Mitchell Reports | February 11, 2013
>> ahead to a papal process that is going to seem familiar to some, but it does have one major difference. professor john garvey joins us now. the president of the catholic university of america joining me by phone. president garvey , thank you for being with us. the big difference sshgs of course, that the pope is alive to witness the succession process, and there has got to be conversations along the margins tooz what would pope benedict xvi want.
>> you got to wonder what affect that will have on the process, don't you? it isn't something we've seen in our lifetime or for centuries, for that matter. i don't think anybody has a clue. your guess is as good as mine.
>> i was reading your statement, president garvey , and as the catholic university of america president, you spoke of his theological wisdom and what he imparted in the importance of catholic education . could you speak to that and to the reaction of young people as they look towards a change of leadership of the church ?
>> yes. to start with, the second point first, i've been talking to some of our students as well as my brothers and sisters about this, and one of the reactions that i got from one of them was, gosh, it's sort of like our dad saying he was going to resign as being our dad. you can't do that. it was a surprise, and i think it's deeply felt by people who look to the pope as the holy father, as catholics do. it's rare that somebody who is as accomplished as theologian as benedict was will be pope. they're all great, holy, and wise men, but they have their own particular skills, and this pope is somebody who is especially interested in catholic higher education , and wrote a lot about it. we have our press that's publishing a book of his speeches on catholic higher education and in another month or two, and i think he spoke to a real difference between the way catholic universities think about their job and the way other kinds of universities do. that faith as well as reason plays a role in what we teach, and that we should concern ourselves with people's relationship with god not just imparting knowledge of mandarin chinese and chemical engineering .
>> john garvey , here with me, by the way, at the studio. as an old friend of yours, george weigel , and, george, we were talking about this very subject. you and john garvey are at that intersection where you deal with the future of the church , with young people , with the challenges that educators have. perhaps you want to raise some of those issues as well.
>> john is right. this is the most accomplished intellectual pope in a very long time, although he succeeded in a world class intellectual in john ii . what was amazing to me about benedict xvi is how this span of deep learning, he may be the most learned man in the world. could in his sermons, his homilies, his little addresses at the wednesday audience, distill all of that learning into really solid but accessible material for people that don't have specialized training in theology or philosophy, bhaefr. i think that is where the pastor's heart in this man and the teacher's heart in this man came through. i told you a moment ago when we were off camera that he is the only man i have ever met in my life that when you ask him a serious question, he reflects and then answers in complete paragraphs. he has a remarkably lucid mind, and he is a great teacher. that's going to be missed, and i think young people felt that. i think they thought this is -- this is a wise man who is worth listening to.
>> you touched, john garvey , on how this transition is being received by your students, by your undergraduates at catholic university , and your graduate students . is there a feeling of sort of searching now as to where the future of the church goes? is this a time of real reflection for them as well?
>> i think that describes it well. i don't know whether the concern that our students feel in that first instance where the rest of the church will go. it's more their own personal reaction to being sort of orphaned for a time within the church . although the question you raise about what the next pope will mean for the future of the church is something that will affect them more than the rest of us.
>> and, of course, the church has been challenged in america in the last decade by scandal, by a declining attendance. catholic schools , not catholic university , but other catholic schools have also been challenged at the perish level. we've seen the closures of some of the schools at the elementary and high school level . how important is this transition?
>> you know, i was saying to somebody earlier this morning, unlikely as it seems, what a great time this would be for an american pope for this reason. that one of the great challenges that the church faces in the modern world is the one that benedict tried to deal with in his papacy in western europe . the increasing secularization of the culture and focus on materialism and other kinds of ideologies that pose a greater threat to the church sometimes than outright persecution does, and in america i think we're going through the same kind of experience. there's a sort of popular atheism that's no longer tabu to speak about, and i think that's an example you see many others in charles murray spoke in coming apart about how we are becoming less religious as a culture. not just as catholics, but many other faiths. that's a great challenge for the catholic church in the mechanics century.
>> of the 118 cardinals who are going to be convening, are there any americans in that group who are real leaders and have seniority, george?
>> yes. cardinal of chicago is one of the most highly respected members of the college of cardinals, without a doubt. i think cardinal dolan. he did a fine job when he was made a cardinal and addressing the entire college of cardinals and saying the church of the future has to be a missionary enterprise. this is the great theme of this moment. we're passing from institutional maintenance to evangelical activism. that was the theme of vatican two. that was the theme of john paul ii . it's the theme of benedict xvi , and it's going to be a very interesting ride into the rest of the 21st century .
>> thank you for your wisdom, and john garvey , thank you for joining us today. we really appreciate that.
>> thank you very much.