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Mark Noll


Football, Neo-Thomism, and the Silver Age of Catholic Higher Education

Contending with Modernity: Catholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century/ by Philip Gleason, Oxford University Press, 434 pp., $35

Other books mentioned in this essay:

Kevin Coyne, Domers: A Year at Notre Dame (Viking, 329 pp., $23.95, 1995)

Ralph McInerny, A Cardinal Offense (St. Martin's, 372 pp., $21.95, 1994)

Michael Zöller, Washington und Rom: Der Katholizismus in der amerikanischen Kultur (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 281 pp., 1995)

Question: What is the Roman Catholic Church?

(a) With over 1 billion adherents and about 54 percent of all Christians worldwide, it is simply the essential expression of the Christian faith.

(b) With an immense welter of local expressions, ethnic sub-groupings, doctrinal, behavioral, and devotional differences, and now encompassing a wide range of opinions on how best to define the church itself, Roman Catholicism is simply a name that collects as broad a collection of Christians, quasi-Christians, and pseudo-Christians as exists within the thousands of individual Protestant churches.

(c) With its hierarchy articulated into nearly every corner of the globe and coordinated at its head by the office of the papacy, it is simply the most universal, authoritative, wide-ranging, comprehensive, and stable form of religion ever known in human history.

(d) With the church's basic teaching so thoroughly mixing the voice of God in Scripture, the voice of the church in tradition, and the voice of reason in natural revelation, it is simply a confused, degenerate form of authentic Christian faith.

(e) With its principled reverence for the Trinity, its insistence on the foundational reality of divine grace, its constant celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ as the central realities for all humanity, and its noble army of martyrs, prophets, and spiritual mentors, it is simply the fullest, deepest, most enduring expression of Christianity.

(f) All of the above.

(g) None of the above.

Efforts to grade this kind of multiple-choice question ...

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