Six members of Christendom’s debate society traveled to Franciscan University of Steubenville recently for a special academic conference on the idea of a Catholic University. Following paper presentations and discussions, the conference culminated in a debate between Christendom’s debate society and Franciscan’s, with Christendom students arguing that the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas should be the philosophy of a Catholic University.
The conference’s debate marked the first between Christendom’s Chester Belloc Debate Society and Franciscan’s Veritas Society, which was directly inspired by Christendom’s debate society. Both exist for a unique purpose: to cultivate the intellectual life of their school through parliamentary debate.
Christendom’s debate society has existed at the college for years now, with students meeting for debates on a regular basis. Sophomore Catherine Schmidt, who traveled to Franciscan for the conference, believes that the combination of the classroom with extracurricular activities like the debate society helps in the development of the intellectual virtues.
“[Christendom] professors provide content which is challenging, comprehensive, and true,” says Schmidt. “Their high expectations demand clear theses that are methodically supported. This cultivation of the rational powers flows into everyday life, notably exemplified in deep mealtime discussions. The Chester Belloc Debate Society provides the necessary opportunity for the intellectual life thus far encouraged to develop. The debate floor, through speeches challenged by rigorous questions, offers Christendom students advancement in intellectual among peers.”
At the beginning of the spring semester, Franciscan’s Veritas Society invited Christendom to the conference, interested in having Christendom students join in the discussion of the idea of a Catholic university. After arriving in Steubenville, the six Christendom students heard presentations by students and faculty on various topics, including the medieval university and St. John Henry Newman’s thoughts on universities.
The whole conference culminated in a debate run by the Veritas Society, with both sides discussing the topic of whether Thomism should be the philosophy of a Catholic university. Christendom’s students argued in favor of Thomism, with Franciscan students and professors arguing against it as the philosophy of a Catholic university. Junior Joshua Forbes, who is also the current chairman of the debate society, was especially appreciative of his education after the debate.
“I’ve never been prouder to be a Christendom student than I was this weekend,” said Forbes. “The formation that the core education and the electives in philosophy and theology I’ve taken helped me immensely on the debate floor, especially when it comes to a debate on Thomism. It is extremely important for a Catholic university to have a core philosophy to root the student before they begin studying other philosophies, and the debate on Thomism showed how effective Thomism is as a philosophy.”
As the weekend came to a close, all of the students involved were appreciative not only at the opportunity to discuss such an important topic, but also at tightening the connection between Christendom and Franciscan students.
“The conference and debate created a connection between Christendom and Franciscan,” concluded Schmidt. “Since we’re in different states, having a relationship with other Catholic colleges is plainly difficult. This event cultivated a sort of network between our schools, which is valuable in our common mission to restore all things in Christ. Secondly, the debate itself helped advance the object of the Catholic university, according to St. John Henry Newman: to further the intellectual life.”