Saturday, 16 October 2010

Ushaw and the hermeneutic of continuity

Christopher Lamb, of The Tablet has posted his own reflection on the closure of St Cuthbert's, Ushaw. He thinks that there was an easy and obvious solution to the Ushaw problem: it could easily have become a Catholic college of the University of Durham, and he observes that the University itself was keen that this should have been so.

This would have been an imaginative use of the buildings, and entirely consonant with its own history. For the majority of its past, Ushaw (and Douai before it) was a 'mixed' college, which is to say, clerical and lay students studying together in one building (though then they were boys rather than undergraduates). If the college were not economically viable as a clerical college, why not revert to the former style? Seminarians can easily follow their own life within a larger institution.

Yet again we see an insufficient value being placed on the 'hermeneutic of continuity'. History and tradition have a value in themselves; things that have been treasured by generations are not plastic carrier bags, to be thrown away. Almost always, the replacement is shoddier than what it has replaced (and I write with feeling as the parish priest of a shoddy building which one of my predecessors built to replace a fine one).
It is far too easy to break down what has taken generations to build, and then far too hard to put it back together again.

Having written about it a few posts ago myself, I, too, have been thinking about the closure and wondering again whether they have really chosen the wrong moment for this. Sure, numbers are at an all-time low right now, but even before the Papal Visit, there were signs of an upturn at least down south. And, as I wrote before, there is still the Benedict Bounce to be taken into consideration……


1569 Rising said...

Christopher Lamb is quite correct. Ushaw and Durham University have had close links for many years, and those links have been especially strong recently. Many of us with an interest in the College were astounded, indeed shocked when the new "Centre for Catholic Studies" was established a couple of years ago in the University, and not at Ushaw. This was, and is, difficult to understand, and gives rise to the suspicions that in fact the closure of Ushaw was long planned.

He is correct to remind us of the presence of "lay students" among the student body - indeed even in my time, 1958 - 1963, every class had its share.

I am sorry to say that it appears to me that the College governors are determined to close down the whole operation, including the supposedly prospering Conference Centre and its outreach educational facility, and that any attempt to use the buildings for Catholic religious purposes will be strongly resisted.

I have nightmares thinking what is to become of the Chapels, the Library, the architectural gems, the treasures built up over 202 years. Certainly their record of caring for the inheritance is a poor one, as any viewing of the wreck of the Junior House and its chapel will make plain.

Terry Middleton

Sadie Vacantist said...

You are living in cloud cuckoo land if you think that the UK Church could have established a 'Catholic' university.

Anonymous said...

Yes I think your suggestion tha it should become a mixed college as part of the Universiof Durham is very wise!

Maureen said...

Your Orbis link needs to be updated. It now leads to another site!