The Land O’ Lakes Statement Has Caused Devastation For 50 Years

In hindsight, what they did was appalling.

But when several Catholic university leaders gathered in the summer of 1967 at a remote retreat in Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin, did they fully anticipate the consequences of their vision for “modern” Catholic education? Hopefully not.

It was 50 years ago, on July 20-23, when Notre Dame’s Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., gathered his peers to draft and sign the “Land O’ Lakes Statement,” a declaration of the independence of Catholic universities from “authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself.”

Over the course of just a few years following the statement, most Catholic colleges and universities in America shed their legal ties to the Church and handed their institutions over to independent boards of trustees. In the quest for secular prestige and government funding, many went so far as to remove the crucifixes from their classroom walls and to represent their Catholic identity in historical terms (such as, “in the Jesuit tradition”).

The wound of secularization deepened over the next few decades: many Catholic colleges and universities weakened their core curricula in favor of the Harvard model of electives and specialization, adopted a radical notion of academic freedom, embraced relativism and political correctness, and largely abandoned the project of forming young people for Christ outside the classroom.

It wasn’t until 1990 that the “Land O’ Lakes Statement” was soundly repudiated by Saint Pope John Paul II in Ex corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution for Catholic universities. Although not yet accepted in its entirety, Ex corde Ecclesiae turned the tide toward renewal of Catholic identity and gave prominence to those faithful institutions that never accepted the Land O’ Lakes mentality. In the meantime, however, Fr. Hesburgh’s declaration did much damage.

It’s for good reason, then, that the “Land O’ Lakes Statement” has become a focal point in American Church history. It’s sometimes described as an explosive, revolutionary act that changed the trajectory of Catholic higher education, which may be an exaggeration. But it certainly was a watershed moment, evidenced by the rapid changes that followed the statement. It was also the culmination of years of unrest in Catholic universities—in many respects, a moral struggle with the temptation to pride and prestige at the expense of Catholic identity.

With the “Land O’ Lakes Statement,” that struggle was momentarily lost. It represented a public, deliberate choice for opportunity over mission, resulting in a voluntary exile from the once-lush gardens of truth and wisdom that had distinguished the world’s Catholic universities.

The allure of prestige

For most Catholic university graduates and educators before the late 1960s, alma mater was still as much Mother Church as her academic institutions. But more than a decade before the “Land O’ Lakes Statement,” influential academics were already expressing disappointment with the public status of Catholic universities in the United States.

This was argued forcefully by Monsignor John Tracy Ellis, a Church history professor at the Catholic University of America, whose lament was published and disseminated by Fordham University:

“…in no western society is the intellectual prestige of Catholicism lower than in the country where, in such respects as wealth, numbers, and strength of organization, it is so powerful. …Admittedly, the weakest aspect of the Church in this country lies in its failure to produce national leaders and to exercise commanding influence in intellectual circles, and this at a time when the numbers of Catholics in the United States… and their material resources are incomparably superior to those of any other branch of the universal Church.”

Note that Msgr. Ellis did not claim that Catholics were intellectually lacking, but only that they lacked academic “influence” and “prestige.” The prior claim would have been astonishing, given that Ellis’ university colleagues included (until 1950) then-Bishop Fulton Sheen—who not only was known for his radio and television preaching, but also was described as a highly gifted philosopher.

The Thomas Reeves biography of the Venerable Sheen reveals a much earlier battle, in which the saintly professor testified to Catholic University’s board of trustees against attempts to make the institution a “Catholic Harvard,” with emphasis on secular prestige. At a 1935 trustees meeting, Sheen called for the “primacy of the spiritual” in Catholic education:

“The task of integrating the supernatural with the natural, of infusing human knowledge with the divine, of complementing our knowledge of things with our knowledge of God, of making all things Theocentric, is the business of a Catholic university.”

He added that the bishops’ national university:

“…is to education what the Catholic Church is to religion, namely, the leaven in the mass. The Church is not one of the sects, it is the unique life of Christ; the Catholic University is not one of the American Universities, it is their soul.”

The deck is stacked

It would be wrong, then, to assume that Catholic identity was suddenly under assault by the participants in the 1967 retreat at Land O’ Lakes. It had endured through many trials. The appeal for academic independence from “all authority” had perhaps found its time, when society itself seemed to have turned against tradition and values.

Two other false notions about the Land O’ Lakes meeting deserve to be corrected. For one thing, the retreat was not an isolated gathering of independent reformers; it was surprisingly “official,” one of several regional meetings around the world to help draft a statement by the Vatican-affiliated International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU), of which Fr. Hesburgh was then president. The final Vatican-influenced document, “The Catholic University in the Modern World,” was far more traditional in its understanding of Catholic education, and in fact it is quoted in Ex corde Ecclesiae.

Second, although the Land O’ Lakes meeting was identified as the North American regional delegation to the IFCU, it was never truly intended to represent all of the region’s Catholic colleges and universities. Subsequent histories and Notre Dame’s own description indicate that the participants were focused on large, research institutions—an odd emphasis, since none of the represented universities had truly attained that status, but perhaps they aspired to it.

Moreover, it seems the deck was stacked with Fr. Hesburgh’s allies: only 10 universities were represented, including six from the U.S.: Boston College, Catholic University of America, Fordham, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Saint Louis. (The rector of the Catholic University of America was alone in publicly criticizing the resulting statement.) Of the 26 signers, seven were from Notre Dame and its sponsoring Holy Cross Fathers, and ten were Jesuits or leaders of Jesuit institutions.

Some of the signers were especially notable: Archbishop Paul Hallinan of Atlanta, Father Theodore McCarrick (then president of the Pontifical University of Puerto Rico and later Archbishop of Washington) and Father Vincent O’Keefe, S.J. (later Vicar General of the Society of Jesus).

Also intriguing is the signature by John Cogley, a leftist scholar representing the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. It’s not clear what he was doing at Land O’ Lakes, except that he was a celebrated intellectual in certain circles. He had been religion editor of the New York Times and a principal writer of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech advocating the separation of church and state. He later dissented from Humanae Vitae and became an Episcopalian.

For a few coins

I leave it to the reader to explore more of the statement itself, but I’ll make one more claim about the motivations behind it. Above I accused the signers of succumbing to the temptation for worldly prestige. But closely tied to secular prestige is the desire for money, which seems also to have been a related factor.

In 1987, Sister Brigid Driscoll, former president of Marymount College in New York, offered a defense of the “Land O’ Lakes” mentality:

“In the 1960s and early 1970s, most Catholic colleges severed even tenuous ties to the Church…

“We became independent and named lay trustees because of accreditation, the increased sophistication of higher education as a major enterprise and because of the demands of growth…

“Those decisions meant a windfall for the schools a few years later when the federal government offered financial aid to independent colleges…

“Any indication that these schools were under ecclesiastical authority could cast doubt on their independence and thus jeopardize that aid…”

The same year, in the New York Times (Jan. 16, 1987), Fr. Hesburgh made a similar claim:

“Catholic colleges and universities receive a large amount of financial help in different forms from the public monies of the state.

“…if there were no academic freedom and institutional autonomy for Catholic higher education, it might very well be that the [U.S. Supreme] Court would rule that public funding for Catholic institutions of higher learning is unconstitutional.”

In fact, however, the Supreme Court has ruled quite differently in support of religious institutions. Today some of the most faithful Catholic colleges like Franciscan University of Steubenville and Thomas Aquinas College participate freely in federal student aid programs, as does the “ecclesiastical” Catholic University of America.

It’s sadly true that, for the Catholic universities that embraced Land O’ Lakes, secularization has been rewarded with large endowments and state aid. But it’s simply not true that federal aid would have been unavailable to universities that maintained formal ties to the Church. Ironically, Notre Dame still is under some legal control by the Holy Cross Fathers; its students receive grants and loans, and it has received numerous federal grants from the Obama administration (albeit after giving the President an honorary degree).

For many smaller Catholic colleges, secularization has not benefited them financially. They struggle to distinguish themselves from state universities that provide the same job training at less cost.

Marymount College in New York is a case in point. Recall that Sr. Driscoll seemed proud of her institution’s choice to sever “tenuous ties to the Church,” bringing a “windfall” of taxpayer funds. The College closed its doors in 2007 for financial reasons.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Human Sexuality Policies for Catholic Schools

Introduction

This resource guide responds to the need for clarity, charity, and integrity in policy issues related to human sexuality in Catholic schools. A school’s specific policies related to human sexuality should be consistent with Church teaching and should be tied into the school’s overall mission. Human sexuality policies should, to the degree possible, not single out any particular group or behavior but be placed in the larger context of assisting all members of the school community in virtue formation, furthering of the common good, and the Catholic evangelical mission of the school.

This guide provides examples of policy material at three levels:

  1. A sample broad school vision/mission statement in which to situate human sexuality policies.
  2. A statement regarding the school’s intent and interest in establishing policies related to human sexuality.
  3. Examples of specific policies related to human sexuality.

A series of appendices includes additional resources, Church teachings on human sexuality, and examples of handbook and entry agreements.

These materials are not offered as legal or theological advice. Schools should run all policy statements through their legal counsel and theological advisors, including (when possible) the local bishop. The Cardinal Newman Society has worked with the pro bono attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom and highly recommends them to school leaders for a review of your policies and governing documents.

Any use or adaptation of this material is permitted without attribution, although references to material from Church documents should be retained to those particular documents if used.

Part One: Sample Broad Vision/Mission Statements for Catholic Schools

Example A: A General Belief Statement

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the World” (MT 28: 19-20).

With this statement, Christ sent forth His apostles on a mission of evangelization. Catholic education promotes and fosters the teaching and values of the Catholic Church as professed by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.1 Catholic schools, through their educational efforts, provide an essential ecclesiastical ministry, the primary purpose of which is evangelization through a critical transmission of culture in the light of faith and the integral formation of the human person, mind, body, and spirit, to fulfill God’s calling for all to a fullness of Christian living in this world and the next.

Example B: A More Specific Belief Statement With Core Principles2

Catholic education is an expression of the Church’s mission of salvation and an instrument of evangelization: to make disciples of Christ and to teach them to observe all that He has commanded.3 Through Catholic education, students encounter God, who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.4 Christ is the foundation of Catholic education;5 He is the Master who journeys with students through school and life as genuine Teacher and perfect Man.6 As a faith community in communion with the Church, all its members give witness to Christ’s teachings as set forth by the Magisterium and especially as articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. With a Christian vision, Catholic education fulfills its purpose of the critical transmission of culture in the light of faith7 and integral formation of students in body, mind, and spirit.8

Evangelization. Our school assists in the salvific mission of the Catholic Church by preparing all students to seek and proclaim the Good News through education and formation in the Catholic faith.9

Encounter with Christ. Through daily interaction, prayer, liturgies, and participation in the sacraments,10 all members of the school community encounter Christ and His transforming love and truth and in so doing are drawn to proclaim and fulfill His calling for them and for the Christian community.11 Through this encounter, students are moved toward the fullness of their humanity, becoming more aware of the gift of Faith given them at Baptism,12 to mature into adults who will bear witness to the Mystical Body of Christ, respect the dignity of the human person, provide service, lead apostolic lives, and build the Kingdom of God.13

Community of faith. As members of a Catholic educational community, we are all called to model confident and joyful public witness in both word and deed and to live by the moral demands of the Gospel14 in order to model for students the integration of faith and life and to assist in the development of virtues characteristic of the Catholic Christian.15 We do this by living in communion with the Church and its teachings.

Believing in the mercy and forgiveness of Christ, we acknowledge our sinful and fallen nature and look to Christ and to the Sacraments He has given us as sources of grace and strength, particularly when striving to live according to the Ten Commandments given to us in the Old Testament and the Beatitudes given to us by Christ in the New.

Authority for teaching. We profess that all authority for our moral and spiritual teaching is based on the Gospels of Jesus Christ16 and the traditions of the Catholic Church as taught by its ordinary and extraordinary Magisterium, and especially as contained within the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Transmission of culture. Permeated by an evangelical spirit of authentic freedom and charity,17 our school provides a unique setting where everyone is aware of the living presence of Jesus Christ as evidenced throughout the daily rituals of prayer and Sacraments, harmonious and friendly relationships,18 and curricular selections where faith and culture are intertwined in all areas of school life.19 Cultivating within students their intellectual, creative, and aesthetic faculties in order to develop the right use of reason, promote a sense of values, and encouraging just attitudes and prudent behavior,20 our school environment strives to hand down the cultural patrimony of previous generations, in particular a Christian anthropology which teaches that man was made in the image and likeness of God.

Part Two: Sample Statement Declaring a Catholic Foundation for Human Sexuality Policies

All members of the school community are expected to strive to live a life of virtue guided by the teachings of the Catholic Church in all aspects of their lives. Our school’s pastoral and policy practices are written in fidelity to the moral guidance and teachings of the Catholic Church in all areas that touch on human flourishing. The school establishes an environment of encouragement, mercy, healing, and love to accompany its members as we journey on the path toward holiness.

At the heart of a Catholic school’s unique educational charism is integral formation of the whole human person. The Church instructs us,

Since true education must strive for complete formation of the human person that looks to his or her final end as well as to the common good of societies, children and youth are to be nurtured in such a way that they are able to develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously, acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and right use of freedom, and are formed to participate actively in social life.21

Because our efforts at integral formation include the integrity of body, spirit, and moral development, our school has a proper concern for each student’s behavior and development in the complex area of human sexuality. As a Catholic institution, we believe that human bodies are gifts from God and temples of the Holy Spirit.22 All men and women are called to a life of chastity appropriate to their vocation as single, married, or consecrated religious. The Church defines chastity as “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being”.23

The Church also teaches that “sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman”.24 We believe that human sexual behavior is only properly oriented to the ends of love and life in the context of Holy Matrimony.25

The proper understanding of human sexuality requires personal integrity and full integration of body and soul as created by God.26 According to the Church, “the chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.”27

We believe that the body and soul are intimately united: the body does not contain the soul like water in a glass, but the two are intimately dependent upon each other to express man as the highest order of creation.28 We believe that the sexes are complementary and that as “male and female he made them”.29 Our given biological sex is part of the divine plan.30 The Church teaches that sexual identity is “a reality deeply inscribed in man and woman,”31 it constitutes but is more than one’s biological identity,32 and a person “should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity”.33 One’s biological sex and gender expression are not to be disaggregated,34 but should be seen in harmony, according to God’s plan.

As a Catholic educational institution, we understand truth to be the correspondence of mind to reality:35 a reality which is created by and held in existence by God and which entails the fullness of God’s creation and divine plan. We also affirm that reality is knowable through the use of properly functioning senses and reason, as well as through the aid of divine revelation and the teaching of the Church.36

We believe that man and woman share the same humanity37 and “inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator.”38 We believe “they are equal as persons (“bone of my bones…”) and complementary as masculine and feminine.” Therefore they are deserving of respect, and no harassment, violence, or discrimination because of one’s sex will be tolerated.39

Offenses against chastity and marriage, including those described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, will not be tolerated. Members of the school community may not advocate for such behaviors, share conversations or publications of a prurient nature, or otherwise impede chastity in the context of our Catholic school classes, activities, or events.

Behaviors that are contrary to Catholic morality and the expectations of this school include but are not limited to: vulgar language and gestures of a sexual nature, immodest dress or deportment, expressions of lust, masturbation, pornography, fornication, homosexual activity, expressing a gender that is discordant with one’s biological sex, adultery, cohabitating in a sexual relationship outside of marriage, voluntary sterilization, artificial contraception, in vitro fertilization, procuring an abortion, and sexual harassment or abuse.

Part Three: Examples of Specific Policies Related to Human Sexuality

Definition of Terms

“Sex” means the biological condition of being male or female as based upon physical differences at birth.40 “Gender” is a person’s identity as male or female, harmonious with one’s biological sex upon birth.41 “Chastity” is the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.42 “Marriage” is the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, by which one man and one woman unite in a lifelong partnership for the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children.43

Athletic Policy

Students are only eligible to participate on our school’s sport teams consistent with their biological sex. In order to maintain dignity, modesty, and respect for forms of physical contact between members of the opposite sex, at no time will members of the opposite sex wrestle each other in intra-school or inter-school activities.

Bullying Policy

The common good and Christian justice and charity demand a school environment that is safe and affirming of the dignity of all persons. Bullying of any kind will not be tolerated.

Chastity

All members of this Catholic school community are called to a life of chastity appropriate to their vocation as single, married, or consecrated religious. This requires modesty in language, appearance, and behavior.

Dance Policy

In keeping with the Christian mission and moral standards of our school, student dress and behavior is to conform to those characteristics of a virtuous and Christ-centered person at all times, including dances and social activities. Consistent with these expectations, students are to refrain from any sexually suggestive behavior both on and off the dance floor. Because the Church teaches that same-sex attractions are disordered,44 advocating for or expressing same-sex attractions, including same-sex couples at dances, is not permitted.

Dress Code/Uniform Code

In order to maintain uniform appearance and proper comportment throughout the school day and at school events, all students, staff, and faculty must follow the dress code expectations of their biological sex while on campus and while representing the school at outside functions. Modesty is expected at all times.

Facilities Use Policy

Chaste behavior and modesty in dress and deportment is expected at all times on school property and at school events. All students, staff, faculty, and visitors are to observe modesty when using changing facilities, locker rooms, showers, and restrooms and may only use facilities that conform to the individual’s biological sex. The latter policy applies in any state of undress in front of others.

School facilities are dedicated to the mission of Catholic education and may not be used by any member of the school community or any external organization or individual for any purpose or cause that is contrary to Catholic teaching or otherwise opposed to the Catholic Church.

Formal Titles and Names

Students will address all adults by their proper titles as based on school employment documents (Mr., Mrs., Miss, Dr., Sr., Brother, etc.) and surname (last name). School personnel will address students by the original name with which the student was registered (or its common derivative) and correlating pronouns.

Gender Identity

The school will interact with students according to their biological sex as based upon physical differences at birth. A member of the school community who wishes to express a gender other than his or her biological sex is understood as operating outside of the “reality deeply inscribed”45 within. Assisting the person in his or her disconnect with this reality, however sincerely experienced, by agreeing to participate in any efforts to change natural gender expression is contrary to the pursuit of the truth. Authentic love, a gift of the self for the good of the other, requires that we compassionately dwell in the truth and assist those we love to do the same.

The school recognizes that occasionally there may be instances where young people experience dissonance between their biological sex and the roles and norms advocated by society.46 Some young people might feel drawn to dress, act, and even manipulate their physical bodies in ways contrary to God’s plan. The school advocates that young people, working with their parents, bring these types of issues to their pastor as well as to other trained professionals who might best assist them in clarifying and defining issues of self (and sexual) identity in accord with Catholic teaching and God’s natural plan. The school’s pastoral and counseling services are available to all members of the school community.

Mission Integrity

The school joyfully exercises its responsibility to teach Catholic faith and morals in all fullness and especially as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Parents or guardians and non-Catholics whose religious practices and beliefs run counter to Church teaching might experience possible conflicts as we maintain mission integrity. Sincere questioning of the practices of the Catholic faith in order to more deeply understand them are welcome, but openly hostile, public defiance and challenge of Catholic truths or morality, are signs that a student, parent, staff or faculty member may not be a fit for our school’s primary evangelical mission and, thus, may be denied admission or may be asked to leave the school.

Public Displays of Affection

In order to maintain a professional atmosphere of learning, romantic displays of affection, such as romantic hugging, kissing, hand-holding, sitting on laps, etc., are not permitted at school or at school-sponsored events.

