The Best Environment for Research
The institutes for advanced studies at Princeton, in North Carolina, Washington D.C., and Palo Alto have provided productive support for the work of scholars. For decades now, the fellows at these institutes have set the national and even international agenda for scholarship in the fields they explore: the sciences, the humanities, the social sciences and politics. We have visited all these institutes and learned from their history, successes and failures. None of these institutes, however, supports research on religion, still less, more specifically, on Catholicism. Given the decline of the great religious orders in the west that have enriched Catholic intellectual traditions over the centuries, an Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies—independent and yet fully committed to exploring and developing the intellectual resources of Catholicism—meets an especially urgent need of leaders, believers and thinkers throughout the world. These intellectual resources are best developed through research in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, undertaken by scholars throughout the world, and in a special way, those at the University of Southern California.
Catholicism as an intellectual resource
The Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies (IACS) seeks to develop distinctive intellectual capital by studying the long and rich Catholic intellectual tradition. That tradition includes not only brilliant theologians and philosophers, but also scientists, social scientists, historians, poets, writers, artists, architects and musicians. Their deep faith formed their scholarly and artistic imaginations. The purpose of IACS is to develop and deepen the Catholic intellectual and cultural traditions. The Church, catholic colleges and universities, and the increasing number of Catholic intellectuals pursuing their work in secular institutional settings, can and ought to provide a distinctive vision of life and society that will enrich the pluralism that constitutes the United States.
The Importance of Interdisciplinary research
The IACS will draw together scholars from many disciplines. The modern university is built upon the specialization of knowledge. Some advances, especially in the sciences, have depended on specialization. But, when pushed too far, specialization risks the fragmentation of knowledge. Too many scholars look at only a small part of reality. Other advances have come through inter-disciplinary research. The IACS will encourage the broader approach. It will foster cross-disciplinary research and conversation, precisely to arrive at a more holistic vision of reality, one that will include an historical perspective, and philosophical and theological reflection.
Ecumenical, Inter-Faith and International
Just as the IACS fosters conversations among scholars of different disciplines, it also fosters conversations among scholars from different Christian traditions and different religions. We also expect that each year some of the scholars will be from other parts of the world. All fellows, whatever their discipline or religion, will engage in research that draws upon Catholic intellectual traditions. Locating the Institute at the University of Southern California, geographically located on the Pacific Rim and at the doorway to Latin America, a top research university that is by choice neither secular nor sectarian, is ideally situated to foster these conversations.
Intellectual and Spiritual Integration
In the West, intellectuals are frequently among the most alienated from traditional religious practices. The IACS will, on an on-going basis, find ways to help scholars enrich their spiritual lives as they pursue their intellectual work. The Institute will have a chapel, a place for meditation and liturgy. The Institute understands that religious art and music can bridge religious traditions as words alone cannot. A chaplain with skill in integrating the spiritual and intellectual life, is an essential member of the Institute’s staff.