proud tradition across Europe and despite our separation from Rome by the Reformation, England has played a large part in this development. The stream of Catholic intellectual life has persisted in Britain since those times, running through our university traditions. The brilliant 19th century Oxford scholar, teacher and influential Catholic convert Cardinal Newman - beatified by Pope Benedict in 2010 – is rightly one of the inspirational figures for educators in the UK and one of the patrons of Benedictus.

At Benedictus all areas of study - not only our readings in theology - are informed by an awareness of the central position of Christianity in the development of Western civilisation.

A Catholic liberal arts education is the beginning of a lifelong intellectual journey. Benedictus offers an education faithful to the teachings of the Catholic church, yet open to students from all culture and faith backgrounds.


St Benedict

Our name, Benedictus, honours St Benedict's work as an educator. The son of a Roman nobleman, born amid the chaos of the end of the Western Roman Empire, he was eager to foster the new era of Christian faith, culture and scholarship, bringing the gifts of the Church to wider society.

Benedict wrote a 'Rule' for his monastic Order and in it he insisted on the importance of education. The monasteries supported the education of both men and women, reaching out from the abbey walls to support and teach children of the nearby regions. The monasteries and convents both preserved and enlarged Europe’s cultural inheritance.

More than seven centuries later St Thomas Aquinas, who would do more than anyone else to unite Christian doctrine with the Greek tradition of inquiry exemplified by Aristotle, began his education at the Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino, south of Rome.