Ralph McInerny and the tragedy of Notre Dame

Ralph McInerny knew, and could demonstrate with acute philosophical rigor, that there are truths built into the world and into us: truths we can know by exercising the arts of reason; truths that, known, lay certain moral obligations on us, personally and in our civic lives. With the rarest of exceptions, they don’t know that, and in fact they deny that, at the “peer schools” to which Notre Dame is addicted to comparing itself. And therein lay the tragedy of Notre Dame and Catholic institutions of higher education of a similar cast of mind, as Ralph saw it: they had sold their intellectual and moral birthright-the true excellence that comes from an immersion in the Great Tradition of western higher learning-for a mess of pottage.