The Saint Vincent Center for Catholic Thought and Culture

The Center for Catholic Thought and Culture was founded in 2019 as an interdisciplinary academic institute that advances the mission of Saint Vincent College. Through campus programs and sponsored research, it engages today’s intellectual climate through sustained reflection upon the Catholic Intellectual and Benedictine wisdom traditions. It promotes scholarship in areas such as theology, philosophy, marriage and family, politics, economics, rhetoric, art and science. The center offers a variety of formative academic programs for students, faculty and the general public to better inform them of the intellectual rigor of Catholic scholarship and its ability to improve the lives of thoughtful individuals and the health of communities.

The center hosts several exciting opportunities for students, such as the Benedictine Leadership Studies Program, the SVC Summer Institute in Romethe Faith and Reason Program for high schoolers, along with reading groups, colloquia and lectures.

For faculty, the center sponsors annual summer seminars, reading groups, and other opportunities to gather and discuss the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and its relationship to liberal education. The center also seeks to support the scholarly efforts of faculty who are actively pursuing research that particularly engages the College’s mission.

Many events hosted by the center are free and open to the public. For those who cannot make it to campus, or who would like to relive the experience, a collection of our lectures and podcasts can be found below.

Character and Missioncctc-mission
Character and Mission

Benedictine communities have been nourishing intellectual growth for more than 1,500 years. Working within this heritage and following St. Peter’s encouragement to sharpen our minds and hearts to be obedient to the truth (1 Peter 5:22), Saint Vincent College has provided a setting for reflection and study to scholars and students since 1846 when Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., established the first Benedictine monastery and college in North America. To continue and strengthen this legacy, the Saint Vincent Center for Catholic Thought and Culture supports the college’s mission by providing faculty, students, and the local community with the resources to better understand and participate in the Catholic Intellectual and Benedictine Wisdom Traditions.

The center is thus guided by the following principles:

  • Listening Carefully and Searching for God

    The character of the Center is shaped by The Rule of Saint Benedict, which begins with the word Obsculta, an appeal to listen carefully.1 In a world that is busy and noisy, Pope Francis reminds us that monasteries are “like oases, where men and women of all ages, backgrounds, cultures and religions can discover the beauty of silence and rediscover themselves, in harmony with creation, allowing God to restore proper order in their lives.”2 What better setting is there today for the type of education that the Church has always encouraged and cultivated? What better place is there for what St. Anselm refers to as a quaerere Deum — a “setting out in search of God”?

    Carefully listening and ceaselessly seeking to better understand all things in light of revelation, the center is animated by the confident position that truth exists and is worth discovering, and that once discovered should be communicated to others. The desire to know the truth must be genuine, and therefore the highest standards of scholarly excellence must be maintained. The center thus follows St. John Paul the Great in holding that the “boldness of faith must be matched by the boldness of reason.”3 Furthermore, the center seeks to provide avenues for collaborative efforts with those prompted by something other than Catholic doctrine to understand the created order, for as St. Thomas Aquinas says, “Every truth, no matter who utters it, is of the Holy Spirit."4

    As such, the center welcomes opportunities to foster discussion with a broad array of interlocutors, both religious and secular. All our inquiries and conversations, however, will be rooted in the Obsculta and the quarerere Deum — careful listening and sincere searching.

    [1] The opening sentence of The Rule of Saint Benedict: “Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to tem with the ear of your heart” (Liturgical Press, 1981).

    [2] Audience with the Monks of the Benedictine Confederation, April 19, 2018.

    [3] Fides et Ratio, par. 48.

    [4] Summa Theologiae, I-II, 109.

  • Lawful Freedom, Responsibility and the 10 Hallmarks of Benedictine Education

    The Bishops of the United States remind us that the “purpose of a Catholic university is education and academic research proper to the disciplines of the university,” and academic freedom is thus “an essential component of a Catholic university.” Catholic institutions of higher learning are therefore admonished to ensure that all professors are accorded “a lawful freedom of inquiry and of thought, and of freedom to express their minds humbly and courageously about those matters in which they enjoy competence.”1 Lawful freedom entails the responsible pursuit of knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

    Accordingly, the center will courageously defend the principle of academic freedom, not as an end simply, but as a necessary prerequisite for fostering the environment in which the Hallmarks of Benedictine education can take their proper place. These hallmarks include community, love, prayer, stability, conversatio morum, obedience, discipline, humility, stewardship and hospitality. When practiced with an orientation toward truth and with the protection of free inquiry, the Benedictine Hallmarks provide scholars and students with the opportunity for meaningful reflection and study in whatever discipline they choose to concentrate.

    [1] The opening sentence of The Rule of Saint Benedict: “Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to tem with the ear of your heart” (Liturgical Press, 1981).

    [1] Audience with the Monks of the Benedictine Confederation, April 19, 2018.

    [1] Fides et Ratio, par. 48.

    [1] Summa Theologiae, I-II, 109.

    [1] Application of Ex corde ecclesiae for the United States, Part II, Art. 2, sections 1-2.