Same-Sex Attraction

Because the Catholic Church teaches that same-sex attraction is inherently disordered47 and that sexual activity is only appropriate for the purposes of love and life within Holy Matrimony48, individuals experiencing this disordered inclination may not advocate, celebrate, or express it in the context of our Catholic school classes, activities, or events. The use of the term “same-sex attraction” in discussing homosexual inclinations is preferred, since there is only one proper sexual orientation: that which orients a man to a woman in the bonds of matrimony. Because labels can falsely promote a lasting identification or enduring notion of self, the school avoids labeling individuals with such terms as “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “queer,” even when the individual might desire such identification.

The Church encourages individuals experiencing same-sex attraction to pursue the virtues of chastity, self-mastery, and friendship instead of acting upon those inclinations romantically or sexually.49 The school offers its pastoral and counseling services as sources of comfort and direction for any member of the school community.

A Note on Other Policies

This document does not address student pregnancies under the assumption that the school has already articulated a policy that assists the student-parents to re-establish a life of chastity, prohibits abortion, and supports them in their affirmation of the gift of life under all circumstances. This document also does not address specific policies related to sexual harassment and discrimination, because such policies are often complex and crafted together with legal counsel.

Regarding issues of human sexuality as applied to faculty and staff, a series of best practices advice and examples is contained in two publications from the Cardinal Newman Society: Faith and Morals Language in Catholic School Teacher Employment Documents and Faith and Morals Language in Catholic School Teacher Employment Documents: A Compilation from Diocesan Statements, Handbooks and Contract.

Since most Catholic schools exercise their constitutional right and Church-mandated responsibility to hire faithful Catholic faculty and give preference to serving Catholic students, schools should ensure that their non-discrimination clauses are not overly broad or stretch beyond the requirements for faith-based institutions in our country. An example of language in a non-discrimination statement might include in part:

Our school recognizes the inherent value and dignity of all members of the human family and values equal opportunity for members of all races, cultures, and ethnicities. Our school prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, or status as a veteran or disabled veteran. Our school reserves the rights and protections granted to it in the areas of admissions and employment practices by applicable laws and constitutional provisions to act in furtherance of its religious objectives.

 

APPENDIX A: Select Church Teachings on Sexuality

Bodily Integrity

“The human body shares in the dignity of ‘the image of God’: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit:

“Man, though made of body and soul, is a unity. Through his very bodily condition he sums up in himself the elements of the material world. Through him they are thus brought to their highest perfection and can raise their voice in praise freely given to the Creator. For this reason man may not despise his bodily life. Rather he is obliged to regard his body as good and to hold it in honor since God has created it and will raise it up on the last day.”50

“Sexuality affects all aspect of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concern affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.”51

“By creating the human being man and woman, God gives personal dignity equally to the one and the other. Each of them, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.”52

“In [St.] Paul’s eyes, it is not only the human spirit…that decides the dignity of the human body. But even more so it is the supernatural reality [of] the indwelling and continual presence of the Holy Spirit in man—in his soul and in his body—as the fruit of the redemption carried out by Christ. It follows that man’s body is no longer just his own. It deserves that respect whose manifestation in the mutual conduct of man, male and female, constitutes the virtue of purity.”53

“A sexual education that fosters a healthy sense of modesty has immense value, however much some people nowadays consider modesty a relic of a bygone era. Modesty is a natural means whereby we defend our personal privacy and prevent ourselves from being turned into objects to be used. Without a sense of modesty, affection and sexuality can be reduced to an obsession with genitality and unhealthy behaviours that distort our capacity for love, and with forms of sexual violence that lead to inhuman treatment or cause hurt to others.”54

“The profound falsehood of this theory and the anthropological revolution contained within are obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves. According to the Biblical creation account, being created by God as male and female pertains to the essence of the human creature. This duality is an essential aspect of what being human is all about, as ordained by God. This very duality as something given is now disputed. The words ‘male and female he created them’ (Gen 1:27) no longer apply. No, what now applies is this: it was not God who created them male and female—hitherto society did this, now we decide for ourselves.”55

“Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure ‘sex’, has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man’s great ‘yes’ to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will.”56

“…human sexuality [is] being regarded more as an area for manipulation and exploitation than as the basis of the primordial wonder which led Adam on the morning of creation to exclaim before Eve: ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ (Gen 2:23).”57

“Frequently, sex education deals primarily with ‘protection’ through the practice of ‘safe sex’. Such expressions convey a negative attitude towards the natural procreative finality of sexuality, as if an eventual child were an enemy to be protected against. This way of thinking promotes narcissism and aggressivity in place of acceptance. It is always irresponsible to invite adolescents to toy with their bodies and their desires, as if they possessed the maturity, values, mutual commitment and goals proper to marriage. They end up being blithely encouraged to use other persons as an means of fulfilling their needs or limitations. The important thing is to teach them sensitivity to different expressions of love, mutual concern and care, loving respect and deeply meaningful communication. All of these prepare them for an integral and generous gift of self that will be expressed, following a public commitment, in the gift of their bodies. Sexual union in marriage will thus appear as a sign of an all-inclusive commitment, enriched by everything that has preceded it.”58

Sexual Complementarity

“Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. ‘Being man’ and ‘being woman’ is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator. Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity ‘in the image of God’. In their ‘being-man’ and ‘being-woman’, they reflect the Creator’s wisdom and goodness.”59

“Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.”60

“Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament.”61

“Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life. The harmony of the couple and of society depends in part on the way in which the complementarity, needs, and mutual support between the sexes are lived out.”62

“Homosexuality refers to relations between men or women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. It’s psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which present homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’ They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.”63

“Connected with de facto unions is the particular problem concerning demands for the legal recognition of unions between homosexual persons, which is increasingly the topic of public debate. Only an anthropology corresponding to the full truth of the human person can give an appropriate response to this problem with its different aspects on both the societal and ecclesial levels. The light of such anthropology reveals ‘how incongruous is the demand to accord ‘marital’ status to unions between persons of the same sex. It is opposed, first of all, by the objective impossibility of making the partnership fruitful through the transmission of life according to the plan inscribed by God in the very structure of the human being. Another obstacle is the absence of the conditions for that interpersonal complementarity between male and female willed by the Creator at both the physical-biological and the eminently psychological levels. It is only in the union of two sexually different persons that the individual can achieve perfection in a synthesis of unity and mutual psychophysical completion’. Homosexual persons are to be fully respected in their human dignity and encouraged to follow God’s plan with particular attention in the exercise of chastity. This duty calling for respect does not justify the legitimization of behaviour that is not consistent with moral law, even less does it justify the recognition of a right to marriage between persons of the same sex and its being considered equivalent to the family.”64

“The complementarity of man and woman, the pinnacle of divine creation, is being questioned by the so-called gender ideology, in the name of a more free and just society. The differences between man and woman are not for opposition or subordination, but for communion and generation, always in the ‘image and likeness’ of God.”65

“The Christian vision of man is, in fact, a great ‘yes’ to the dignity of persons called to an intimate filial communion of humility and faithfulness. The human being is not a self-sufficient individual nor an anonymous element in the group. Rather he is a unique and unrepeatable person, intrinsically ordered to relationships and sociability. Thus the Church reaffirms her great ‘yes’ to the dignity and beauty of marriage as an expression of the faithful and generous bond between man and woman, and her no to ‘gender’ philosophies, because the reciprocity between male and female is an expression of the beauty of nature willed by the Creator.”66

“Femininity in some way finds itself before masculinity, while masculinity confirms itself through femininity. Precisely the function of sex [that is, being male or female], which in some way is ‘constitutive for the person’ (not only ‘an attribute of the person’), shows how deeply man, with all his spiritual solitude, with the uniqueness and unrepeatability proper to the person, is constituted by the body as ‘he’ or ‘she’.”67

Social Ideology

“These words lay the foundation for what is put forward today under the term ‘gender’ as a new philosophy of sexuality. According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society. The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”68

“In this perspective [i.e., that of gender ideology], physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels. This theory of the human person, intended to promote prospects for equality of women through liberation from biological determinism, has in reality inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality.”69

“Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that ‘denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family.  This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female.  Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time’.  It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised.  It needs to be emphasized that ‘biological sex and the socio-cultural role of sex (gender) can be distinguished but not separated’. …It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality.  Let us not fall into the sin of trying to replace the Creator.  We are creatures, and not omnipotent.  Creation is prior to us and must be received as a gift.  At the same time, we are called to protect our humanity, and this means, in the first place, accepting it and respecting it as it was created.”70

“The crisis of the family is a societal fact. There are also ideological colonializations of the family, different paths and proposals in Europe and also coming from overseas. Then, there is the mistake of the human mind—gender theory—creating so much confusion.”71

“Faced with theories that consider gender identity as merely the cultural and social product of the interaction between the community and the individual, independent of personal sexual identity without any reference to the true meaning of sexuality, the Church does not tire of repeating her teaching: ‘Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral and spiritual difference and complementarities are oriented towards the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life….’ According to this perspective, it is obligatory that positive law be conformed to the natural law, according to which sexual identity is indispensable, because it is the objective condition for forming a couple in marriage” (emphasis in original and internal citation omitted).72

“In the process that could be described as the gradual cultural and human de-structuring of the institution of marriage, the spread of a certain ideology of ‘gender’ should not be underestimated. According to this ideology, being a man or a woman is not determined fundamentally by sex but by culture. Therefore, the bases of the family and inter-personal relationships are attacked.”73

 

APPENDIX B: Sample Letter for Prospective Employee or Parent74

Dear Prospective Parent/Employee:

Thank you for your interest in our school. Ours is a faith-based school, and as such we hope to attract those individuals, students, and families who are like-minded spiritually or who are open and willing to explore life in the Catholic Church. Our mission is one of evangelization and sanctification—to form disciples for Christ within a supportive academic community.

Before applying to our school, please read our School Handbook (Employee Policy), which you will find online. This will introduce you more fully to the mission of our school, our school philosophy, our Church teachings, and other policies and expectations for those working and learning in our school environment.

Please note that our Catholic faith as explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and as taught by the Magisterium of the Church is the foundation for all subjects and activities at our school. Students and teachers, whether or not of the Catholic faith, are expected to participate in all religious activities to the extent deemed applicable by the Church. All adults employed at our school are expected to be witnesses and role models of Catholic morality.

If your beliefs and lifestyle choices are not in agreement with our Church teachings, becoming a part of our community might prove difficult. Non-Catholics exposed to Church teachings might exhibit internal conflict. When this is in line with sincere and arduous searching for the Truth, we joyfully will assist in your acquisition of a deeper understanding and embrace into the Catholic Church.

Our school is committed not only to academic excellence, but also forming students into mature young adults who will bear witness to the Mystical Body of Christ, respect the dignity of the human person, provide service, lead apostolic lives, and build the Kingdom of God. If you are in agreement with these objectives, this school will complement the beliefs and ideals of your life and home.

We look forward to partnering with you in this wonderful apostolate of Catholic education.

APPENDIX C: Sample Handbook Agreement75

Parents: Please read the following statements carefully and sign below to indicate your agreement.

I hereby affirm that I have read the Student Handbook and discussed its policies with my student.

I certify that I consent to and will submit to all governing policies of the school, including all applicable policies in the Student Handbook.

I understand that this school exists to further the mission and objectives of the Catholic Church, in its entirety, and those causing public scandal by actively promoting a moral or doctrinal position contrary to Catholic teaching may be asked to leave.

I understand that the standards of the school do not tolerate profanity, obscenity in word or action, disrespect to the personnel of the school, or continued disobedience to the established policies of the school.

I understand that the services of the school are engaged by mutual consent, and that either the school or I reserve the right to terminate any or all services at any time. I understand that the Student Handbook does not contractually bind [School] and is subject to change without notice by decision of [School]’s governing body. Admission to the school is a privilege, not a right, and admission for one school year does not guarantee automatic admission for future school years.

Signature of Mother                     Date

Signature of Father                        Date

Students in Grades 7-12: Please read the following statement carefully and sign below to indicate your agreement.

I hereby affirm that I have read the Student Handbook. I certify that I consent to and will submit to all governing policies of the school, including all applicable policies in the Student Handbook.

I understand that this Handbook does not contractually bind [School] and is subject to change without notice by decision of [School]’s governing body.

I understand that admission to the school is a privilege, not a right, and that any behavior, either on or off campus, which is not consistent with the school’s standards could result in the loss of that privilege.

Signature of Student                       Date

 

APPENDIX D: Select Resources

Policy Development

Alliance Defending Freedom. (2015). Protecting your ministry from sexual          orientation, gender identity lawsuits: A legal guide for churches, Christian         schools, and Christian ministries. Retrieved from http://adflegal.org/forms/download-protect-your-ministry

Donohue, D. and Guernsey, D. (2015) Faith and Morals Language in Catholic School Teacher Employment Documents: Best Practices Brief. Retrieved from http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/Portals/0/K12%20Pages/Resources/Faith%20and%20Morals%20Best%20Practices.pdf

Donohue, D. and Guernsey, D. (2015) Faith and Morals Language in Catholic School Teacher Employment Documents: A Compilation from Diocesan Statements, Handbooks and Contracts. Retrieved from http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/Portals/0/K12%20Pages/Resources/Faith%20%20Morals%20Compilation%20Donohue%20Guernsey%20062015.pdf

Kniffin, E. (2015). Protecting your right to serve: How religious ministries can meet new challenges without changing their witness. Retrieved from http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/11/protecting-your-right-to-serve-how-religious-ministries-can-meet-new-challenges-without-changing-their-witness

Liberty Institute. (2015). Religious liberty templates and guides. Retrieved from https://www.libertyinstitute.org/school-religious-liberty-audits

Books

Anderson, C., & Granados, J. (2009). Called to love: Approaching John Paul II’s theology of the body. New York, NY: The Doubleday Publishing Company.

Evert, J., & Evert, C. (2009). Theology of his body / Theology of her body. Westchester, PA: Ascension Press.

Evert, J., & Evert, C. (2011). How to find your soulmate without losing your soul.

Lakewood, CO: Totus Tuus Press.

Evert, J., & Evert, C. Love, sex, and babies. (2009). San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers Press.

Evert, J., & Evert, C. (2011). Pure manhood. San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers Press.

Evert, J., & Evert, C. (2008). Pure womanhood. San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers Press.

Healy, M. (2005). Men and women are from Eden. Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books.

Hogan, R. (2006). The human body… a sign of dignity and a gift. Cincinnati, OH: The Couple to Couple League.

Hogan, R. (2005). Is NFP good? Cincinnati, OH: The Couple to Couple League.

Hogan, R. (1985). The wonder of human sexuality. St. Paul, MN: Leaflet Missal Co.

Lewis, C.S. (1988). The four loves. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Books.

Rego R. (1990). The true meaning of love. St. Paul, MN: The Leaflet Missal Company.

Sri, E. (2007). Men, women, and the mystery of love. Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony
Messenger Press.

Course Materials

Butler, B., Evert, J., & Evert, C.  (2011).  Theology of the body for teens.  Westchester, PA: Ascension Press.

Gallagher, A., Heinzen, A., Hogan, R., & Taylor, R.  (1996).  Project Genesis series.  St. Paul, MN: Leaflet Missal Company.

Macke, E., & Power, M. (2016). Called to Be More. Cincinnati, OH: Ruah Woods Press.

Pauley, C., & Spitzer, R.  (2012).  Principles and choices series.  Snohomish, WA: Healing the Culture.

St. Augustine Institute (n.d.). True Beauty/True Strength. Subscription program. https://formed.org/course/551c1916927f85200dda7c5d.

Documents from Bishops

Nebraska Catholic Conference. (2016). Nebraska Bishops’ statement on the Nebraska School Activities Association’s policy on transgender student participation. Retrieved from http://necatholic.org/information/nebraska-bishops-statement-on-nsaas-policy-on-transgender-student-participation/

Terrio, Most Rev. Paul. (2016). Pastoral letter, A basic flaw in the Alberta Education’s Guidelines for Best Practices: Creating Learning Environments that Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Gender Expression. Retrieved from http://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2694315/AlbertaEducationsGuidelines-1.pdf

United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Natural Family Planning Program. (n.d.). Life as a gift from God. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/catholic-teaching/upload/Life-as-a-gift-from-God.pdf

United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Natural Family Planning Program. (n.d.). Human sexuality. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/natural-family-planning/catholic-teaching/upload/Human-sexuality.pdf

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. (2016). “Gender theory”/“Gender ideology” – Select teaching resources. Retrieved from www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/promotion-and-defense-of-marriage/upload/Gender-Ideology-Select-Teaching-resources.pdf

Documents from Popes

Pope Benedict XVI. (2005). Deus caritas est. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est.html

Pope Francis. (2016). Amoris laetitia. Retrieved from https://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf

Pope St. John Paul II. (2006). Man and woman He created them. Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.

Pope St. John Paul II. (1995). Evangelium vitae. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25031995_evangelium-vitae.html

Pope St. John Paul II. (1993). Love and responsibility. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press.

Pope St. John Paul II. (1988). Mulieris dignitatem. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1988/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_19880815_mulieris-dignitatem.html

Pope St. John Paul II. (February 11, 1981). General audience, The virtue of purity is the expression and fruit of life according to the Spirit. Retrieved from https://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/jp2tb55.htm

Pope St. John Paul II. (1981). Familiaris consortio. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio.html

Pope St. John Paul II. (November 7, 1979). General audience, The original unity of man and woman. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/audiences/1979/documents/hf_jp-ii_aud_19791107.html

Pope Paul VI. (1968). Humanae vitae. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html

Pope Pius XI. (1930). Casti connubii. Retrieved from https://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19301231_casti-connubii.html

Pope Pius XI. (1929). Divini illius magistri. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_31121929_divini-illius-magistri.html

Documents from the Vatican

Congregation for Catholic Education. (2019). “Male and female he created them”: Towards a path of dialogue on the question of gender theory in education. Retrieved from http://www.educatio.va/content/dam/cec/Documenti/19_0997_INGLESE.pdf

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (2008). Instruction dignitatis personae on certain bioethical questions. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20081208_dignitas-personae_en.html

Libreria Editrice Vaticana. (1993). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

Pontifical Council for the Family. (1995). The truth and meaning of human sexuality: Guidelines for education within the family. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/family/documents/rc_pc_family_doc_08121995_human-sexuality_en.html

Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. (1983). Educational guidance in human love: Outlines for sex education. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_19831101_sexual-education_en.html

Videos

Bonacci, M. (2006). Sex and love: What’s a teenager to do? Lansdale, PA: Vision Video.

Evert, J., & Evert, C. (2004). Romance without regret. San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers Press

Evert, J., & Marie, E. (2001). Teen relationships and sexual pressure. Lansdale, PA: Vision Video.

Websites

American College of Pediatricians. (2016) Gender ideology harms children. https://www.acpeds.org/category/position-statement

 

 

 

Teach, Witness and Advocate: Catholic Education’s Response to Secularism

This report was adapted from a lecture delivered as part of the Distinguished Speakers Series at Franciscan University of Steubenville on October 15, 2015

Introduction

The Catholic Church in the United States today faces serious challenges arising from secularism and an increasingly secular society, including growing threats to religious freedom.  But while Catholic education is a victim of these threats and can even—when done poorly—make matters worse, faithful Catholic education must be embraced as a key solution to the challenges that secularism poses to Christianity and as a primary means of the New Evangelization.

While the entire Church should renew its appreciation for the essential role of faithful Catholic education, it is most urgently the Catholic educator’s role to proclaim, defend, and witness to the value of Catholic education.  The Catholic educator’s response to secularism should be characterized by resistance to violations of religious freedom and public witness to the Faith and to the integrity of Catholic education—and not by compliance and silence.

Catholic educators cannot rely simply on legal and public policy efforts to preserve their institutions.  Even if the Church and her allies successfully fend off current threats to religious organizations in the courts or legislatures, the underlying crises of truth and faith are likely to persist, laying the groundwork for new violations of natural and constitutional freedoms.

