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Franciscan University ‘Veritas Society’ encourages ‘debate’ and ‘apologetics’

‘The Veritas Society aims to train students in the skills of rhetoric, argumentation, and critical thinking’

Students at Franciscan University of Steubenville seek the truth through intellectual Dumb Ox Debates at the Veritas Society, according to one of the leaders of the club.

Since 2018, the Veritas Society at FUS has sought to “renew Catholic Intellectual Culture at Franciscan University…[through] debate, apologetics, community, and discourse,” Peter Sammons, vice president of the student club, told The College Fix via a text interview.

“Dumb Ox” is in reference to St. Thomas Aquinas, who earned the nickname for being a slow speaker and being large. He was also one of the most intellectually gifted Catholic scholars and his works, such as the apologetics work “Summa Theologiae,” are studied by both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Built upon Saint Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio, the society fulfills this mission through its popular debates and articles in The Gauntlet, a publication of the club. The Gauntlet features an article submitted by any student on campus arguing a controversial point.

It is called The Gauntlet because like the knights of old, these students throw their gauntlet down as a challenge to the status quo.

“Where many discourage debates or become unnecessarily emotional while debating, the Veritas Society aims to train students in the skills of rhetoric, argumentation, and critical thinking,” Sammons told The Fix.

Almost every month the Veritas Society puts forward a motion – usually a hot button topic such as “evolution, the death penalty, and capitalism,” Sammons said.

In one debate (below), Sammons, along with his father, Eric, debated the merits of the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass versus the New Mass. Eric Sammons is the editor-in-chief of Crisis, a Catholic commentary magazine. Maria Sammons, Peter’s sister, chaired the debate, as reported by the student newspaper The Troubadour.

It is then debated, parliamentary style, by two teams made up of two people per team who are either for or against the motion.

After the opening remarks by the individual team anyone from the crowd can speak and give their argument for or against the motion after being acknowledged by the chair.

The room is usually packed, “as the Veritas Society averages around 120 people per debate and has around 45 official members” in addition to professors, Sammons said.

Oftentimes the professors join in the discourse as spectators with the students and sometimes participate as parts of the teams arguing for or against the motion.

Recently, the club has expanded its debate topics to include “wearing masks, and whether lying is always impermissible,” Sammons said. Other events have included “Devil’s advocate debates about things like whether the Catholic Church is a force for good, or transgenderism,” Sammons said.

By sponsoring these debates as well as other seminars by professors, the Veritas Society continues to fulfill its mission “to lead student efforts to promote Christ-centered intellectual culture on campus, and to thereby foster among students a reasonable and radical faith.”

“The response to the club has always been overwhelmingly positive,” Sammons said. “The Veritas Society has filled a much needed niche in the university community, and professors and students alike are very appreciative of this.”

“Some of the future goals of the club include hosting more apologetics events, collaborating with other schools to have intellectual discourse, and bringing in popular speakers and debaters like Matt Walsh and [Catholic apologist] Trent Horn,” Sammons said.

MORE: MIT DEI deans refuse to participate in debate on DEI

IMAGE: Veritas Society/YouTube

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About the Author
Gigi De La Torre -- Franciscan University of Steubenville