I have a lot of conflicting feelings about the work of Terry Eagleton, which I won’t go into here, but that makes me all the more happy to find a passage of his in which I wholeheartedly concur:

It was in the plan for his Catholic university in Dublin that Newman’s generosity of spirit can be seen at its finest. Catholics in Ireland were barred from Trinity College, Dublin, and the Queen’s Colleges, established by the British government to civilise the natives and render them less troublesome, were secular institutions where no theology was taught. Newman, however, did not insist that theology should rule in the Catholic university. He believed that pursuing any branch of knowledge for its own sake was a religious activity, since the whole of Nature was God’s creation. In The Idea of a University, he speaks up for an ‘intercommunion’ of all the principal academic disciplines and for disinterested scholarly inquiry. The task of a university is to foster intellectual culture for its own sake, which means that it can be the tool of neither church nor state. His book needs to be placed in the hands of the vandals, philistines and soulless bureaucrats who are currently destroying our places of higher learning.

“Vandals, philistines, and soulless bureaucrats,” indeed.

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