Moreover, Catholic educators must not be tempted into silent compliance, even if they are able to identify moral and legal options for operating under government coercion.  Any action or commitment of the Catholic educator must avoid the risk of scandal and—even more—should have the intention and effect of teaching truth by explanation and example.  Catholic educators should vigorously assert their rights in a free society and use every available means within their competency and mission to defend the integrity of Catholic education.

Above all, Catholic educators can most effectively respond to secularism by better fulfilling their authentic, divinely inspired mission to evangelize by forming the human person.  They do so in their teaching to students and others, research and writing about key moral and social concerns, public witness to the Faith, advocacy for Catholic education, defense of the rightful autonomy of Catholic education from the state, and solidarity with others in each of these tasks.

It may seem an odd position that Catholic education is proposed as a solution to actual and threatened violations of religious freedom, when it is most certainly a victim of those same violations.  In an increasingly secular society, actors in all levels of government are attempting or threatening to abuse their powers and violate religious freedom in a manner that could damage, cripple, and ultimately bar Catholic education—including Catholic homeschools, schools, colleges, and universities.  Especially with regard to sexuality and gender, marriage, the sacredness of human life, and human dignity, a growing divide between Catholic teaching and social mores has motivated public policymakers and courts to show increasing insensitivity and even hostility to the demands of the Catholic faith upon believers and the fidelity that is necessary to Catholic apostolates and ministries.

Not only do these violations conflict with a school or college’s institutional commitment to a Catholic identity, but they also interfere with the ability of Catholic educators to teach and witness to the Faith.  In this sense, the impact of religious freedom violations is especially damaging to Catholic education.

Moreover, not only is Catholic education a victim of the growing threats to religious freedom, but where our Catholic institutions are marked by infidelity and indifference to their mission, Catholic education is also a contributing cause of this crisis.  The abuses of religious freedom—and secularism generally—are rooted in ignorance, misunderstanding, and often hostility to the truth about man and God.  This secular confusion both feeds and is fed by the scandal of Christian infidelity and poor catechesis and theology; many Catholics, together with many other Americans, are experiencing what Pope Benedict described as a “contemporary ‘crisis of truth’ [that] is rooted in a ‘crisis of faith’”.1

Weakened Catholic identity and dissent within our very own Catholic institutions—particularly many colleges and universities—sow greater confusion within the Church and society.  They also invite further encroachment upon the freedoms of religious institutions, because non-Catholics are understandably suspicious of the Church’s sincerity when she seeks legal exemption from government policies and regulations in order to uphold certain Catholic teachings and practices, but Catholic institutions and educators openly dissent from those same teachings and practices.

Nevertheless—or perhaps precisely because of the confusion that has crept into many Catholic educational institutions—faithful Catholic education is a necessary and primary solution for the Church in facing the challenges of secularism.  Catholic education, when done rightly, is that apostolate of the Church that seeks and communicates truth in the light of faith, forming the human person to know, love, and serve God.  That mission is urgently needed today.

According to Ex corde Ecclesiae, the 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, Catholic educators serve both the Church and society and fulfill their mission to teach “the whole truth about nature, man and God”.2  Especially in higher education, they engage in writing and research “so that the united endeavor of intelligence and faith will enable people to come to the full measure of their humanity, created in the image and likeness of God, renewed even more marvelously, after sin, in Christ, and called to shine forth in the light of the Spirit.”3

The Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education has taught that Catholic education is “a privileged means of promoting the formation of the whole man” and an instrument of evangelization, which is the Church’s mission in this world.4  Pope Francis has said that education is “key, key, key” to evangelization.5  Pope Benedict XVI said that Catholic education is “an essential resource for the new evangelization,” while cautioning that Catholic colleges especially “need to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church’s mission in service of the Gospel.”  He added, “It is no exaggeration to say that providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country.”6  Saint Pope John Paul II said, “In the overall work of the new evangelization, the educational sector occupies a place of honor.”7

At a time when the New Evangelization has a limited focus on casting its nets wide but shallow, the Church should place increased priority on the deep, integral formation that Catholic education provides.  Catholic education, more than any other means of evangelization, helps ensure a lifelong commitment to the Faith and preparation of our young people for sainthood in an increasingly difficult and often hostile culture.

Catholic education, then, is itself an appropriate and necessary response to the contemporary crises of truth and faith that are the bases for a secularized culture and violations of religious freedom.  Nothing short of a substantially increased effort to educate Catholics in the Faith may be sufficient to protect against the dangers of a culture that is rapidly becoming what Blessed John Henry Newman called “simply irreligious.”8

First Response: Teach

The principal duty of the Catholic educator is to teach, and the Church in American society is in great need of this service.  Too much of education is no longer grounded in truth and “the fount of truth”,9 and young people are lacking in the most human faculties of reasoning and communication.

Catholic education forms students intellectually and in the Faith, and prepares them for service to society and for lifelong witness to the Faith.  In each respect, Catholic educators can fulfill their mission in ways that respond to secularism and its root causes.

A Catholic educator’s objective is to educate the student—to form the student intellectually and in relationship to God.  According to the 1977 Vatican document, The Catholic School, Catholic education’s “task is fundamentally a synthesis of culture and faith, and also of faith and life: the first is reached by integrating all the different aspects of human knowledge through the subjects taught, in the light of the Gospel; the second in the growth of the virtues characteristic of the Christian.”10

Saint Pope John Paul II said the vision of Catholic education has “its origin in the person of Christ and its roots in the teachings of the Gospel.  Catholic schools must seek not only to impart a quality education from the technical and professional standpoint, but also and above all provide for the integral formation of the human person.”11

The endeavor to interweave reason and faith, which has become the heart of individual subjects, makes for unity, articulation, and coordination, bringing forth within what is learnt in school a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history.  In the Catholic school’s educational project there is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom.  The various school subjects do not present only knowledge to be attained, but also values to be acquired and truths to be discovered.12

The Catholic college or university continues this formation.  Ex corde Ecclesiae says that students participate in “a continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge”.13  Their education combines “academic and professional development with formation in moral and religious principles and the social teachings of the Church”.14

Catholic education has not only an inward concern for the student’s own development, but also an outward concern for society and its evangelization.  According to the Vatican II declaration Gravissimum Educationis, Catholic education aspires that students “learn not only how to bear witness to the hope that is in them (cf. Peter 3:15) but also how to help in the Christian formation of the world that takes place when natural powers viewed in the full consideration of man redeemed by Christ contribute to the good of the whole society”.15 And Ex corde Ecclesiae demands that graduates should be prepared to “devote themselves to the service of society and of the Church, but at the same time prepared to give the witness of their faith to the world.”16

Catholic education responds to secularism by better ensuring that future generations of Americans know God, know the Catholic faith, and are capable of defending the Faith and religious freedom.  This simply fulfills the teaching mission of Catholic education, already embraced by faithfully Catholic schools, colleges, and universities.

But where is the evidence that students in Catholic schools, colleges, and universities today are graduating with adequate knowledge of the Faith and are living in fidelity to the Church’s moral and social teachings?  If Christian formation is the heart of Catholic education, it should also be the central focus of student outcomes measurements and periodic assessments to better ensure the results that we promise, followed by intensified efforts to improve those results.  This is a challenge even to the most faithful Catholic institutions, which need better instruments to document their degree of success in the formation to which they are publicly committed.

Do all of our Catholic schools, colleges, and universities put at least as much emphasis on Christian formation as on academic achievement and career preparation?  Is this reflected in our standards, curricula, course plans, choice of textbooks, extracurricular programs, and policies?  In our teachers and our hiring priorities?  In our celebration of the Sacraments, prayer, sacramental preparation, and other activities?  Are opportunities for formation simply made available to students, or are they integral to the student experience, with due respect for freedom of conscience?  Especially on college campuses, is there an implicit relativism that suggests a false equality between Christian formation and the practice of other religions?

With particular relevance to contemporary culture, a Catholic education—in partnership with parents—forms young people in sexual purity and provides understanding of the Church’s teaching with regard to sexuality, marriage, human dignity, and the sanctity of human life.  Today these truths are distorted and often attacked in American society, encouraging sympathy for laws that offend morality and violate the rights of Catholic institutions to uphold Catholic teachings.  Do the graduates of Catholic education embrace sexual morality and the true nature of marriage, counter to contemporary American culture?  Do they embrace the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of human life and the dignity of the human person?  Note that these are more than questions of institutional commitment to the faith; they require commitment to achieving outcomes and the promise of a sure formation of students.

How, then, does Catholic education make the further claim to prepare students for evangelization, to “give witness of their faith to the world”?  This objective requires inspiration and skills preparation that are largely absent from most Catholic school, college, and university programs of study.  This requires our attention, especially at a time when the Church is calling the laity to a New Evangelization.

Beyond teaching students, the extraordinary challenges facing Catholic education today should inspire educators to teach others in the Church and community, thereby confronting the ignorance that feeds violations of religious freedom.  The Church proclaims the benefits of Catholic education for both the student’s formation and “the common good of societies.”  According to Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Catholic college or university is committed to dialogue with culture and to be an “effective instrument of cultural progress for individuals as well as for society.”17  Catholic educators should consider ways of making their teaching available to ever-widening audiences, including non-Catholics, in ways that simultaneously benefit their institutions.

The Church’s efforts to make use of new technologies and methods of communication suggest ways that Catholic educators can share their teaching with society without significant distraction from the priority of teaching students.  Professors and teachers can be held out to news media as experts, providing a Catholic perspective when possible.  They can be publicly visible as bloggers and columnists, television and radio guests, and speakers at public events.  They can share classroom materials and even videos in all subjects to help adult Catholics and others learn what is presented to students, especially with regard to the integration of the Faith.  All of this enhances the reputation of Catholic institutions while increasing appreciation for the formation provided in Catholic education.

The secularization of American society invites Catholic educators to more vigorously seek ways of using their expertise for catechesis and evangelization in the community.  New apostolates or associations of educators joined together for this purpose would be an effective and valuable service to the Church and society.

Second Response: Research and Writing on Key Moral and Social Concerns?

In addition to teaching, Catholic college educators often make important contributions by their research and writing.  Focusing this work on the falsehoods that lie at the root of secularism and on the tragic consequences of secularism is a much-needed service of Catholic education today.

In elementary and secondary education, this begins with the “critical, systematic transmission of culture in the light of faith” in Catholic schools.18  Educators and students are called to examine culture and to consider how it should be transformed in the light of the Gospels.  This can be carried outside the classroom through social activities, events, lectures, debates, the arts, and other means of interacting with the surrounding culture.

But it is especially in Catholic higher education that educators are called to writing and research that serves the needs of the Church.  Despite observations that the West has already entered a “post-Christian” age, we are reminded of the hope expressed by Saint John Paul II in Ex corde Ecclesiae, that Catholic universities around the world:

…are for me a lively and promising sign of the fecundity of the Christian mind in the heart of every culture.  They give me a well-founded hope for a new flowering of Christian culture in the rich and varied context of our changing times, which certainly face serious challenges but which also bear so much promise under the action of the Spirit of truth and love.19

Ex corde Ecclesiae places special emphasis on the role of research in the Catholic university to help “discern and evaluate both the aspirations and the contradictions of modern culture, in order to make it more suited to the total development of individuals and peoples.”20

University research will seek to discover the roots and causes of the serious problems of our time, paying special attention to their ethical and religious dimensions.  If need be, a Catholic University must have the courage to speak uncomfortable truths which do not please public opinion, but which are necessary to safeguard the authentic good of society.

A specific priority is the need to examine the predominant values and norms of modern society and culture in a Christian perspective, and the responsibility to try to communicate to society those ethical and religious principles which give full meaning to human life.21

Catholic educators, especially in higher education, could support the Church’s response to secularism and its root causes by engaging in a variety of research and writing projects.  Already some of the best arguments for religious freedom and its legal defense have come out of universities, including some Catholic institutions.  Much more can be done to marshal college and university resources—the most precious of which is the expertise of faculty members—to provide intellectual support, gather valuable information, and analyze the strategies and activities of the Church’s many apostolates.

In particular, the violations of religious freedom impel Catholic educators to place priority on research that directly supports efforts to defend the Church’s institutions or addresses the needs of apostolates and ministries that are focused on the issues central to most violations: sexuality and gender, marriage, the sacredness of human life, and human dignity.  While much valuable research has already been provided by professors in Catholic colleges and universities, it cannot be said that their faculties are, as a whole, as committed to this work as the times require.

In his First Things article a few months ago, proposing various preparations for the 2015 Synod on the Family, George Weigel provided an example of the myriad ways scholars could provide valuable support for the Church’s mission.  He wrote:

More data should be brought forward—and [it is] abundantly available—to demonstrate that the Church’s idea of permanent and fruitful marriage, like the Church’s teaching on the appropriate means of regulating fertility, makes for happier marriages, happier families, happier children, and more-benevolent societies than does the deconstruction of marriage and the family that is inundating the West like a tsunami.  In teaching the truth about marriage, about love, and about the complementarity of the sexes, the Catholic Church is proposing the path to happiness and human flourishing, not the road to repression and misery.  It should make a bold, data-driven case in defense of that teaching, which is a defense of the dignity of the human person.22

It is this sort of “bold, data-driven” research and argument that is needed from Catholic scholars to address not only issues concerning marriage, but all the issues that feed a cultural disdain for the Catholic Church and are consequences of secularism.

Third Response: Public Witness to the Faith

Catholic educators are called to be witnesses to the Faith.  That witness is greatly needed today, both inside and outside the classroom.

Catholic education, by definition, assumes fidelity to the magisterium of the Church.  According to Canon Law, “The instruction and education in a Catholic school must be grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine. …”23  Ex corde Ecclesiae requires that a Catholic college or university “informs and carries out its research, teaching, and all other activities with Catholic ideals, principles, and attitudes. …Catholic teaching and discipline are to influence all university activities, while the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully respected.  Any official action of commitment of the university is to be in accord with its Catholic identity.”24

Such fidelity depends most heavily on the witness of the educators themselves.  In schools, says Canon Law, “teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life”.25  In colleges and universities, requires Ex corde Ecclesiae, “all Catholic teachers are to be faithful to, and all other teachers are to respect, Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching”.26

There is great value to the Church and society in the very example of Catholic educators who remain steadfastly committed to Christian formation in complete fidelity to the magisterium of the Church—especially when such formation is contrary to the norms of secular culture and defies government threats and laws violating religious freedom.  Such educators provide an important public witness to the authentic purpose and value of Catholic schools, colleges, and universities.  Such witness creates opportunities to explain and demonstrate to policymakers and the American public why many Catholic institutions are unwilling to compromise their fidelity to Catholic teaching when faced with government coercion.

This witness is all the more important amid the current crisis of Catholic identity within Catholic education.  Many institutions today fail in significant and public ways to uphold their mission, thereby promoting confusion and doubt regarding the necessity of freedoms that protect religious education.  By contrast, faithfully Catholic schools, colleges, and universities can be effective and much-needed models of Catholic education within the Church and society, demonstrating why religious freedom remains valuable and necessary to preserving their integrity.

There have been substantial efforts in recent decades to strengthen the Catholic identity of schools, colleges, and universities—and also to establish new, lay-directed schools and colleges that are often extraordinary in the formation provided to students—but the present threats increase the urgency for such efforts.  The Church is in great need of their witness and their courage to stand against violations of religious freedom and protect the integrity of Catholic education.  Those institutions that do so may be weakened financially and in their ability to compete for students and employees; the Church should not abandon them to that fate, but should substantially increase support for such institutions in recognition of their great importance and with gratitude for their example.

Fourth Response: Defense of the Rightful Autonomy of Catholic Education from the State

Inherently connected to the mission of the Catholic educator is the obligation to explain and, when necessary, to defend that mission.  This is greatly needed today, amid increasing government threats to religious freedom.

Catholic educators provide a vital service not only to the Church, but as Pope Benedict said to American educators in 2008, they “truly serve society”.27  The benefits to both Church and society need to be proclaimed loudly in defense against the threats to educators’ ability to provide authentic Catholic teaching and formation.  Catholic educators should appeal to the Church for her public witness to the value of Catholic education, but primary responsibility rests upon Catholic educators themselves to more convincingly argue their place in the Church and society and to celebrate their contributions.

Within the Church, not only does Catholic education suffer from declining enrollment and financial hardship in elementary and secondary schools, but there appears to be declining appreciation for the unique benefits of Catholic education at all levels.  This is greatly exacerbated by the crisis of Catholic identity in Catholic education, with many Catholics no longer aware of the significant impact that an authentic Catholic education can have for a young person.  A vigorous defense of traditional Catholic education and proposals for its renewal are urgently needed.  Catholic educators can also do much to help Catholics better understand and appreciate what they do and why it has such great importance for the Christian formation of young Catholics.

In addition, the case must be made more convincingly for the rights of Catholic educators amid the pluralism of American society.  Again citing the Vatican document, The Catholic School:

The Church upholds the principle of a plurality of school systems in order to safeguard her objectives in the face of cultural pluralism.  In other words, she encourages the co-existence and, if possible, the cooperation of diverse educational institutions which will allow young people to be formed by value judgments based on a specific view of the world and to be trained to take an active part in the construction of a community through which the building of society itself is promoted.

Thus, while policies and opportunities differ from place to place, the Catholic school has its place in any national school system.  By offering such an alternative, the Church wishes to respond to the obvious need for cooperation in a society characterized by cultural pluralism.  Moreover, in this way she helps to promote that freedom of teaching which champions and guarantees freedom of conscience and the parental right to choose the school best suited to parents’ educational purpose.

…In fact, as the State increasingly takes control of education and establishes its own so-called neutral and monolithic system, the survival of those natural communities, based on a shared concept of life, is threatened.  Faced with this situation, the Catholic school offers an alternative which is in conformity with the wishes of the members of the community of the Church.28

Included in this is a defense of the rights of parents in a free society to direct the education of their children and to choose authentic Catholic education that is not compromised by government mandate.  Saint Pope John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia in America:

To carry out [her] tasks, the Church in America requires a degree of freedom in the field of education; this is not to be seen as a privilege but as a right, in virtue of the evangelizing mission entrusted to the Church by the Lord.  Furthermore, parents have a fundamental and primary right to make decisions about the education of their children; consequently, Catholic parents must be able to choose an education in harmony with their religious convictions.  The function of the State in this area is subsidiarity; the State has the duty “to ensure that education is available to all and to respect and defend freedom of instruction.  A State monopoly in this area must be condemned as a form of totalitarianism which violates the fundamental rights which it ought to defend, especially the right of parents to provide religious education for their children.  The family is the place where the education of the person primarily takes place.29

The place of Catholic colleges and universities in American society must also be vigorously promoted and defended.  According to Ex corde Ecclesiae:

Catholic Universities join other private and public Institutions in serving the public interest through higher education and research; they are one among the variety of different types of institution that are necessary for the free expression of cultural diversity, and they are committed to the promotion of solidarity and its meaning in society and in the world.  Therefore they have the full right to expect that civil society and public authorities will recognize and defend their institutional autonomy and academic freedom…30

Fifth Response: Solidarity with Others in Responding to Secularism

My final suggestion is for increased collaboration both within and without the Catholic Church in pursuing these tasks.  In all of this, the Catholic educator is united with the Church and others who seek the common good.  Collaboration should be desired and invited to increase the effect of the educator’s efforts and to promote Christian unity and charity.

The Code of Canon Law states that the Church’s bishops have “the duty of arranging everything so that all the faithful have a Catholic education,”31 “to establish and direct schools,”32 to consent to use of the label Catholic,33 and to “watch over” and regulate Catholic education.34  In higher education, according to Ex corde Ecclesiae:

Bishops have a particular responsibility to promote Catholic Universities, and especially to promote and assist in the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic identity, including the protection of their Catholic identity in relation to civil authorities.  This will be achieved more effectively if close personal and pastoral relationships exist between University and Church authorities, characterized by mutual trust, close and consistent cooperation, and continuing dialogue.35

Collaboration to promote and defend Catholic education is an important expression of the close relationship between Catholic educators and their bishops.  Catholic educators should communicate frequently with their bishops to ensure the Church’s guidance and to encourage support for their protection and mission.  The Church should expect educators’ vigorous defense of that mission, and educators who courageously engage in self-defense should expect the full support and assistance of their bishops.