  • Intellectual Charity and Joyful Inquiry

    This liberating environment fostered at Saint Vincent College should be a source of happiness directed by caritas. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke to this effect when he said that “charity calls the educator to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love.” He continued: “Indeed, the dignity of education lies in fostering the true perfection and happiness of those to be educated. In practice ‘intellectual charity’ upholds the essential unity of knowledge against the fragmentation which ensues when reason is detached from the pursuit of truth. It guides the young towards the deep satisfaction of exercising freedom in relation to truth, and it strives to articulate the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Once their passion for the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, young people will surely relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of what they ought to do.”1

    Novelist Flannery O’Connor spoke similarly when she said, “I write the way I do because and only because I am a Catholic. I feel that if I were not a Catholic, I would have no reason to write, no reason to see, no reason ever to feel horrified or even to enjoy anything … I have never had the sense that being a Catholic is a limit to the freedom of the writer, but just the reverse.”2 The same faith, freedom and joy can and should be found in other vocations, including teaching and scholarly writing.

    The center follows Benedict XVI’s call for intellectual charity and sees in writers like O’Connor an example worth emulating. All center programs and activities will therefore be directed by caritas. We hope too that all our endeavors will be occasions for the growth of friendship on campus, for truth is most joyfully pursued with fellow travelers.

    [1] Pope Benedict, Address at the Catholic University of America, 2008.

    [2] Flannery O’Connor, Habit of Being (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1971), 114.

  • Participation in the Tradition

    The Catholic Intellectual Tradition contains a vast treasury of works that have guided our thinking for centuries. The Rule of St. Benedict is among the most prominent examples of the influence a single work can have. Added to this are the seminal works of Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Gregory the Great and Thomas Aquinas in the West, while the East is home to the books John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus and Athanasius of Alexandria. Diversity of approach is evident in the different religious orders, from the intensity of Ignatius of Loyola to the humility of Thérèse of Lisieux. Diversity is also found in academic interests. Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato sí, for example, reminds us of the importance of St. Francis of Assisi’s orientation toward creation and our duty to be good stewards of God’s gifts. That same orientation, when coupled with confidence in the rational order of the universe (Wisdom 11:21) explains the large number of scientific discoveries that have been made by Catholics animated by their faith, such as the father of genetics Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian monk.

    In addition to Saint Benedict, many Benedictines have contributed to this tradition. The importance of Gregory the Great and Anselm can hardly be overstated in theology and philosophy. Benedictines have also thrived in the sciences. Benedetto Castelli, a student of Galileo Galilei, contributed to the world’s understanding of fluids in motion; Placidus Fixlmillner was the first astronomer to compute the orbit of Venus; Andrew Gordon developed the first electric motor — these and countless other scientists were Benedictines, as was Stanley Jaki, who spent much of his scholarly career writing about the relationship between theology and science.

    In order to preserve and further develop this inheritance, the center promotes understanding of and encourages participation in the Catholic Intellectual and Benedictine wisdom traditions for all associated with the college and the local community. The center is interdisciplinary in nature and hopes to attract faculty and students from every academic department. To this end, the center will be a resource for the college and sponsor seminars, lectures, and other activities so that the works and riches of Catholic thought, particularly the Benedictine contributions to this body of thought, will continue to be known and cherished.

Upcoming Events Fall 2019

The Saint Vincent Center for Catholic Thought and Culture is busy preparing many events for students, faculty, and the general public.  Please check our website frequently for news and information.

The biggest thing on the horizon for students is the SVC Summer Institute in Rome.  Please join us for an information session Thursday September 5 at 9:00 pm in the Foundations Room. 

The Center is also sponsoring THREE reading groups this semester. In all three cases the books and snacks are provided for participants. Faculty and students are welcome. 

The first is on The Republic and The Laws of Cicero, and important Roman thinker who influenced the thought of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. This group will meet on Thursday afternoons at 4:00 at the Coffee Bean Cafe in Latrobe.  Please contact Dr. Jerome Foss for more information ( 

The second reading group will be focused on Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Sí and the concept of Integral Ecology. The group will meet once a month on Tuesdays at 4:00 p.m. in the Dupré Science Pavilion, Room E-105. The dates and topics are September 24. October 22, November 19, January 28, February 25, and March 31.  Please contact Dr. Lucas Briola for more information ( 

The third group will focus on the upcoming 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II's encyclical letter "The Gospel of Life (Evangelium vitae), On the Value and Inviolability of Human Life." The group will be led by Mrs. Marie Palmer, who has a MTS from the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.  The group will meet Mondays, September 9th and 23rd, October 7th and 21st, and November 4th at 5:00.  Please contact Dr. Jerome Foss for more information (

The Center will also be hosting a three-day seminar for Saint Vincent faculty January 7-9.  This is a repeat of our recent summer seminar on "Our Benedictine Heritage."  Please contact Fr. Tom Hart or Dr. Jerome Foss to register. 

Stay tuned for more information about upcoming talks, conferences, seminars, and much more!

Jerome C. Foss, PhD
Center Director
Association Professor of Politics

Rev. Thomas Hart, OSB
Faculty Seminar Leader
Assistant for Mission

Michael Krom, PhD
BLS Director and Fellow in Philosophy
Professor of Philosophy

Catherine Petrany, PhD
Fellow in Theology
Associate Professor of Theology

Rev. Rene Kollar, OSB

Boniface Wimmer Chair in Monastic Studies
Professor of History

Melinda Farrington, PhD
Fellow in Rhetoric
Assistant Professor of Communication

John Smetanka, PhD

Fellow in Science and Religion
Vice President of Academic Affairs and Academic Dean

Jennifer White, PhD

Fellow in Logic
Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Samantha Firestone
Center Coordinator
BLS Coordinator