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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

The Faiths of a Catholic University: Personal or Impersonal?


Event Recap

James Bernauer, S.J., began his discussion at the Boisi Center on February 11 with a few observations regarding Boston College’s religious character. Bernauer, Professor of Philosophy, said that although the school is traditionally Catholic, the plurality of religious faiths present will continue to increase in the years to come. In the future, the key dividing line in terms of school and student development will be between personal and impersonal faiths and relationships within the community. Bernauer provided a guiding motto, “All meaningful knowledge is for the sake of action, and all meaningful action is for the sake of friendship.”

Bernauer explained that the Catholic religious tradition recognizes the “universal personal other,” the idea that every member of a community can be in a personal relationship with another member regardless of geographical limits. In its full development, the universal personal other is the idea of God. This idea of God as personal is what allows a person to show compassion for or empathize with people from diverse backgrounds. This is the kind of religious tradition that BC and other Catholic universities must strive to maintain and enhance.