Canon law also calls on “the Christian faithful” to “foster Catholic schools, assisting in their establishment and maintenance according to their means,”36 and to “strive so that in civil society the laws which regulate the formation of youth also provide for their religious and moral education in the schools themselves, according to the conscience of the parents.”37  Also, “the entire ecclesial Community is invited to give its support to Catholic Institutions of higher education and… in a special way to guard the rights and freedoms of these Institutions in civil society.”38

Partnerships with Catholic laity and Catholic apostolates, then, are to be encouraged when confronting violations of religious freedom.  Those apostolates that are independently engaged in such efforts should be encouraged to recognize the high priority of preserving faithful Catholic education and supporting its mission as itself necessary to the protection of the rights of the Church.

In fulfilling their mission, Catholic educators should look especially to other Catholic educators and schools, colleges, and universities for mutual support.  There is a great need for unity and a shared response to government aggression.  Ex corde Ecclesiae prescribes collaboration among Catholic scholars as “imperative” in university research, emphasizing “various national and international associations.”39  If existing structures for scholars and institutions do not sufficiently provide the mission-centered support and assistance that is needed for research and communication with the government, American bishops, and Vatican, then the times may call for new associations to meet urgent needs.

Finally, Catholic educators should look to the shared experience and collaboration of scholars and leaders from other religions.  In particular, Catholic and other Christian educators share many common concerns, and the latter’s commitment to Christian formation is often very similar to that of the most faithful Catholic schools, colleges, and universities.  The Cardinal Newman Society has had much fruitful collaboration especially with Evangelical Christian educators who share most of our concerns about threats to religious freedom.  Cooperation with associations of Christian scholars, schools, colleges, and universities would prove valuable, I am certain.

Conclusion: Resistance and Witness

The value of Catholic education is reason enough for a vigorous defense and efforts to preserve it, when confronted by secularism and government violations of religious freedom.  But to return to an earlier point, survival alone—if it means silent acquiescence to the law—is insufficient and even dangerous, for it would so compromise the mission of Catholic education that it surely would not survive in any authentic form.

That is because the very mission of Catholic education requires assent to the truth and to God, the fount of truth, in all its activities.  That calls for so much more than quiet compliance with laws that conflict with Catholic morality.  Any government coercion that would compromise Catholic education must be resisted according to the methods and competencies of Catholic educators, in collaboration with each other and with the Church and her allies.

Resistance, however, cannot depend solely or even primarily on legal and public policy responses.  Catholic educators must confront secularism by the most effective means possible—that is, by better fulfilling their authentic, divinely inspired mission to evangelize by forming the human person.  In the ways suggested above and more, Catholic educators should be committed to authentic teaching, research and writing about key moral and social concerns, public witness to the Faith, advocacy for Catholic education, defense of the rightful autonomy of Catholic education from the state, and solidarity with others in each of these tasks.

More than ever, the urgency of the times invites Catholic educators to courageously witness to the Faith and to the great value of Catholic education.  This witness is demonstrated most clearly in their consistent and perhaps courageous presentation of faithful Catholic education despite growing difficulties.  The steadfast support of the Catholic bishops, clergy, religious, and laity to this project will, by God’s grace, bring many blessings to the Church and to American society.

 

Catholic College Closes, but Other Small Colleges Thrive on Faithful Catholic Mission

A small, Massachusetts-based Catholic college will close this month, citing financial difficulties brought about by declining enrollment.  But while many similarly small colleges around the country are struggling to find their niches in order to sustain enrollment, some faithful Catholic institutions are successfully leveraging their faithful Catholic identities to attract students, inviting emulation both as models of success and as witnesses to the Faith.

Marian Court College in Swampscott, Mass., has undergone many changes since it was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1964 as a women’s secretarial school.  It just recently transitioned from a two-year coeducational college to a four-year program, awarding its first bachelor’s degrees just last month to 41 of the 67 graduates.  But Marian Court closes at the end of June, unable to face what Inside Higher Ed describes as “a challenge that faces many small, private college[s]: the troublesome combination of extreme tuition reliance and declining enrollment.”1  The College served about 250 students this past year, many of them first-generation students who commuted from home.

The challenges facing Marian Court were extraordinary, but could a stronger Catholic identity have helped?  The Cardinal Newman Society was granted an interview with Dr. Denise Hammon, president of Marian Court College in Swampscott, Mass., who acknowledged the minimal role the College’s religious mission played in attracting students.  But the Society also spoke with leaders

from Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., and Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., both of whom attested to the strong pull their faithful Catholic identities have on potential students.  Admissions officers at these small, tuition-dependent colleges work hard, but they are meeting enrollment targets while their institutions earn high marks for academic quality.

Catholic identity has value for colleges and students that transcends practical concerns.  Yet Catholic colleges that embrace a strong Catholic identity may find that it helps distinguish their institutions as providing something unique and attractive.

Marketing a Strong Catholic Identity

Tuition-reliant colleges often depend heavily on marketing in order to keep enrollment numbers up.  While Catholic colleges such as those recommended in The Newman Guide for their strong Catholic identity view their religious mission as a strong asset, many other colleges apparently view their Catholic heritage as a liability.

In a widely-read article last year, the Atlantic reported how some Jesuit Catholic universities are hiding their Catholic identities because they think it will help them attract more students.2  Rockhurst University in Kansas City reportedly “removed the word ‘Jesuit’ from the university tagline”.  And a staff member at Regis Univeresity in Denver boldly attested, “We hide the word ‘Catholic’ from prospective students.”

Instead, colleges feel pressured to compete with extravagant campus facilities, high-profile faculty members and exciting student activities, all adding to the high cost of education.  “These days it’s an arms race to have climbing walls and one-on-one attention, and you just can’t do that with a small college,” said Kent Chabotar, a past president of Guilford College, to Inside Higher Ed.  “It’s worse now because of demographics, and because students and families are smarter about looking for schools with niches.”

For Christendom College, which has 433 students, its niche is clear.  Vice President for Enrollment Tom McFadden explained to the Newman Society, “We are an educational apostolate with the mission of educating our students in a time-tested Catholic liberal arts education, in a vibrant Catholic culture, so that they can go out into the world and restore all things in Christ.”  And Christendom does it in complete fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, with reverent liturgies, traditional devotions, orthodox theology, and an emphasis on the moral and spiritual formation of students.

That clarity of institutional identity helps draw students to the College, according to McFadden.  “There are a lot of colleges out there.  And a lot of Catholic ones too,” he said.  “We do our best to make sure everyone knows what makes us different, and if they are attracted to us, then we are very interested in them.  We build strong relationships with our prospective students to educate them about our mission, our curriculum, our activities, and our goals for our graduates.”

That’s not the sort of Catholic identity that was marketed by Marian Court College.  When asked what the College promoted to prospective students, Hammon mentioned being a commuter college, a relatively low tuition, business and criminal justice programs, financial aid, small class sizes, a teaching-focused faculty, and student academic support.  She added that the College was founded by the Sisters of Mercy and is Catholic, but did not mention the clearly Catholic identifiers that a college like Christendom readily advertises.

To the contrary, it seems that Marian Court did little to promote its Catholic identity.  There is no mention of “Catholic” or even the Sisters of Mercy on the homepage of the College’s website.  Religious imagery is minimal.  But the College prominently features on its homepage its 2015 commencement speaker, abortion and same-sex marriage supporter Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.3

A search on the Marian Court website for distinctly Catholic attributes yields few results. The student life page mentions “Mercy core values of compassion, integrity, justice, and service.”4   Regarding the campus spiritual life, the College declares: “Marian Court College promotes spiritual growth through many community service activities and services.  A chapel is located on campus and serves as a place for reflection.  Students of all faiths are invited to participate.”  No Mass or confession times are found.

Dr. Hammon told The Cardinal Newman Society that there was no relationship between Marian Court’s financial difficulties and the way the College portrayed its religious mission.  At the same time, however, she does not believe the College’s Catholic identity helped attract students, at least not explicitly.

“I don’t think it was the published words of ‘We are a Catholic institution,’ but rather it was how we teach here and how we treat each other that attracted people,” Hammon said.  “And we did it in the good faith of the Catholic religion.”

“So for some people it was very important that we were a Catholic institution, for others not as much,” she said.

The Enrollment Question

Thomas Aquinas College has found that its unique mission helps expand the pool of prospective students, said Anne Forsyth, director of college relations, to the Newman Society.

Ten years ago, the College reached its target enrollment of 350 to 370, which is capped to support its unique mission of student formation and small classes.  Nevertheless, the College has experienced an increasing number of applications in recent years.

Forsyth explained, “Because our Admissions efforts as well as our advertising and publicity activities make our Catholic identity well-known, I think it is fair to say that Thomas Aquinas College has an established reputation for its strong Catholic identity and that this is one of the strongest attractions for prospective students.”

Forsyth described how the College seeks students that understand and will live in harmony with “the thoroughly Catholic nature of our academic program and our community life.”  She continued, “Our Admissions officers work closely with potential students to ensure they do indeed grasp our Catholic identity, and our publicity efforts reinforce their work.”

“Moreover, applicants are asked to complete a series of essays, including responding to the prompts… regarding the Catholic intellectual life and the Catholic moral life,” she said.

Christendom College also sets an enrollment cap but enjoys strong interest from prospective students each year.  “Our commitment to the Faith and orthodoxy is definitely a draw for our students,” said McFadden.

“Christendom’s enrollment has increased by 17 percent over the past four years, which, considering the fact that many other private liberal arts schools are seeing declining enrollment, is a great testament to the value of a Christendom liberal arts educational experience,” he said.

Christendom also finds that its strong Catholic identity attracts students outside its local geographical region.  “Christendom has students from all across America and various foreign countries.  And it is our Catholic identity, coupled with our strong liberal arts program and unparalleled personal attention, that is drawing them here,” McFadden said.

Why the Liberal Arts?

Christendom, Thomas Aquinas College and other Newman Guide colleges find Catholic liberal arts education to be a draw for students, but some liberal arts colleges that lack a strong Catholic component are finding it hard to sustain that educational model.

Earlier this year, Sweet Briar College and Tennessee Temple University announced closures, although this month alumni won the right to attempt a comeback at Sweet Briar.  “Both schools cited declining enrollment numbers over the last several years and an inability to climb out of troubling financial difficulties,” according to U.S. News and World Report.5  Sweet Briar President James Jones, Jr., blamed, in part, “the declining number of students choosing to attend small, rural, private liberal arts colleges,” according to the report.

Marian Court has portrayed itself as having a strong dedication to the liberal arts.  Its mission statement refers to its liberal arts curriculum as of the “highest quality,” and its vision statement says that the College provides a “comprehensive liberal arts foundation, grounded in ethical thinking.”6  However, a look at the College’s academic catalog reveals only one associate’s degree major in the liberal arts, and no bachelor’s degrees.7  The other majors include disciplines such as accounting, entrepreneurship, fashion, paralegal studies and sport management.  The College offered two bachelor’s degrees in business administration and criminal justice.

And despite its Catholic heritage, Marian Court did not offer any core curriculum courses in the Catholic intellectual tradition.  Depending on the major, some of the most common classes required included economics, comparative religion, composition, oral communication, psychology, sociology, world history, and world literature.

Nevertheless, President Hammon believes that the liberal arts branding drew students to the College.  She said the institution focused on training students in critical thinking, writing and communication.  But Marian Court’s approach to the liberal arts was apparently a pragmatic one, oriented toward career preparation.  Hammon said, “the liberal arts was very important for broadening the mindsets of young 18-year-olds, as well as helping them start their careers in their chosen discipline.”

Surprisingly, Marian Court did not offer courses in Catholic theology or philosophy.  Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education Ex corde Ecclesiae stipulates, “Because of its specific importance among the academic disciplines, every Catholic University should have a faculty, or at least a chair, of theology.”8

When asked why Marian Court did not have any offerings in Catholic theology or philosophy, Hammon replied, “We offered a course in comparative religion that was a required course of all students no matter what their major.  Sprinkled throughout the curriculum was always the Mercy mission, and that is of treating others with compassion, integrity, and justice.  We have a big emphasis on serving others.”

“So while we may not have had a formal theology course or program, the Mercy values and mission are throughout the curriculum,” Hammon said.  She mentioned in particular the college’s criminal justice program, which she said “offers substantial coursework in restorative justice.  Certainly there’s a lot about giving back to society.  All the values that you hope to see in people who believe in their faith come from restorative justice.”

Institutional Identity Leads to Stability

Noting that many of the students at Marian Court had come from underprivileged families, Hammon emphasized the role that donors play in helping students.  “I really hope donors realize that when they are giving to a small Catholic college, they are changing families.”

Indeed, for tuition-reliant colleges the importance of a strong donor base is of paramount importance.  “Christendom is very tuition reliant,” said McFadden, “although our advancement office does a great job of making up the difference between what the students pay and what it actually costs to run the college.”

McFadden explained the positive effect that its Catholic identity has on the overall stability of the institution.  “Everyone that works here know why Christendom exists,” he said.  “Having a clear mission and buy-in from our employees is very beneficial and helps us retain our employees, which in turn gives us stability.  Because we are not changing who we are and we are sticking to our original purpose, it also helps show our donors, alumni, and friends that we are stable.”

While many small colleges are tuition dependent, Christendom is one of only a few that reject federal aid.  “This has been, at times, hard for us – financially,” explained McFadden. “But you know, God is never outdone in generosity, so as a result of our decision, we have found many people who are interested in supporting us financially. They like the fact that we are truly independent and totally free to be a faithful Catholic institution.”

Forsyth said that Thomas Aquinas College’s accreditors often remark on the rarity of the universal support its faculty have for the College’s mission.

“This unanimity on the part of the faculty and staff about the College’s Catholic identity and mission gives rise to a similar quality in our friends and benefactors, as well as a real depth in their commitment to the school and our students,” Forsyth said.

“Observing that we stand for our principles, they are confirmed in their decision to stand with us and support us all the more in our efforts to form the minds and hearts of our students for Christ,” she said.

Forsyth agreed that there are strong connections between a Catholic college’s financial health and its Catholic identity.  She spoke about the kind of donors that Thomas Aquinas College attracts:

Some of our benefactors are disillusioned with their own Catholic alma maters whose Catholic identities have been diluted; some are parents of alumni who see the tremendous good the College has been in the spiritual lives of their children; and there are foundations for whom fidelity to the teaching Church is a sine qua non for grant consideration.  All are looking for the best way to help build up the Body of Christ in faithfulness and truth, and they view their giving to Thomas Aquinas College as a great investment toward that end.  As a result, they are deeply committed to the College and our students and provide unfailingly for our financial needs.

She continued, “Many if not most of our generous benefactors are committed to Thomas Aquinas College not simply for its excellent academic program but because that program is carried out under the light of the teaching Church and in an atmosphere that nurtures in students the moral virtues and a vibrant spiritual life.”

Appeal of Catholic Campus Life

Thomas Aquinas College shared how its founding document, A Proposal for the Fulfillment of a Catholic Liberal Education, still serves as the institution’s governing document today.9  This is unique in the world of Catholic higher education, where many Catholic universities have become detached from the founding Catholic principles that guided them in their early years.

Forsyth said that “this statement of our mission as a Catholic college is very much alive and at work here, constantly forming our decisions, the community, and the institution itself.  With this continual return to our roots, the College renews again and again its commitment to its Catholic mission and identity.”

She noted several ways in which Thomas Aquinas College ensures that the residence and student life experiences on campus are informed by its Catholic character.  “Our residence halls are single-sex, with no visitation between them,” she said.  “Mass is offered four times a day and confession eight times (before and after Mass); participation is voluntary, but simply by making these so available, a large majority of students participate regularly.  There is a nightly Rosary offered by students in our chapel, and nightly prayers in each residence hall at curfew—again, both voluntary and well-attended.”

Forsyth agrees that the Catholic residence life program at the College is a big draw for students.  “The best testimony we receive in this regard comes from the high school students who participate in our two-week summer program,” she said.  “It should be noted, too, that our retention rate has been on the rise in recent years, reflecting satisfaction on the part of existing students with our residence life.”

McFadden, too, believes that Christendom College’s residence life program, which stems from its Catholic mission, is an attraction for students.  “Students coming to Christendom are interested in achieving greatness, and not settling for mediocrity,” he said.  “They want to grow in virtue and live in an ordered environment – something hard to do at other schools.  Having a strong formation program and a caring student life staff has helped students grow to love Christendom even more.”

He shared Christendom’s conviction of the importance of Catholic mission actively influencing college policies.  He said, “It is absolutely necessary for us to base all of our activity on our particular mission and on the universal mission of the Church, for without them, we would not have a sure guide and we would be more prone to stray from the Truth.”

McFadden concluded, “The Faith is simply part of everything we do – and this enables our students to leave the college fully formed academically, spiritually, and socially in the teachings of the Faith.”

 

 

 

Assessing Catholic Identity: A Handbook for Catholic College and University Leaders

Contents:

Assessing Catholic Identity

Institutional Identity
Mission Statement, Governing Documents & Statutes
Policies, Programs & Commitments
Relationship with Diocesan Bishop
Cooperation

Leadership & Administration
Board of Trustees
Administration and Non-Faculty Employees

Faculty & Academics
Faculty
Curriculum
Theology
Research

Students & Campus Life
Pastoral Ministry
Student Life

Assessing Catholic Identity

It is important that Catholic colleges and universities develop means of assessing their Catholic identity in conformity to common and essential elements of Catholic higher education.  Because of increasing threats to the religious liberty of Catholic institutions by secular regulators, judges and legislators, it is also urgent that Catholic colleges and universities clearly document and defend their Catholic identity.

As the U.S. bishops and Catholic college and university leaders work toward full implementation of the Apostolic Constitution for Catholic Universities, Ex corde Ecclesiae, they are faced with great inconsistencies in how American colleges and universities live out their Catholic identity.  There is a healthy diversity of Catholic institutions in the United States, each with a distinct identity and charism, suggesting different ways of providing a Catholic higher education.  But there are also essential, core elements of any Catholic higher education.  A college or university that is committed to a strong Catholic identity will regularly self-evaluate its success in meeting both shared and particular standards.

This handbook summarizes magisterial guidance on Catholic higher education and proposes self-assessment review questions that college and university leaders may use to help strengthen their institutions’ Catholic identity, with regard to the core elements of Catholic higher education.

“To date, the Holy See’s primary concern at every level is encouraging the fostering and, if necessary, the reclaiming of the Catholic identity of institutions of higher learning,” explained Archbishop J. Michael Miller, then Secretary for the Vatican Congregation of Catholic Education, to American college and university leaders in 2005.1 “It does this, as we shall see, by insisting, first, on the university’s institutional commitment to the Church and, second, on its fidelity to the Catholic faith in all its activities.”

Archbishop Miller framed the issue like this:

Perhaps now is the time to move the debate over the Catholic identity of institutions of higher education to a different level.  Instead of sterile arguments over how “Catholic-lite” a university can be and still be “Catholic,” the question to be engaged becomes: how does a Catholic university honestly and effectively provide a Christian presence in the world of higher education?  The burden of proof now falls on the university itself.  The challenge thus becomes whether a Catholic university can develop the institutional arrangements that clearly demonstrate its willingness to participate in the Church’s evangelizing mission as well as to serve the common good.2

How does a Catholic college or university assess whether it is meeting this “burden of proof”?

Earlier that year during a meeting at the Vatican, Archbishop Miller encouraged American college and university leaders to identify and measure “benchmarks of Catholicity” such as:

Concern for social justice

Sacramental and devotional life

Curriculum – are theology and the Christian tradition core elements?

