Taking the Catholic Out of Catholic Universities

Taking the Catholic Out of Catholic Universities
AP Photo/South Bend Tribune, Robert Franklin, Pool

As the college term drew to a close last spring, Providence College's most prominent professor, Anthony Esolen, author of hundreds of articles and several books—including what some reviewers consider the best translation of Dante's Divine Comedy—packed up and got ready to leave the school, where he had taught since 1990. He would renounce his tenure, give up his well-earned sabbatical, and accept a teaching position at St. Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire, one of the smallest colleges in the country. Esolen's choice to leave one Catholic school for another had nothing to do with desire for greater status or a higher salary. He wasn't swayed by the offer of an endowed chair or a lighter teaching load. Rather, Esolen was attracted to the curriculum at Thomas More—the commitment to a classical Catholic education that values the theology of Thomas Aquinas more than diversity studies. He was drawn to Thomas More, he told a National Catholic Register reporter, because “students are meant to be surrounded by beauty and sanity,” and he admired how “the education at Thomas More focuses on the whole human being.” He was leaving Providence because he wanted to be “part of delivering a curriculum that was based on the Truth.” He would try to bring to students at his new school what he had always sought to give Providence undergraduates: “a love for art and poetry and the best of human wisdom and the trust that such things can bring us into the precinct of the divine.”

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