Percentage of Catholics among faculty, trustees, and staff

Religious and doctrinal attitudes of students over time

Practice of the faith – do students pray, go to Mass, express an interest in religious vocations, etc.?3

These “benchmarks” reflected not the vision for Catholic higher education of a single Vatican official, but instead were drawn directly from the Church’s definition of Catholic higher education in  Ex corde Ecclesiae and forged into a set of practical objectives that would be appropriate for self-assessment.  Archbishop Miller further explained the concept in a 2007 address at the Franciscan University of Steubenville:

Assessment is not an end in itself but should be directed toward enhancing the university’s Catholic identity.  It is of little use to draw up a list of markers of Catholicity that are then ticked off to show the institution’s compliance.  Rather, I would suggest, measurable strategies should be put in place that require the university to deepen its Catholic character, moving it from where it is now to where it wishes to be in the future.4

In January 2006, The Cardinal Newman Society convened a private meeting with presidents and trustees of more than a dozen Catholic colleges and universities to discuss how self-assessment could help Catholic institutions protect and strengthen their Catholic identity.  This and subsequent meetings led to the creation of The Cardinal Newman Society’s Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education, which in part provides an annual forum for presidents of faithful Catholic colleges and universities to collaboratively face the challenges of Catholic higher education.

These and other Catholic colleges and universities have embraced the task of renewing and strengthening their Catholic identity, with encouragement and a growing sense of urgency from the Vatican, Catholic bishops, Catholic families and educators.  But without a process of self-evaluation, it will be difficult if not impossible for Catholic college leaders to effectively assess, document and strengthen the Catholic identity of their institutions.

The Church’s call to embrace the authentic mission of Catholic higher education is reason enough for colleges and universities to begin self-evaluation.  In addition, the Catholic bishops and Catholic families—a key market for student recruits and donations—are increasingly aware of the great diversity among Catholic colleges and universities, and many want evidence of

Catholic identity.  There are also growing external threats to Catholic institutions that provide an urgent reason for them to proactively tend to their Catholic identity.

For instance, Catholic identity takes on added importance as courts, regulators and legislators are using the law to pressure colleges and universities to compromise their Catholic mission.  Threats to Catholic identity include laws mandating student and employee health insurance coverage for prescription contraceptives and employee benefits for same-sex couples.  Catholic educators’ best, and maybe only, protection against such laws may be exemptions for religious organizations as required by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

In two studies commissioned by The Cardinal Newman Society’s Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education, legal experts in religious freedom advise Catholic colleges and universities that their legal status as “religious” institutions requires consistent adherence to religious principles.  The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty warns that Catholic institutions must be able to demonstrate that their religious identity is “bona fide” and “sincerely held,” or they may be unable to claim religious exemptions to offensive laws.5  Kevin Theriot of the Alliance Defense Fund believes the Vatican has made this easier with clear standards of Catholic identity: “Catholic colleges and universities have an advantage over other religious institutions in that the Catholic Church’s Canon Law and the Apostolic Constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae lay out the requirements for a college to be considered Catholic.”6

Recent adverse rulings from the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding the religious freedom of Belmont Abbey College and Manhattan College, respectively, are but two examples of the dangers facing Catholic institutions.  In the latter case, NLRB staff refused to recognize Manhattan College as a religious employer for reasons that echo the norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae.

In order to protect their religious liberty and their Catholic identity, Catholic colleges and universities must be able to demonstrate institutional commitment to their Catholic mission and compliance with the provisions of Church law.  A regular process of self-evaluation will help them document and defend their Catholic identity.

So the need for self-assessment is clear.  But how might leaders of Catholic colleges and universities begin an assessment of Catholic identity?  This paper will propose one option.

For each practical subject area, The Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education offers first a summary of magisterial guidance on the question of Catholic identity and second proposes review questions to help college and university leaders develop instruments for self-evaluation of Catholic identity.  This paper builds from discussions at our annual meetings with presidents and the 2007 lecture by Archbishop Miller delivered at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, during which he proposed specific “benchmark” questions in the same manner that we have replicated here.

The proposed review questions are carefully selected to accurately reflect both the letter and the spirit of Ex corde Ecclesiae and key Church documents.  There are other important Church documents and instructions that might prove useful—for instance, Pope Benedict XVI’s address to Catholic educators at The Catholic University of America in 2008.  We decided to emphasize only clear mandates from the Vatican and the U.S. bishops, under the authority of Canon Law, so as to avoid subjectivity when choosing other sources for reflection.  Institutions may, and indeed probably should, go beyond the Church’s juridical guidelines when developing their self-assessment questions, but institutional obligations under Church law provide a good baseline.  Each college or university will also want to take into account its mission statement, founding documents, the charism and educational approach of an affiliated religious order, and similar guidance.

Pope John Paul II issued Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, more than twenty years ago.  The constitution and the U.S. bishops’ 1999 Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae to the United States give full definition to the Catholic college or university for the first time in the long history of Catholic higher education.  Both the Application and the Apostolic Constitution with its lengthy discussion of Catholic identity are instructive for the purposes of assessing the Catholic college or university.  In respect to the core elements of Catholic higher education, these two documents and the Code of Canon Law from which they proceed suggest universal standards applicable to every institution.

Ex corde Ecclesiae assigns primary responsibility for maintaining and strengthening Catholic identity to the board of trustees or similar governing body—but shared in appropriate respects by the administrators, faculty, staff and students, and under the essential oversight of the local bishop.  It therefore seems appropriate and necessary that trustees initiate regular and comprehensive internal evaluations of an institution’s Catholic identity, welcoming the input and questions of the local bishop.  Such evaluations should inform all policies and activities and should engage the entire community of employees and students.  The results should be communicated in appropriate ways, so as to be useful to every member of the college or university community.

A periodic self-evaluation can be helpful in other ways.  Ex corde Ecclesiae expects that a Catholic college or university will clearly convey its Catholic identity in a public manner, and results from an internal review of Catholic identity can help explain and promote the unique benefits of a Catholic education.  The president and trustees of a Catholic college or university are also expected to maintain close and frequent communication with the local Catholic bishop, periodically reporting to him on matters of Catholic identity; an internal review could be an ideal opportunity to document such matters and to establish a framework for continuing dialogue.

There are, no doubt, many reasonable ways a Catholic college or university could assess its Catholic identity.  An assessment might be in written form, or it might engage the community in dialogue.  It might be measurable according a strict scale, or it might encourage nuanced responses to open-ended questions.  It might focus on identifying shortcomings, or it might conform to institutional objectives for progress.

What seems essential to any self-evaluation is that it conforms fully and accurately to the Church’s definition of a Catholic college or university, as presented in Ex corde Ecclesiae and related magisterial documents—most importantly, the U.S. bishops’ Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae to the United States and the Code of Canon Law.

We pray that the following summary of magisterial guidance and proposed questions will help Catholic college and university leaders ensure “a Christian presence in the university world”7 where “each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith.”8

Institutional Identity

Mission Statement, Governing Documents & Statutes

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 1, §3

“A University established or approved by the Holy See, by an Episcopal Conference or another Assembly of Catholic Hierarchy, or by a diocesan Bishop is to incorporate these General Norms and their local and regional applications into its governing documents, and conform its existing Statutes both to the General Norms and to their applications, and submit them for approval to the competent ecclesiastical Authority.  It is contemplated that other Catholic Universities, that is, those not established or approved in any of the above ways, with the agreement of the local ecclesiastical Authority, will make their own the General Norms and their local and regional applications, internalizing them into their governing documents, and, as far as possible, will conform their existing Statutes both to these General Norms and to their applications.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 2, §1

“A Catholic University, like every university, is a community of scholars representing various branches of human knowledge.  It is dedicated to research, to teaching, and to various kinds of service in accordance with its cultural mission.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 2, §2

“A Catholic University, as Catholic, informs and carries out its research, teaching, and all other activities with Catholic ideals, principles and attitudes.  It is linked with the Church either by a formal, constitutive and statutory bond or by reason of an institutional commitment made by those responsible for it.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 2, §3

“Every Catholic University is to make known its Catholic identity, either in a mission statement or in some other appropriate public document, unless authorized otherwise by the competent ecclesiastical Authority.  The University, particularly through its structure and its regulations, is to provide means which will guarantee the expression and the preservation of this identity in a manner consistent with §2.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 3, §§1-4

“A Catholic University may be established or approved by the Holy See, by an Episcopal Conference or another Assembly of Catholic Hierarchy, or by a diocesan Bishop.

“With the consent of the diocesan Bishop, a Catholic University may also be established by a Religious Institute or other public juridical person.

“A Catholic University may also be established by other ecclesiastical or lay persons; such a University may refer to itself as a Catholic University only with the consent of the competent ecclesiastical Authority, in accordance with the conditions upon which both parties shall agree.

“In the cases of §§1 and 2, the Statutes must be approved by the competent ecclesiastical Authority.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §1

“By vocation, the Universitas magistrorum et scholarium is dedicated to research, to teaching and to the education of students who freely associate with their teachers in a common love of knowledge.  With every other University it shares that gaudium de veritate, so precious to Saint Augustine, which is that joy of searching for, discovering and communicating truth in every field of knowledge.  A Catholic University’s privileged task is ‘to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth’.”  (Citation from Pope John Paul II, “Discourse to the Institut Catholique de Paris,” June 1, 1980)

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §4

“It is the honour and responsibility of a Catholic University to consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth. …Without in any way neglecting the acquisition of useful knowledge, a Catholic University is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God. …By means of a kind of universal humanism a Catholic University is completely dedicated to the research of all aspects of truth in their essential connection with the supreme Truth, who is God.  It does this without fear but rather with enthusiasm, dedicating itself to every path of knowledge, aware of being preceded by him who is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’, the Logos, whose Spirit of intelligence and love enables the human person with his or her own intelligence to find the ultimate reality of which he is the source and end and who alone is capable of giving fully that Wisdom without which the future of the world would be in danger.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §12

“Every Catholic University, as a university, is an academic community which, in a rigorous and critical fashion, assists in the protection and advancement of human dignity and of a cultural heritage through research, teaching and various services offered to the local, national and international communities.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §§1­3-14

“Since the objective of a Catholic University is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in the university world confronting the great problems of society and culture, every Catholic University, as Catholic, must have the following essential characteristics: ‘(1) a Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such; (2) a continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research; (3) fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church; (4) an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life.

“In the light of these four characteristics, it is evident that besides the teaching, research and services common to all Universities, a Catholic University, by institutional commitment, brings to its task the inspiration and light of the Christian message.  In a Catholic University, therefore, Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform university activities in accordance with the proper nature and autonomy of these activities.  In a word, being both a University and Catholic, it must be both a community of scholars representing various branches of human knowledge, and an academic institution in which Catholicism is vitally present and operative.’”  (Citation from L’Université Catholique dans le monde moderne. Document final du 2ème Congrès des Délégués des Universités Catholiques, Rome, Nov. 20-29, 1972)

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §27

“One consequence of its essential relationship to the Church is that the institutional fidelity of the University to the Christian message includes a recognition of and adherence to the teaching authority of the Church in matters of faith and morals.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §30

“The basic mission of a University is a continuous quest for truth through its research, and the preservation and communication of knowledge for the good of society.  A Catholic University participates in this mission with its own specific characteristics and purposes.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 1, §2

“Those universities established or approved by the Holy See, by the NCCB [now USCCB], by other hierarchical assemblies, or by individual diocesan bishops are to incorporate, by reference and in other appropriate ways, the general and particular norms into their governing documents and conform their existing statutes to such norms.  Within five years of the effective date of these particular norms, Catholic universities are to submit the aforesaid incorporation for review and affirmation to the university’s competent ecclesiastical authority.

“Other Catholic universities are to make the general and particular norms their own, include them in the university’s official documentation by reference and in other appropriate ways, and, as much as possible, conform their existing statutes to such norms.  These steps to ensure their Catholic identity are to be carried out in agreement with the diocesan bishop of the place where the seat of the university is situated.

“Changes in statutes of universities established by the hierarchy, religious institutes or other public juridic persons that substantially affect the nature, mission or Catholic identity of the university require the approval of competent ecclesiastical authority.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 1, §3

“Those establishing or sponsoring a Catholic university have an obligation to make certain that they will be able to carry out their canonical duties in a way acceptable under relevant provisions of applicable federal and state law, regulations and procedures.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 2, §1

“The purpose of a Catholic university is education and academic research proper to the disciplines of the university.  Since it enjoys the institutional autonomy appropriate to an academic institution, its governance is and remains internal to the institution itself.  This fundamental purpose and institutional autonomy must be respected and promoted by all, so that the university may effectively carry out its mission of freely searching for all truth.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 2, §5

“A responsibility of every Catholic university is to affirm its essential characteristics, in accord with the principles of Ex corde Ecclesiae, through public acknowledgment in its mission statement and/or its other official documentation of its canonical status and its commitment to the practical implications of its Catholic identity, including but not limited to those specified in Part One, Section 7 of this document.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §7

“In order to maintain and safeguard their freely-chosen Catholic identity, it is important for Catholic universities to set out clearly in their official documentation their Catholic character….”

Questions for Self-Assessment

How do the institution’s mission statement and/or governing documents:

  1. make known the institution’s Catholic identity and canonical status?9
  2. include or reference the General Norms of Ex corde Ecclesiae and the Particular Norms of the Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for the United States?10
  3. ensure compliance with each of these Norms?11
  4. explain the mission of the institution in accord with the purposes of a Catholic university as described in Ex corde Ecclesiae12, especially the following essential characteristics:13
    1. a Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community
      as such;
    2. a continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research;
    3. fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church; and
    4. an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life?
  5. express the institution’s recognition of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals?14
  6. express the institution’s commitment to the practical implications of its Catholic identity, including but not limited to:
    1. commitment to Catholic ideals, principles, and attitudes in carrying out research, teaching, and all other university activities, including activities of officially-recognized student and faculty organizations and associations, and with due regard for academic freedom and the conscience of every individual?15
    2. commitment to serve others, particularly the poor, underprivileged, and vulnerable members of society?16
    3. commitment of witness of the Catholic faith by Catholic administrators and teachers, especially those teaching the theological disciplines, and acknowledgment and respect on the part of non-Catholic teachers and administrators of the university’s Catholic identity and mission?17
    4. commitment to provide courses for students on Catholic moral and religious principles and their application to critical areas such as human life and other issues of social justice?18
    5. commitment to care pastorally for the students, faculty, administration, and staff?19
    6. commitment to provide personal services (health care, counseling, and guidance) to students, as well as administration and faculty, in conformity with the Church’s ethi-
    7. cal and religious teaching and directives?20
    8. commitment to create a campus culture and environment that is expressive and supportive of a Catholic way of life?21

Policies, Programs & Commitments

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 2, §2

“A Catholic University, as Catholic, informs and carries out its research, teaching, and all other activities with Catholic ideals, principles and attitudes.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 2, §3

“The University, particularly through its structure and its regulations, is to provide means which will guarantee the expression and the preservation of this identity in a manner consistent with §2.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 2, §4

“Catholic teaching and discipline are to influence all university activities, while the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully respected.  Any official action or commitment of the University is to be in accord with its Catholic identity.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §21

“[T]he community is animated by a spirit of freedom and charity; it is characterized by mutual respect, sincere dialogue, and protection of the rights of individuals.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §27

“Catholic members of the university community are also called to a personal fidelity to the Church with all that this implies.  Non-Catholic members are required to respect the Catholic character of the University, while the University in turn respects their religious liberty.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §34

“Every Catholic University feels responsible to contribute concretely to the progress of the society within which it works: for example it will be capable of searching for ways to make university education accessible to all those who are able to benefit from it, especially the poor or members of minority groups who customarily have been deprived of it.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 2, §4

“Recognizing the dignity of the human person, a Catholic university, in promoting its own Catholic identity and fostering Catholic teaching and discipline, must respect the religious liberty of every individual, a right with which each is endowed by nature.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 5, §1

“The university shall develop and maintain a plan for fulfilling its mission that communicates and develops the Catholic intellectual tradition, is of service to the Church and society, and encourages the members of the university community to grow in the practice of the faith.  The university plan should address intellectual and pastoral contributions to the mission of communicating Gospel values, service to the poor, social justice initiatives, and ecumenical and inter-religious activities.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §7

“In order to maintain and safeguard their freely-chosen Catholic identity, it is important for Catholic universities… to implement in practical terms their commitment to the essential elements of Catholic identity, including the following: Commitment to be faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church; Commitment to Catholic ideals, principles and attitudes in carrying out research, teaching and all other university activities… and with due regard for academic freedom and the conscience of every individual; Commitment to serve others, particularly the poor, underprivileged and vulnerable members of society….”

Vatican Council II, Declaration on Christian Education Gravissimum Educationis, §32

“Matriculation should be readily available to students of real promise, even though they be of slender means, especially to students from the newly emerging nations.”

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholics in Political Life

“The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.  They should not be given awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.”

Questions for Self-Assessment

How are each of the institution’s distinct programs, activities, and commitments informed and carried out with Catholic ideals, principles, and attitudes?22

How are each of the institution’s academic, personnel, student, and other policies informed and carried out with Catholic ideals, principles, and attitudes?23

How do the institution’s academic, personnel, student, and other policies:

  1. ensure that members of the college or university community relate to each other with mutual respect and sincere dialogue?24
  2. protect the individual rights and religious liberty and conscience of all members of the college or university community?25
  3. ensure that Catholic members of the college or university community demonstrate fidelity to the Catholic Church in all their activities?26
  4. ensure that non-Catholic members of the college or university community respect the Catholic character of the institution?27
  5. help make education at the college or university available to students from low-income families, minority groups who customarily have been deprived of an equivalent education, and students from newly emerging nations?28
  6. implement in practical terms the institution’s commitment to be faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church?29
  7. implement in practical terms the institution’s commitment to serve others, particularly the poor, underprivileged, and vulnerable members of society?30
  8. ensure that individuals who act in defiance of the Catholic Church’s fundamental moral principles are not honored, including awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions?31

Has the institution developed a plan for fulfilling its mission that communicates and develops the Catholic intellectual tradition, is of service to the Church and society, and encourages the members of the university community to grow in the practice of the faith?32

How does the plan address these concerns?33

How does the plan address intellectual and pastoral contributions to the mission of communicating Gospel values, service to the poor, social justice initiatives, and ecumenical and inter-religious activities?34

How does the institution maintain this plan and prescribed activities?35

Relationship with Diocesan Bishop

Code of Canon Law, Canon 808

“Even if it really be Catholic, no university may bear the title or name Catholic university without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority.”

Code of Canon Law, Canon 809

“If it is possible and advantageous the conferences of bishops are to see to it that universities or at least faculties are established, suitably distributed throughout their territory, in which the various disciplines are to be investigated and taught with due regard for their academic autonomy, and with due consideration for Catholic doctrine.”

Code of Canon Law, Canon 810, §2

“The conference of bishops and the diocesan bishops concerned have the duty and right of being vigilant that in these universities the principles of Catholic doctrine are faithfully observed.”

Code of Canon Law, Canon 812

“It is necessary that those who teach theological disciplines in any institute of higher studies have a mandate from the competent ecclesiastical authority.”

Code of Canon Law, Canon 813

“The diocesan bishop is to have serious pastoral care for students by erecting a parish for them or by assigning priests for this purpose on a stable basis; he is also to provide for Catholic university centers at universities, even non-Catholic ones, to give assistance, especially spiritual to young people.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 3, §§1-4

“A Catholic University may be established or approved by the Holy See, by an Episcopal Conference or another Assembly of Catholic Hierarchy, or by a diocesan Bishop.

“With the consent of the diocesan Bishop, a Catholic University may also be established by a Religious Institute or other public juridical person.

“A Catholic University may also be established by other ecclesiastical or lay persons; such a University may refer to itself as a Catholic University only with the consent of the competent ecclesiastical Authority, in accordance with the conditions upon which both parties shall agree.

“In the cases of §§ 1 and 2, the Statutes must be approved by the competent ecclesiastical Authority.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 5, §§1-3

“Every Catholic University is to maintain communion with the universal Church and the Holy See; it is to be in close communion with the local Church and in particular with the diocesan Bishops of the region or nation in which it is located….

“Each Bishop has a responsibility to promote the welfare of the Catholic Universities in his diocese and has the right and duty to watch over the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic character.  If problems should arise concerning this Catholic character, the local Bishop is to take the initiatives necessary to resolve the matter, working with the competent university authorities in accordance with established procedures and, if necessary, with the help of the Holy See.

“Periodically, each Catholic University, to which Article 3, 1 and 2 refers, is to communicate relevant information about the University and its activities to the competent ecclesiastical Authority.  Other Catholic Universities are to communicate this information to the Bishop of the diocese in which the principal seat of the Institution is located.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 6, §2

“A sufficient number of qualified people—priests, religious, and lay persons—are to be appointed to provide pastoral ministry for the university community, carried on in harmony and cooperation with the pastoral activities of the local Church under the guidance or with the approval of the diocesan Bishop.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §27

“Every Catholic University, without ceasing to be a University, has a relationship to the Church that is essential to its institutional identity. …One consequence of its essential relationship to the Church is that the institutional fidelity of the University to the Christian message includes a recognition of and adherence to the teaching authority of the Church in matters of faith and morals.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §28

“Bishops have a particular responsibility to promote Catholic Universities, and especially to promote and assist in the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic identity, including the protection of their Catholic identity in relation to civil authorities.  This will be achieved more effectively if close personal and pastoral relationships exist between University and Church authorities, characterized by mutual trust, close and consistent cooperation and continuing dialogue.  Even when they do not enter directly into the internal governance of the University, Bishops ‘should be seen not as external agents but as participants in the life of the Catholic University’.”  (Citation from Pope John Paul II, “Address to Leaders of Catholic Higher Education,” Xavier University of Louisiana, U.S.A., Sept. 12, 1987)

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §29

“Because of their interrelated roles, dialogue between Bishops and theologians is essential; this is especially true today, when the results of research are so quickly and so widely communicated through the media.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 2, §5

“With due regard for the common good and the need to safeguard and promote the integrity and unity of the faith, the diocesan bishop has the duty to recognize and promote the rightful academic freedom of professors in Catholic universities in their search for truth.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 3, §1-4

“A Catholic university may be established, or an existing university approved, by the Holy See, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, other hierarchical assemblies, or individual diocesan bishops.  It may also be established by a religious institute or some other public juridic person, or by individual Catholics, acting singly or in association, with proper ecclesiastical approval.  At the time of its establishment the university should see to it that its canonical status is identified, including the ecclesiastical authority by which it has been established or approved or to which it otherwise relates.  The statutes of Catholic universities established by hierarchical authority or by religious institutes or other public juridic persons must be approved by competent ecclesiastical authority.  No university may assume the title Catholic without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §2

“The board [of trustees] should develop effective ways of relating to and collaborating with the local bishop and diocesan agencies on matters of mutual concern.”

[Footnote reads: “In individual situations, it may be possible and appropriate to invite the diocesan bishop or his delegate to be a member of the board itself. In other cases, arranging periodic meetings to address the university’s Catholic identity and mission may prove more practical and effective.”]

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §3

“The administration should be in dialogue with the local bishop about ways of promoting Catholic identity and the contribution that the university can make to the life of the Church in the area.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §4

“Both the university and the bishops, aware of the contributions made by theologians to Church and academy, have a right to expect them to present authentic Catholic teaching.  Catholic professors of the theological disciplines have a corresponding duty to be faithful to the Church’s magisterium as the authoritative interpreter of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  Catholics who teach the theological disciplines in a Catholic university are required to have a mandatum granted by competent ecclesiastical authority.

“i.  The mandatum is fundamentally an acknowledgment by Church authority that a Catholic professor of a theological discipline is a teacher within the full communion of the Catholic Church.

“ii.  The mandatum should not be construed as an appointment, authorization, delegation or approbation of one’s teaching by Church authorities.  Those who have received a mandatum teach in their own name in virtue of their baptism and their academic and professional competence, not in the name of the Bishop or of the Church’s magisterium.

[Footnote reads: “[I]t is not the responsibility of a Catholic university to seek the mandatum; this is a personal obligation of each professor.  If a particular professor lacks a mandatum and continues to teach a theological discipline, the university must determine what further action may be taken in accordance with its own mission and statutes (see canon 810, §1).”]

“iii.  The mandatum recognizes the professor’s commitment and responsibility to teach authentic Catholic doctrine and to refrain from putting forth as Catholic teaching anything contrary to the Church’s magisterium.

“iv.  The following procedure is given to facilitate, as of the effective date of this Application, the process of requesting and granting the mandatum.  Following the approval of the Application, a detailed procedure will be developed outlining the process of requesting and granting (or withdrawing) the mandatum.

“1.  The competent ecclesiastical authority to grant the mandatum is the bishop of the diocese in which the Catholic university is located; he may grant the mandatum personally or through a delegate.

[Footnote reads: “The attestation or declaration of the professor that he or she will teach in communion with the Church can be expressed by the profession of faith and oath of fidelity or in any other reasonable manner acceptable to the one issuing the mandatum.”]

“2.  Without prejudice to the rights of the local bishop, a mandatum, once granted, remains in effect wherever and as long as the professor teaches unless and until withdrawn by competent ecclesiastical authority.

[Footnote reads: “Although the general principle is that, once granted, there is no need for the mandatum to be granted again by another diocesan bishop, every diocesan bishop has the right to require otherwise in his own diocese.”]

“3.  The mandatum should be given in writing.  The reasons for denying or removing a mandatum should also be in writing.”

[Footnote reads: “Administrative acts in the external forum must be in writing (c. 37).  The writing not only demonstrates the fulfillment of canon 812, but, in cases of denial or removal, it permits the person who considers his or her rights to have been injured to seek recourse. See canons 1732-1739.”]

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 5, §2

“In accordance with Church teaching and the universal law of the Church, the local Bishop has a responsibility to promote the welfare of the Catholic universities in his diocese and to watch over the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic character.  Bishops should, when appropriate, acknowledge publicly the service of Catholic universities to the Church and support the institution’s Catholic identity if it is unjustifiably challenged.  Diocesan and university authorities should commit themselves mutually to regular dialogues to achieve the goals of Ex corde Ecclesiae according to local needs and circumstances.  University authorities and the local diocesan bishop should develop practical methods of collaboration that are harmonious with the university’s structure and statutes. Similar forms of collaboration should also exist between the university and the religious institute to which it is related by establishment or tradition.”

[Footnote reads: “The following are some suggestions for collaboration: (a) Arranging for the diocesan bishop or his delegate and members of the religious institute to be involved in the university’s governance, perhaps through representation on the board of trustees or in some other appropriate manner.  (b) Sharing the university’s annual report with the diocesan bishop and the religious institute, especially in regard to matters affecting Catholic identity and the religious institute’s charism.  (c) Scheduling regular pastoral visits to the university on the part of the diocesan bishop and the religious institute’s leadership and involving the members of the diocese and the institute in campus ministry.  (d) Collaborating on evangelization and on the special works of the religious institute.  (e) Conducting dialogues on matters of doctrine and pastoral practice and on the development of spirituality in accordance with the religious institute’s charism.  (f) Resolving issues affecting the university’s Catholic identity in accordance with established procedures. (See ECE, II, Art. 5, §2 and ECE footnote 51.)  (g) Participating together in ecumenical and inter-faith endeavors.  (h) Contributing to the diocesan process of formulating the quinquennial report to the Holy See.”]

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 5, §2

Doctrinal Responsibilities: Approaches to Promoting Cooperation and Resolving Misunderstandings between Bishops and Theologians, approved and published by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, June 17, 1989, can serve as a useful guide for diocesan bishops, professors of the theological disciplines and administrators of universities to promote informal cooperation and collaboration in the Church’s teaching mission and the faithful observance within Catholic universities of the principles of Catholic doctrine.  Disputes about Church doctrine should be resolved, whenever possible, in an informal manner.  At times, the resolution of such matters may benefit from formal doctrinal dialogue as proposed by Doctrinal Responsibilities and adapted by the parties in question.”

[Footnote reads: “When such disputes are not resolved within the limits of informal or formal dialogue, they should be addressed in a timely manner by the competent ecclesiastical authority through appropriate doctrinal and administrative actions, taking into account the requirements of the common good and the rights of the individuals and institutions involved.”]

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 5, §2

“The National Conference of Catholic Bishops [now USCCB], through an appropriate committee structure, should continue to dialogue and collaborate with the Catholic academic community and its representative associations about ways of safeguarding and promoting the ideals, principles and norms expressed in Ex corde Ecclesiae.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 6, §§1-5

“The diocesan bishop has overall responsibility for the pastoral care of the university’s students, faculty, administration and staff.

“The university, in cooperation with the diocesan bishop, shall make provision for effective campus ministry programs, including the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and penance, other liturgical celebrations, and opportunities for prayer and spiritual reflection.

“When selecting pastoral ministers—priests, deacons, religious and lay persons—to carry on the work of campus ministry, the university authorities should work closely with the diocesan bishop and interested religious institutes.  Without prejudice to the provision of canon 969, §2, priests and deacons must enjoy pastoral faculties from the local ordinary in order to exercise their ministry on campus.

“With due regard for religious liberty and freedom of conscience, the university, in cooperation with the diocesan bishop, should collaborate in ecumenical and interfaith efforts to care for the pastoral needs of students, faculty and other university personnel who are not Catholic.

“In these pastoral efforts, the university and the diocesan bishop should take account of the prescriptions and recommendations issued by the Holy See and the guidance and pastoral statements of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §2

“The richness of communion illuminates the ecclesial relationship that unites the distinct, and yet complementary, teaching roles of bishops and Catholic universities.  In the light of communion, the teaching responsibilities of the hierarchy and of the Catholic universities retain their distinctive autonomous nature and goal but are joined as complementary activities contributing to the fulfillment of the Church’s universal teaching mission.  The communion of the Church embraces both the pastoral work of bishops and the academic work of Catholic universities, thus linking the bishops’ right and obligation to communicate and safeguard the integrity of Church doctrine with the right and obligation of Catholic universities to investigate, analyze and communicate all truth freely.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §4

“Mutual trust goes beyond the personalities of those involved in the relationship.  The trust is grounded in a shared baptismal belief in the truths that are rooted in Scripture and Tradition, as interpreted by the Church, concerning the mystery of the Trinity: God the Father and Creator, who works even until now; God the Son and incarnate Redeemer, who is the Way and the Truth and the Life; and God the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, whom the Father and Son send.  In the spirit of communio, the relationship of trust between university and Church authorities, based on these shared beliefs with their secular and religious implications, is fostered by mutual listening, by collaboration that respects differing responsibilities and gifts, and by a solidarity that mutually recognizes respective statutory limitations and responsibilities.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §5

“It is highly desirable that representatives of both educational institutions and Church authorities jointly identify, study, and pursue solutions to issues concerning social justice, human life and the needs of the poor.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §5

“A structure and strategy to insure ongoing dialogue and cooperation should be established by university and Church authorities.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §7

“Catholic universities should make every effort to enhance their communion with the hierarchy so that through this special relationship they may assist each other to accomplish the mission to which they are mutually committed.”

Questions for Self-Assessment

How has the institution ensured that the local diocesan bishop consents to its identification as a “Catholic” college or university?36

How has the institution ensured that the institution’s governing documents have been reviewed and/or approved by the local diocesan bishop, if required according to the institution’s canonical status and method of establishment?37

How does the institution periodically communicate relevant information about the Catholic character of the institution and its activities to the local diocesan bishop or other competent ecclesiastical authority under Canon Law?38

How does the institution strive to develop a close personal and pastoral relationship with the local diocesan bishop—characterized by mutual trust, close and consistent cooperation, and continuing dialogue—such that the bishop is seen as a participant in the life of the institution?39

How does the institution ensure dialogue between the local diocesan bishop and those who teach theological disciplines?40

How does the institution ensure regular dialogue with the local diocesan bishop and diocesan authorities about ways of promoting Catholic identity, how to achieve the goals of Ex corde Ecclesiae according to local needs and circumstances, and the contribution that the institution can make to the life of the Church in the area?41

How does the institution ensure regular dialogue on these matters with the religious institute to which it is related by establishment or tradition, if applicable?42

How does the institution defer in practical ways to the authority of the local diocesan bishop and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to remain vigilant that the principles of Catholic doctrine are faithfully observed at the institution?43

How does the institution defer in practical ways to the authority of the local diocesan bishop to watch over the preservation and strengthening of the Catholic character of the institution, including any initiative of the bishop to resolve problems?44

How does the institution defer in practical ways to the authority of the local diocesan bishop over the pastoral care of the college or university community, including campus ministry programs, liturgical activities, and the appointment of pastoral ministers?45

How does the institution ensure that those who teach theological disciplines have a mandatum according to the procedures established by the local diocesan bishop?46

How does the institution work jointly with Catholic Church authorities to jointly identify, study, and pursue solutions to issues concerning social justice, human life, and the needs of
the poor?47

Cooperation

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 7, §1

“In order better to confront the complex problems facing modern society, and in order to strengthen the Catholic identity of the Institutions, regional, national and international cooperation is to be promoted in research, teaching, and other university activities among all Catholic Universities, including Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties.  Such cooperation is also to be promoted between Catholic Universities and other Universities, and with other research and educational Institutions, both private and governmental.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 7, §2

“Catholic Universities will, when possible and in accord with Catholic principles and doctrine, cooperate with government programmes and the programmes of other national and international Organizations on behalf of justice, development and progress.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §35

“[S]ince the economic and personal resources of a single Institution are limited, cooperation in common research projects among Catholic Universities, as well as with other private and governmental institutions, is imperative.  In this regard, and also in what pertains to the other fields of the specific activity of a Catholic University, the role played by various national and international associations of Catholic Universities is to be emphasized.  Among these associations the mission of The International Federation of Catholic Universities, founded by the Holy See, is particularly to be remembered.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §37

“In its service to society, a Catholic University will relate especially to the academic, cultural and scientific world of the region in which it is located.  Original forms of dialogue and collaboration are to be encouraged between the Catholic Universities and the other Universities of a nation on behalf of development, of understanding between cultures, and of the defence of nature in accordance with an awareness of the international ecological situation.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §41

“Close cooperation between pastoral ministry in a Catholic University and the other activities within the local Church, under the guidance or with the approval of the diocesan Bishop, will contribute to their mutual growth.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 7, §§1-2

“Catholic universities should commit themselves to cooperate in a special way with other Catholic universities, institutions and professional associations, in the United States and abroad, in order to build up the entire Catholic academic community.

“In collaborating with governmental agencies, regional associations, and other universities, whether public or private, Catholic universities should give corporate witness to and promote the Church’s social teaching and its moral principles in areas such as the fostering of peace and justice, respect for all human life, the eradication of poverty and unjust discrimination, the development of all peoples and the growth of human culture.”

Questions for Self-Assessment

How does the institution cooperate with other Catholic colleges and universities in research, teaching, and other activities to strengthen the Catholic identity of the institutions and confront problems facing modern society?48

How does the institution, in accord with Catholic principles and doctrine, cooperate with non-Catholic colleges and universities in research, teaching, and other activities to confront problems facing modern society?49

How does the institution dialogue and collaborate with other colleges and universities in the United States on behalf of development, understanding between cultures, and defense of nature in accordance with an awareness of the international ecological situation?50

How does the institution, in accord with Catholic principles and doctrine, cooperate with government programs and the programs of other national and international organizations on behalf of justice, development, and progress?51

In its cooperative activities with other entities, how does the institution give witness to the Church’s social teaching and its moral principles in areas such as the fostering of peace and justice, respect for all human life, the eradication of poverty and unjust discrimination, the development of peoples, and the growth of human culture?52

How does the institution ensure close cooperation between the institution’s pastoral ministry and the other activities within the local Church, under the guidance or with the approval of the local diocesan bishop?53

Leadership & Administration

Board of Trustees

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 4, §1

“The responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of the University rests primarily with the University itself.  …[T]his responsibility is entrusted principally to university authorities (including, when the positions exist, the Chancellor and/or a Board of Trustees or equivalent body)… The identity of a Catholic University is essentially linked to the quality of its teachers and to respect for Catholic doctrine.  It is the responsibility of the competent Authority to watch over these two fundamental needs in accordance with what is indicated in Canon Law.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 2, §6

“The university (in particular, the trustees, administration, and faculty) should take practical steps to implement its mission statement in order to foster and strengthen its Catholic nature and character.”

[Footnote reads: “In this regard, the university may wish to establish a ‘mission effectiveness committee’ or some other appropriate structure to develop methods by which Catholics may promote the university’s Catholic identity and those who are not Catholic may acknowledge and respect this identity.”]

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §2

“Each member of the board must be committed to the practical implications of the university’s Catholic identity as set forth in its mission statement or equivalent document.  To the extent possible, the majority of the board should be Catholics committed to the Church.  The board should develop effective ways of relating to and collaborating with the local bishop and diocesan agencies on matters of mutual concern.

[Footnote reads: “In individual situations, it may be possible and appropriate to invite the diocesan bishop or his delegate to be a member of the board itself. In other cases, arranging periodic meetings to address the university’s Catholic identity and mission may prove more practical and effective.”]

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §2

“The board should analyze ecclesiastical documents on higher education, such as Ex corde Ecclesiae and this Application, and develop specific ways of implementing them appropriate to the structure and life of the university.  The board should see to it that the university periodically undertakes an internal review of the congruence of its mission statement, its courses of instruction, its research program, and its service activity with the ideals, principles and norms expressed in Ex corde Ecclesiae.”

Questions for Self-Assessment

How are prospective and current members of the Board of Trustees and other governing boards informed of their responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of the institution?54

How does the institution ensure that a majority of the members of the Board of Trustees and other governing boards are Catholics who are committed to the Catholic Church?55

How have the Board of Trustees and other governing boards:

  1. developed and implemented effective ways of relating to and collaborating with the local diocesan bishop and diocesan agencies on matters of mutual concern?56
  2. analyzed ecclesiastical documents on higher education, including Ex corde Ecclesiae and the Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for the United States, and developed and carried out specific ways of implementing them appropriate to the structure and life of the university?57
  3. developed and implemented a plan to undertake a periodic review of the congruence of the institution’s mission statement, courses of instruction, research program, and service activity with the ideals, principles, and norms expressed in Ex corde Ecclesiae?58

Administration & Non-Faculty Employees

Code of Canon Law, Canon 833

“The following persons are obliged to make a profession of faith personally in accord with a formula approved by the Apostolic See: …in the presence of the grand chancellor or, in his absence, in the presence of the local ordinary, or in the presence of their delegates, the rector of an ecclesiastical or Catholic university at the beginning of the rector’s term of office….”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 4, §1

“The responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of the University rests primarily with the University itself.  [T]his responsibility is entrusted principally to university authorities (including, when the positions exist, the Chancellor and/or a Board of Trustees or equivalent body), it is shared in varying degrees by all members of the university community, and therefore calls for the recruitment of adequate university personnel, especially teachers and administrators, who are both willing and able to promote that identity.  The identity of a Catholic University is essentially linked to the quality of its teachers and to respect for Catholic doctrine.  It is the responsibility of the competent Authority to watch over these two fundamental needs in accordance with what is indicated in Canon Law.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 4, §2

“All teachers and all administrators, at the time of their appointment, are to be informed about the Catholic identity of the Institution and its implications, and about their responsibility to promote, or at least to respect, that identity.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 4, §4

“Those university teachers and administrators who belong to other Churches, ecclesial communities, or religions, as well as those who profess no religious belief, and also all students, are to recognize and respect the distinctive Catholic identity of the University.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §24

Directors and administrators in a Catholic University promote the constant growth of the University and its community through a leadership of service; the dedication and witness of the non-academic staff are vital for the identity and life of the university.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §27

“Catholic members of the university community are also called to a personal fidelity to the Church with all that this implies.  Non-Catholic members are required to respect the Catholic character of the University, while the University in turn respects their religious liberty.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 2, §6

“The university (in particular, the trustees, administration, and faculty) should take practical steps to implement its mission statement in order to foster and strengthen its Catholic nature and character.”

[Footnote reads: “In this regard, the university may wish to establish a ‘mission effectiveness committee’ or some other appropriate structure to develop methods by which Catholics may promote the university’s Catholic identity and those who are not Catholic may acknowledge and respect this identity.”]

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §3

“The university president should be a Catholic.”

[Footnote reads: “Upon assuming the office of president for the first time, a Catholic should express his or her commitment to the university’s Catholic identity and to the Catholic faith in accordance with canon 833, §7 (see also Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Formula Professio Fidei et Iusiurandum, July 1, 1988, AAS 81 [1989] 104-106; and Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Rescriptum ex audientia SS. mi Quod Attinet, September 19, 1989, AAS 81 [1989] 1169).  When a candidate who is not a Catholic is being considered for appointment as president of a Catholic university, the university should consult with the competent ecclesiastical authority about the matter.  In all cases, the president should express his or her commitment to the university’s Catholic mission and identity.”]

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §3

“The administration should inform faculty and staff at the time of their appointment regarding the Catholic identity, mission and religious practices of the university and encourage them to participate, to the degree possible, in the spiritual life of the university.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §7

“In order to maintain and safeguard their freely-chosen Catholic identity, it is important for Catholic universities… to implement in practical terms their commitment to the essential elements of Catholic identity, including the following: …Commitment of witness of the Catholic faith by Catholic administrators and teachers, especially those teaching the theological disciplines, and acknowledgment and respect on the part of non-Catholic teachers and administrators of the university’s Catholic identity and mission….”

Questions for Self-Assessment

How does the institution ensure that the president (or equivalent executive official) is a Catholic?59

How does the institution ensure that the president (or equivalent executive official) expresses commitment to the institution’s Catholic identity and (if Catholic) makes the Vatican-approved profession of faith at the beginning of the president’s term of office?60

How does the institution ensure that each official and non-faculty employee is informed at the time of their appointment about the Catholic identity of the institution and its implications, and their responsibility to promote—or if not Catholic, to at least respect—that Catholic identity?61

How does the institution ensure that each official and non-faculty employee is both willing and able to maintain and strengthen the Catholic identity of the institution, under the direction of the governing board(s)?62

How does the institution ensure that each official and non-faculty employee implements
in practical terms the commitment to maintain and strengthen the Catholic identity of the institution?63

How does the institution invite official and non-faculty employees to participate in the spiritual life of the institution?64

How does each Catholic official and non-faculty employee witness to the Catholic faith?65

Faculty & Academics

Faculty

Code of Canon Law, Canon 810, §1

“It is the responsibility of the authority who is competent in accord with the statutes to provide for the appointment of teachers to Catholic universities who besides their scientific and pedagogical suitability are also outstanding in their integrity of doctrine and probity of life; when those requisite qualities are lacking they are to be removed from their positions in accord with the procedure set forth in the statutes.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 2, §5

“Freedom in research and teaching is recognized and respected according to the principles and methods of each individual discipline, so long as the rights of the individual and of the community are preserved within the confines of the truth and the common good.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 4, §1

“The responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of the University rests primarily with the University itself.  While this responsibility is entrusted principally to university authorities (including, when the positions exist, the Chancellor and/or a Board of Trustees or equivalent body), it is shared in varying degrees by all members of the university community, and therefore calls for the recruitment of adequate university personnel, especially teachers and administrators, who are both willing and able to promote that identity.  The identity of a Catholic University is essentially linked to the quality of its teachers and to respect for Catholic doctrine.  It is the responsibility of the competent Authority to watch over these two fundamental needs in accordance with what is indicated in Canon Law.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 4, §2

“All teachers and all administrators, at the time of their appointment, are to be informed about the Catholic identity of the Institution and its implications, and about their responsibility to promote, or at least to respect, that identity.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 4, §3

“In ways appropriate to the different academic disciplines, all Catholic teachers are to be faithful to, and all other teachers are to respect, Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 4, §4

“Those university teachers and administrators who belong to other Churches, ecclesial communities, or religions, as well as those who profess no religious belief, and also all students, are to recognize and respect the distinctive Catholic identity of the University.  In order not to endanger the Catholic identity of the University or Institute of Higher Studies, the number of non-Catholic teachers should not be allowed to constitute a majority within the Institution, which is and must remain Catholic.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §12

“Every Catholic university… guarantees its members academic freedom, so long as the rights of the individual person and of the community are preserved within the confines of the truth and the common good.”

[Footnote reads: “‘[A]cademic freedom’ is the guarantee given to those involved in teaching and research that, within their specific specialized branch of knowledge, and according to the methods proper to that specific area, they may search for the truth wherever analysis and evidence leads them, and may teach and publish the results of this search, keeping in mind the cited criteria, that is, safeguarding the rights of the individuals and of society within the confines of the truth and the common good.”]

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §22

University teachers should seek to improve their competence and endeavour to set the content, objectives, methods, and results of research in an individual discipline within the framework of a coherent world vision.  Christians among the teachers are called to be witnesses and educators of authentic Christian life, which evidences attained integration between faith and life, and between professional competence and Christian wisdom.  All teachers are to be inspired by academic ideals and by the principles of an authentically human life.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §27

“Catholic members of the university community are also called to a personal fidelity to the Church with all that this implies.  Non-Catholic members are required to respect the Catholic character of the University, while the University in turn respects their religious liberty.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 2, §2

“Academic freedom is an essential component of a Catholic university.  The university should take steps 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.’  In particular, ‘[t]hose who are engaged in the sacred disciplines enjoy a lawful freedom of inquiry and of prudently expressing their opinions on matters in which they have expertise, while observing the submission [obsequio] due to the magisterium of the Church.’”  (Citation in first instance from Vatican Council II, Pastoral

Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 62; second instance from Code of Canon Law, Canon 218.)

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 2, §6

“The university (in particular, the trustees, administration, and faculty) should take practical steps to implement its mission statement in order to foster and strengthen its Catholic nature and character.”

[Footnote reads: “In this regard, the university may wish to establish a ‘mission effectiveness committee’ or some other appropriate structure to develop methods by which Catholics may promote the university’s Catholic identity and those who are not Catholic may acknowledge and respect this identity.”]

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §3

“The administration should inform faculty and staff at the time of their appointment regarding the Catholic identity, mission and religious practices of the university and encourage them to participate, to the degree possible, in the spiritual life of the university.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §4

“In accordance with its procedures for the hiring and retention of professionally qualified faculty and relevant provisions of applicable federal and state law, regulations and procedures, the university should strive to recruit and appoint Catholics as professors so that, to the extent possible, those committed to the witness of the faith will constitute a majority of the faculty.  All professors are expected to be aware of and committed to the Catholic mission and identity of their institutions.  All professors are expected to exhibit not only academic competence and good character but also respect for Catholic doctrine.  When these qualities are found to be lacking, the university statutes are to specify the competent authority and the process to be followed to remedy the situation.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §7

“In order to maintain and safeguard their freely-chosen Catholic identity, it is important for Catholic universities… to implement in practical terms their commitment to the essential elements of Catholic identity, including the following: …Commitment to Catholic ideals, principles and attitudes in carrying out research, teaching and all other university activities, including activities of officially-recognized student and faculty organizations and associations… Commitment of witness of the Catholic faith by Catholic administrators and teachers, especially those teaching the theological disciplines, and acknowledgment and respect on the part of non-Catholic teachers and administrators of the university’s Catholic identity and mission….”

Questions for Self-Assessment

How does the institution ensure that at least a majority of faculty members are Catholics who are committed to the witness of the faith?66

How does the institution ensure that each faculty member is informed at the time of their appointment about the Catholic identity of the institution and its implications, and their responsibility to promote—or if not Catholic, to at least respect—that Catholic identity?67

How does the institution ensure that each faculty member is both willing and able to maintain and strengthen the Catholic identity of the institution, under the direction of the governing board(s) and administrative officials?68

How does the institution ensure that each faculty member implements in practical terms the commitment to promote—or if not Catholic, to at least respect—the Catholic identity of the institution?69

How does the institution ensure that each faculty member implements in practical terms the commitment to maintain and strengthen the Catholic identity of the institution?70

How does the institution ensure the appointment of faculty members who, besides their professional suitability, are also outstanding in their integrity of doctrine and probity of life?71

When these qualities are lacking, how does the institution ensure that faculty members are removed from their positions?72

How does the institution invite faculty members to participate in the spiritual life of the institution?73

How does each Catholic faculty member witness to the Catholic faith and authentic Christian life, demonstrating integration between faith and life and between professional competence and Christian wisdom?74

How does each faculty member demonstrate commitment to academic ideals and the principles of an authentically human life?75

How does each faculty member strive to improve their competence and endeavor to set the content, objectives, methods, and results of research in their particular discipline within the framework of a coherent world vision which conforms to Catholic teaching?76

How does the institution ensure that officially recognized faculty organizations and associations conform to Catholic ideals, principles, and attitudes?77

How does the institution guarantee its faculty members a freedom of inquiry and of prudently expressing their opinions on matters in which they have expertise, while observing the submission due to the magisterium of the Church, the rights of individuals and the community, the confines of the truth and the common good, and the methods proper to their particular discipline?78

How does the institution respond to violations and abuses of academic freedom?79

Curriculum

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 4, §5

“The education of students is to combine academic and professional development with formation in moral and religious principles and the social teachings of the Church; the programme of studies for each of the various professions is to include an appropriate ethical formation in that profession.  Courses in Catholic doctrine are to be made available to all students.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §7

“Scientific and technological discoveries create an enormous economic and industrial growth, but they also inescapably require the correspondingly necessary search for meaning in order to guarantee that the new discoveries be used for the authentic good of individuals and of human society as a whole. If it is the responsibility of every University to search for such meaning, a Catholic University is called in a particular way to respond to this need: its Christian inspiration enables it to include the moral, spiritual and religious dimension in its research, and to evaluate the attainments of science and technology in the perspective of the totality of the human person.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §9

Ex corde Ecclesiae intends “that the students of these institutions become people outstanding in learning, ready to shoulder society’s heavier burdens and to witness the faith to the world.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §20

“Given the close connection between research and teaching, the research qualities indicated above will have their influence on all teaching.  While each discipline is taught systematically and according to its own methods, interdisciplinary studies, assisted by a careful and thorough study of philosophy and theology, enable students to acquire an organic vision of reality and to develop a continuing desire for intellectual progress.  In the communication of knowledge, emphasis is then placed on how human reason in its reflection opens to increasingly broader questions, and how the complete answer to them can only come from above through faith.  Furthermore, the moral implications that are present in each discipline are examined as an integral part of the teaching of that discipline so that the entire educative process be directed towards the whole development of the person.  Finally, Catholic theology, taught in a manner faithful to Scripture, Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium, provides an awareness of the Gospel principles which will enrich the meaning of human life and give it a new dignity.  Through research and teaching the students are educated in the various disciplines so as to become truly competent in the specific sectors in which they will devote themselves to the service of society and of the Church, but at the same time prepared to give the witness of their faith to the world.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §23

Students are challenged to pursue an education that combines excellence in humanistic and cultural development with specialized professional training.  Most especially, they are challenged to continue the search for truth and for meaning throughout their lives, since ‘the human spirit must be cultivated in such a way that there results a growth in its ability to wonder, to understand, to contemplate, to make personal judgments, and to develop a religious, moral, and social sense.’  This enables them to acquire or, if they have already done so, to deepen a Christian way of life that is authentic.  They should realize the responsibility of their professional life, the enthusiasm of being the trained ‘leaders’ of tomorrow, of being witnesses to Christ in whatever place they may exercise their profession.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §31

“Through teaching and research, a Catholic University offers an indispensable contribution to the Church.  In fact, it prepares men and women who, inspired by Christian principles and helped to live their Christian vocation in a mature and responsible manner, will be able to assume positions of responsibility in the Church.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §34

“The Christian spirit of service to others for the promotion of social justice is of particular importance for each Catholic University, to be shared by its teachers and developed in its students.  The Church is firmly committed to the integral growth of all men and women.  The Gospel, interpreted in the social teachings of the Church, is an urgent call to promote ‘the development of those peoples who are striving to escape from hunger, misery, endemic diseases and ignorance; of those who are looking for a wider share in the benefits of civilization and a more active improvement of their human qualities; of those who are aiming purposefully at their complete fulfilment’. …A Catholic University also has the responsibility, to the degree that it is able, to help to promote the development of the emerging nations.”  (Citation from Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio)

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §36

“Through programmes of continuing education offered to the wider community, by making its scholars available for consulting services, by taking advantage of modern means of communication, and in a variety of other ways, a Catholic University can assist in making the growing body of human knowledge and a developing understanding of the faith available to a wider public, thus expanding university services beyond its own academic community.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §49

“[A]ll the basic academic activities of a Catholic University are connected with and in harmony with the evangelizing mission of the Church: …education offered in a faith-context that forms men and women capable of rational and critical judgment and conscious of the transcendent dignity of the human person; professional training that incorporates ethical values and a sense of service to individuals and to society….”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §5

“With due regard for the principles of religious liberty and freedom of conscience, students should have the opportunity to be educated in the Church’s moral and religious principles and social teachings and to participate in the life of faith.  Catholic students have a right to receive from a university instruction in authentic Catholic doctrine and practice, especially from those who teach the theological disciplines. …Courses in Catholic doctrine and practice should be made available to all students.  Catholic teaching should have a place, if appropriate to the subject matter, in the various disciplines taught in the university.  Students should be provided with adequate instruction on professional ethics and moral issues related to their profession and the secular disciplines.”

Questions for Self-Assessment

How does the education for each student:

  1. combine academic and professional development with formation in moral and religious principles, the social teachings of the Catholic Church, and their application to critical issues such as human life and other issues of social justice?80
  2. include instruction in authentic Catholic doctrine and practice?81
  3. include interdisciplinary studies, assisted by a careful and thorough study of philosophy
    and theology, helping students acquire an organic vision of reality?82
  4. consider the moral implications that are present in each discipline?83
  5. develop the Christian spirit of service to others for the promotion of social justice?84
  6. prepare the student to be outstanding in learning, ready to shoulder society’s heavier burdens and to witness the faith to the world?85

How does each program of professional studies include appropriate Catholic ethical formation in that profession and develop a sense of service to individuals and society?86

How do programs in science and technology evaluate the attainments of science and technology in the perspective of the totality of the human person?87

How does the institution offer its services and make knowledge and understanding of the faith available to the public beyond its own academic community?88

Theology

Code of Canon Law, Canon 811, §§1-2

“The competent ecclesiastical authority is to provide that at Catholic universities there be erected a faculty of theology, an institute of theology, or at least a chair of theology so that classes may be given for lay students.  In the individual Catholic universities classes should be given which treat in a special way those theological questions which are connected with the disciplines of their faculties.”

Code of Canon Law, Canon 812

“It is necessary that those who teach theological disciplines in any institute of higher studies have a mandate from the competent ecclesiastical authority.”

Code of Canon Law, Canon 833

“The following persons are obliged to make a profession of faith personally in accord with a formula approved by the Apostolic See: …in the presence of the rector, if the rector is a priest, or the local ordinary, or their delegates and at the beginning of the rector’s term of office, teachers in any universities whatsoever who teach disciplines which deal with faith or morals….”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 4, §3

“In ways appropriate to the different academic disciplines, all Catholic teachers are to be faithful to, and all other teachers are to respect, Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching.  In particular, Catholic theologians, aware that they fulfil a mandate received from the Church, are to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church as the authentic interpreter of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 4, §5

“The education of students is to combine academic and professional development with formation in moral and religious principles and the social teachings of the Church; the programme of studies for each of the various professions is to include an appropriate ethical formation in that profession.  Courses in Catholic doctrine are to be made available to all students.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §19

Theology plays a particularly important role in the search for a synthesis of knowledge as well as in the dialogue between faith and reason.  It serves all other disciplines in their search for meaning, not only by helping them to investigate how their discoveries will affect individuals and society but also by bringing a perspective and an orientation not contained within their own methodologies.  In turn, interaction with these other disciplines and their discoveries enriches theology, offering it a better understanding of the world today, and making theological research more relevant to current needs.  Because of its specific importance among the academic disciplines, every Catholic University should have a faculty, or at least a chair, of theology.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §20

“Catholic theology, taught in a manner faithful to Scripture, Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium, provides an awareness of the Gospel principles which will enrich the meaning of human life and give it a new dignity.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §29

“Theology has its legitimate place in the University alongside other disciplines.  It has proper principles and methods which define it as a branch of knowledge.  Theologians enjoy this same freedom so long as they are faithful to these principles and methods. …[S]ince theology seeks an understanding of revealed truth whose authentic interpretation is entrusted to the Bishops of the Church, it is intrinsic to the principles and methods of their research and teaching in their academic discipline that theologians respect the authority of the Bishops, and assent to Catholic doctrine according to the degree of authority with which it is taught.  Because of their interrelated roles, dialogue between Bishops and theologians is essential; this is especially true today, when the results of research are so quickly and so widely communicated through the media.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 2, §2

“In particular, ‘[t]hose who are engaged in the sacred disciplines enjoy a lawful freedom of inquiry and of prudently expressing their opinions on matters in which they have expertise, while observing the submission [obsequio] due to the magisterium of the Church.’”  (Citation from Code of Canon Law, Canon 218)

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §4

“Catholic theology should be taught in every Catholic university, and, if possible, a department or chair of Catholic theology should be established.  Academic events should be organized on a regular basis to address theological issues, especially those relative to the various disciplines taught in the university.  Both the university and the bishops, aware of the contributions made by theologians to Church and academy, have a right to expect them to present authentic Catholic teaching.  Catholic professors of the theological disciplines have a corresponding duty to be faithful to the Church’s magisterium as the authoritative interpreter of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.  Catholics who teach the theological disciplines in a Catholic university are required to have a mandatum granted by competent ecclesiastical authority.

“i.  The mandatum is fundamentally an acknowledgment by Church authority that a Catholic professor of a theological discipline is a teacher within the full communion of the Catholic Church.

“ii.  The mandatum should not be construed as an appointment, authorization, delegation or approbation of one’s teaching by Church authorities.  Those who have received a mandatum teach in their own name in virtue of their baptism and their academic and professional competence, not in the name of the Bishop or of the Church’s magisterium.

[Footnote reads: “[I]t is not the responsibility of a Catholic university to seek the mandatum; this is a personal obligation of each professor.  If a particular professor lacks a mandatum and continues to teach a theological discipline, the university must determine what further action may be taken in accordance with its own mission and statutes (see canon 810, §1).”]

“iii.  The mandatum recognizes the professor’s commitment and responsibility to teach authentic Catholic doctrine and to refrain from putting forth as Catholic teaching anything contrary to the Church’s magisterium.

“iv.  The following procedure is given to facilitate, as of the effective date of this Application, the process of requesting and granting the mandatum.  Following the approval of the Application, a detailed procedure will be developed outlining the process of requesting and granting (or withdrawing) the mandatum.

“1.  The competent ecclesiastical authority to grant the mandatum is the bishop of the diocese in which the Catholic university is located; he may grant the mandatum personally or through a delegate.

[Footnote reads: “The attestation or declaration of the professor that he or she will teach in communion with the Church can be expressed by the profession of faith and oath of fidelity or in any other reasonable manner acceptable to the one issuing the mandatum.”]

“2.  Without prejudice to the rights of the local bishop, a mandatum, once granted, remains in effect wherever and as long as the professor teaches unless and until withdrawn by competent ecclesiastical authority.

[Footnote reads: “Although the general principle is that, once granted, there is no need for the mandatum to be granted again by another diocesan bishop, every diocesan bishop has the right to require otherwise in his own diocese.”]

“3.  The mandatum should be given in writing.  The reasons for denying or removing a mandatum should also be in writing.”

[Footnote reads: “Administrative acts in the external forum must be in writing (c. 37).  The writing not only demonstrates the fulfillment of canon 812, but, in cases of denial or removal, it permits the person who considers his or her rights to have been injured to seek recourse. See canons 1732-1739.”]

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §5

“With due regard for the principles of religious liberty and freedom of conscience, students should have the opportunity to be educated in the Church’s moral and religious principles and social teachings and to participate in the life of faith.  Catholic students have a right to receive from a university instruction in authentic Catholic doctrine and practice, especially from those who teach the theological disciplines. …Courses in Catholic doctrine and practice should be made available to all students.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 5, §2

Doctrinal Responsibilities: Approaches to Promoting Cooperation and Resolving Misunderstandings between Bishops and Theologians, approved and published by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, June 17, 1989, can serve as a useful guide for diocesan bishops, professors of the theological disciplines and administrators of universities to promote informal cooperation and collaboration in the Church’s teaching mission and the faithful observance within Catholic universities of the principles of Catholic doctrine.  Disputes about Church doctrine should be resolved, whenever possible, in an informal manner.  At times, the resolution of such matters may benefit from formal doctrinal dialogue as proposed by Doctrinal Responsibilities and adapted by the parties in question.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §5

“Within their academic mission of teaching and research, in ways appropriate to their own constituencies and histories, including their sponsorship by religious communities, institutions offer courses in Catholic theology that reflect current scholarship and are in accord with the authentic teaching of the Church.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §7

“In order to maintain and safeguard their freely-chosen Catholic identity, it is important for Catholic universities… to implement in practical terms their commitment to the essential elements of Catholic identity, including the following: …Commitment of witness of the Catholic faith by Catholic administrators and teachers, especially those teaching the theological disciplines, and acknowledgment and respect on the part of non-Catholic teachers and administrators of the university’s Catholic identity and mission; …Commitment to provide courses for students on Catholic moral and religious principles and their application to critical areas such as human life and other issues of social justice….”

Vatican Council II, Declaration on Christian Education Gravissimum Educationis, §32

“In Catholic universities where there is no faculty of sacred theology there should be established an institute or chair of sacred theology in which there should be lectures suited to lay students.”

Questions for Self-Assessment

How does the institution maintain a faculty, institute, or chair of Catholic theology with courses for lay students?89

How does the institution ensure that students have access to courses which treat in a special way those theological questions with are connected with each particular discipline?90

How does the institution provide academic events on a regular basis to address theological issues, especially those relative to the various disciplines taught in the university?91

How does the institution ensure that each individual hired to teach a theological discipline:

  1. has a mandatum according to the procedures established by the local diocesan bishop?92
  2. makes the Vatican-approved profession of faith at the beginning of the individual’s employment?93
  3. is faithful to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church as the authentic interpreter of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition and assents to Catholic doctrine according to the degree of authority with which it is taught?94
  4. teaches in a manner faithful to Scripture, Tradition, and the Catholic Church’s Magisterium?95
  5. remain faithful to the principles and methods proper to Catholic theology?96

Research

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 5, §1

“In ways consistent with its nature as a University, a Catholic University will contribute to the Church’s work of evangelization.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §7

“Scientific and technological discoveries create an enormous economic and industrial growth, but they also inescapably require the correspondingly necessary search for meaning in order to guarantee that the new discoveries be used for the authentic good of individuals and of human society as a whole. If it is the responsibility of every University to search for such meaning, a Catholic University is called in a particular way to respond to this need: its Christian inspiration enables it to include the moral, spiritual and religious dimension in its research, and to evaluate the attainments of science and technology in the perspective of the totality of the human person.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §15

“A Catholic University, therefore, is a place of research, where scholars scrutinize reality with the methods proper to each academic discipline, and so contribute to the treasury of human knowledge.  Each individual discipline is studied in a systematic manner; moreover, the various disciplines are brought into dialogue for their mutual enhancement.  In a Catholic University, research necessarily includes (a) the search for an integration of knowledge, (b) dialogue between faith and reason, (c) an ethical concern, and (d) theological perspective.

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §16

“[A] University, and especially a Catholic University, ‘has to be a ‘living union’ of individual organisms dedicated to the search for truth.  …It is necessary to work towards a higher synthesis of knowledge, in which alone lies the possibility of satisfying that thirst for truth which is profoundly inscribed on the heart of the human person.’  Aided by the specific contributions of philosophy and theology, university scholars will be engaged in a constant effort to determine the relative place and meaning of each of the various disciplines within the context of a vision of the human person and the world that is enlightened by the Gospel, and therefore by a faith in Christ, the Logos, as the centre of creation and of human history.”  (Pope John Paul II, “Allocution to the International Congress on Catholic Universities,” April 25, 1989)

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §17

“In promoting this integration of knowledge, a specific part of a Catholic University’s task is to promote dialogue between faith and reason, so that it can be seen more profoundly how faith and reason bear harmonious witness to the unity of all truth.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §18

“Because knowledge is meant to serve the human person, research in a Catholic University is always carried out with a concern for the ethical and moral implications both of its methods and of its discoveries.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §32

“A Catholic University, as any University, is immersed in human society; as an extension of its service to the Church, and always within its proper competence, it is called on to become an ever more effective instrument of cultural progress for individuals as well as for society.  Included among its research activities, therefore, will be a study of serious contemporary problems in areas such as the dignity of human life, the promotion of justice for all, the quality of personal and family life, the protection of nature, the search for peace and political stability, a more just sharing in the world’s resources, and a new economic and political order that will better serve the human community at a national and international level.  University research will seek to discover the roots and causes of the serious problems of our time, paying special attention to their ethical and religious dimensions.

“If need be, a Catholic University must have the courage to speak uncomfortable truths which do not please public opinion, but which are necessary to safeguard the authentic good of society.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §33

“A specific priority is the need to examine and evaluate the predominant values and norms of modern society and culture in a Christian perspective, and the responsibility to try to communicate to society those ethical and religious principles which give full meaning to human life.  In this way a University can contribute further to the development of a true Christian anthropology, founded on the person of Christ, which will bring the dynamism of the creation and redemption to bear on reality and on the correct solution to the problems of life.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §34

“The Christian spirit of service to others for the promotion of social justice is of particular importance for each Catholic University, to be shared by its teachers and developed in its students.  The Church is firmly committed to the integral growth of all men and women.  The Gospel, interpreted in the social teachings of the Church, is an urgent call to promote ‘the development of those peoples who are striving to escape from hunger, misery, endemic diseases and ignorance; of those who are looking for a wider share in the benefits of civilization and a more active improvement of their human qualities; of those who are aiming purposefully at their complete fulfilment’.”  (Citation from Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio)

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §35

“In its attempts to resolve these complex issues that touch on so many different dimensions of human life and of society, a Catholic University will insist on cooperation among the different academic disciplines, each offering its distinct contribution in the search for solutions….”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §45

“A Catholic University must become more attentive to the cultures of the world of today, and to the various cultural traditions existing within the Church in a way that will promote a continuous and profitable dialogue between the Gospel and modern society.  Among the criteria that characterize the values of a culture are above all, the meaning of the human person, his or her liberty, dignity, sense of responsibility, and openness to the transcendent.  To a respect for persons is joined the preeminent value of the family, the primary unit of every human culture.  Catholic Universities will seek to discern and evaluate both the aspirations and the contradictions of modern culture, in order to make it more suited to the total development of individuals and peoples.  In particular, it is recommended that by means of appropriate studies, the impact of modern technology and especially of the mass media on persons, the family, and the institutions and whole of modem culture be studied deeply.  Traditional cultures are to be defended in their identity, helping them to receive modern values without sacrificing their own heritage, which is a wealth for the whole of the human family.  Universities, situated within the ambience of these cultures, will seek to harmonize local cultures with the positive contributions of modern cultures.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §46

“An area that particularly interests a Catholic University is the dialogue between Christian thought and the modern sciences.  …Such dialogue concerns the natural sciences as much as the human sciences which posit new and complex philosophical and ethical problems.  The Christian researcher should demonstrate the way in which human intelligence is enriched by the higher truth that comes from the Gospel: ‘The intelligence is never diminished, rather, it is stimulated and reinforced by that interior fount of deep understanding that is the Word of God, and by the hierarchy of values that results from it… In its unique manner, the Catholic University helps to manifest the superiority of the spirit, that can never, without the risk of losing its very self, be placed at the service of something other than the search for truth.’”  (Citation from Pope Paul VI, to the Delegates of The International Federation of Catholic Universities, Nov. 27, 1972)

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §47

“Besides cultural dialogue, a Catholic University, in accordance with its specific ends, and keeping in mind the various religious-cultural contexts, following the directives promulgated by competent ecclesiastical authority, can offer a contribution to ecumenical dialogue.  It does so to further the search for unity among all Christians.  In inter-religious dialogue it will assist in discerning the spiritual values that are present in the different religions.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §49

“[A]ll the basic academic activities of a Catholic University are connected with and in harmony with the evangelizing mission of the Church: research carried out in the light of the Christian message which puts new human discoveries at the service of individuals and society; …the dialogue with culture that makes the faith better understood, and the theological research that translates the faith into contemporary language.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §5

“It is highly desirable that representatives of both educational institutions and Church authorities jointly identify, study, and pursue solutions to issues concerning social justice, human life and the needs of the poor.”

Vatican Council II, Declaration on Christian Education Gravissimum Educationis, 32

“Since science advances by means of the investigations peculiar to higher scientific studies, special attention should be given in Catholic universities and colleges to institutes that serve primarily the development of scientific research.”

Questions for Self-Assessment

How does the institution ensure that research and other academic activities of the institution and its faculty include the following necessary characteristics:

  1. the search for an integration of knowledge, by determining the relative place and meaning of each of the various disciplines in relation to Christ as the center of creation and human history?97
  2. dialogue between faith and reason?98
  3. concern for the ethical and moral implications of its methods and discoveries?99
  4. a moral, spiritual, and religious dimension from a Catholic theological perspective?100

How do research and other academic activities of the institution and its faculty:

  1. serve the development of scientific knowledge?101
  2. evaluate the attainments of science and technology in the Christian perspective of the totality of the human person and the higher truth that comes from the Gospel?102
  3. study the roots and causes of serious contemporary problems, paying special attention to their ethical and religious dimensions, in areas such as the dignity of human life, the promotion of justice for all, the quality of personal and family life, the protection of nature, the search for peace and political stability, a more just sharing in the world’s resources, and a new economic and political order that will better serve the human community at a national and international level?103
  4. examine and evaluate from a Christian perspective the predominant values and norms of modern society and culture, including the impact of modern technology and the mass media?104
  5. help communicate to society the ethical and religious principles which give full meaning to human life?105
  6. contribute to ecumenical dialogue, according to the directives of ecclesiastical authority?106
  7. otherwise contribute to the Catholic Church’s work of evangelization?107

How does the institution ensure cooperation among the different academic disciplines in research and other academic activities?108

Students & Campus Life

Pastoral Ministry

Code of Canon Law, Canon 813

“The diocesan bishop is to have serious pastoral care for students by erecting a parish for them or by assigning priests for this purpose on a stable basis; he is also to provide for Catholic university centers at universities, even non-Catholic ones, to give assistance, especially spiritual to young people.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 6, §1

“A Catholic University is to promote the pastoral care of all members of the university community, and to be especially attentive to the spiritual development of those who are Catholics.  Priority is to be given to those means which will facilitate the integration of human and professional education with religious values in the light of Catholic doctrine, in order to unite intellectual learning with the religious dimension of life.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 6, §2

“A sufficient number of qualified people—priests, religious, and lay persons—are to be appointed to provide pastoral ministry for the university community, carried on in harmony and cooperation with the pastoral activities of the local Church under the guidance or with the approval of the diocesan Bishop.  All members of the university community are to be invited to assist the work of pastoral ministry, and to collaborate in its activities.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §§38-39

“Pastoral ministry is that activity of the University which offers the members of the university community an opportunity to integrate religious and moral principles with their academic study and non-academic activities, thus integrating faith with life.  It is part of the mission of the Church within the University, and is also a constitutive element of a Catholic University itself, both in its structure and in its life.  A university community concerned with promoting the Institution’s Catholic character will be conscious of this pastoral dimension and sensitive to the ways in which it can have an influence on all university activities.

“As a natural expression of the Catholic identity of the University, the university community should give a practical demonstration of its faith in its daily activity, with important moments of reflection and of prayer.  Catholic members of this community will be offered opportunities to assimilate Catholic teaching and practice into their lives and will be encouraged to participate in the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist as the most perfect act of community worship.  When the academic community includes members of other Churches, ecclesial communities or religions, their initiatives for reflection and prayer in accordance with their own beliefs are to be respected.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §§40-42

“Those involved in pastoral ministry will encourage teachers and students to become more aware of their responsibility towards those who are suffering physically or spiritually.  Following the example of Christ, they will be particularly attentive to the poorest and to those who suffer economic, social, cultural or religious injustice.  This responsibility begins within the academic community, but it also finds application beyond it.

“Pastoral ministry is an indispensable means by which Catholic students can, in fulfilment of their baptism, be prepared for active participation in the life of the Church; it can assist in developing and nurturing the value of marriage and family life, fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life, stimulating the Christian commitment of the laity and imbuing every activity with the spirit of the Gospel.  Close cooperation between pastoral ministry in a Catholic University and the other activities within the local Church, under the guidance or with the approval of the diocesan Bishop, will contribute to their mutual growth.

“Various associations or movements of spiritual and apostolic life, especially those developed specifically for students, can be of great assistance in developing the pastoral aspects of university life.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 4, §5

“With due regard for the principles of religious liberty and freedom of conscience, students should have the opportunity to be educated in the Church’s moral and religious principles and social teachings and to participate in the life of faith.  Catholic students… have a right to be provided with opportunities to practice the faith through participation in Mass, the sacraments, religious devotions and other authentic forms of Catholic spirituality.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States Particular Norms, Art. 6, §§1-5

“The diocesan bishop has overall responsibility for the pastoral care of the university’s students, faculty, administration and staff.

“The university, in cooperation with the diocesan bishop, shall make provision for effective campus ministry programs, including the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and penance, other liturgical celebrations, and opportunities for prayer and spiritual reflection.

“When selecting pastoral ministers—priests, deacons, religious and lay persons—to carry on the work of campus ministry, the university authorities should work closely with the diocesan bishop and interested religious institutes.  Without prejudice to the provision of canon 969, §2, priests and deacons must enjoy pastoral faculties from the local ordinary in order to exercise their ministry on campus.

“With due regard for religious liberty and freedom of conscience, the university, in cooperation with the diocesan bishop, should collaborate in ecumenical and interfaith efforts to care for the pastoral needs of students, faculty and other university personnel who are not Catholic.

“In these pastoral efforts, the university and the diocesan bishop should take account of the prescriptions and recommendations issued by the Holy See and the guidance and pastoral statements of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §5

“Allocation of personnel and money to assure the special contributions of campus ministry is indispensable.  In view of the presence on campus of persons of other religious traditions, it is a concern of the whole Church that ecumenical and inter-religious relationships should be fostered with sensitivity.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §7

“In order to maintain and safeguard their freely-chosen Catholic identity, it is important for Catholic universities… to implement in practical terms their commitment to the essential elements of Catholic identity, including the following: …Commitment to care pastorally for the students, faculty, administration and staff….”

Questions for Self-Assessment

How does the institution promote the pastoral care of all members of the college or university community, with special attention to the spiritual development of Catholics?109

How does the institution strive to unite intellectual learning with the religious dimension of life?110

How does the institution ensure sufficient resources and the appointment of sufficient priests, deacons, religious, and lay people to provide pastoral care for the college or university community?111

How does the institution give practical demonstrations of the Catholic faith in daily activity, including important moments of reflection and prayer?112

How does the institution ensure respect for non-Catholic members of the college or university community and their initiatives for reflection and prayer in accordance with their own beliefs?113

How does the institution collaborate in ecumenical and interfaith efforts to care for the pastoral needs of non-Catholic students?114

How do the institution’s pastoral ministers:

  1. invite all members of the college or university community to assist the work of pastoral ministry and collaborate in its activities, including the sacraments (especially the Mass and Penance), religious devotions, and other authentic forms of Catholic spirituality?115
  2. encourage faculty members and students to become more aware of their responsibility toward those who are suffering physically or spiritually, with particular attention to the poor and victims of economic, social, cultural, or religious injustice?116
  3. help develop and nurture in students the value of marriage and family life?117
  4. foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life?118

Student Life

Ex corde Ecclesiae General Norms, Art. 4, §4

“Those university teachers and administrators who belong to other Churches, ecclesial communities, or religions, as well as those who profess no religious belief, and also all students, are to recognize and respect the distinctive Catholic identity of the University.”

Ex corde Ecclesiae, §42

“Various associations or movements of spiritual and apostolic life, especially those developed specifically for students, can be of great assistance in developing the pastoral aspects of university life.”

Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for United States, §7

“In order to maintain and safeguard their freely-chosen Catholic identity, it is important for Catholic universities… to implement in practical terms their commitment to the essential elements of Catholic identity, including the following: …Commitment to Catholic ideals, principles and attitudes in carrying out research, teaching and all other university activities, including activities of officially-recognized student and faculty organizations and associations… Commitment to provide personal services (health care, counseling and guidance) to students, as well as administration and faculty, in conformity with the Church’s ethical and religious teaching and directives …Commitment to create a campus culture and environment that is expressive and supportive of a Catholic way of life.”


Questions for Self-Assessment

How does the institution ensure that students recognize and respect the Catholic identity of the institution?119

How does the institution ensure a campus culture and environment that is expressive and supportive of a Catholic way of life?120

How does the institution promote student participation in associations of spiritual and apostolic life, especially those developed especially for students?121

How does the institution ensure that officially recognized student organizations and associations conform to Catholic ideals, principles, and attitudes?122

How does the institution provide personal services like health care, counseling, and guidance for students, in conformity with the Catholic Church’s ethical and religious teaching and directives?123

 

 

 

How to Keep Your University Catholic

Dedication: To Father Michael Scanlan, T.O.R. President Emeritus, Franciscan University of Steubenville:
Who has shown that it can be done.

Table of Contents

Foreword
“Stewards of a Heritage, Bearers of Hope”
by Rev. Msgr. Stuart Swetland, S.T.D.
Preface to the Third Printing
Preface to the First Printing
Author’s Note
Chapter 1: A Case Study
Chapter 2: The Bishop
Chapter 3: The Trustees
Chapter 4: The Administration and Faculty
Chapter 5: The Students
Chapter 8: The Curriculum
Chapter 9: Academic Freedom
Chapter 10: “Indoctrination”
Chapter 11: Federal Aid
Chapter 12: Afterword
Authors

Foreword

Stewards of a Heritage, Bearers of Hope
Rev. Msgr. Stuart Swetland, S.T.D.
Vice President for Catholic Identity and Mission
Mount St. Mary’s University

Every person who is privileged to have the vocation as an administrator and/or educator at a Catholic college or university is both a steward of a heritage received from past generations and a bearer of hope to the current and future generations.1  Catholic universities are charged to “hand on what has been received.”2  We receive from above the supernatural gift of faith which we are called to preserve, explore, explain, live and faithfully hand on.  In bearing witness to the traditio of faith, Catholic universities are also privileged to be a source of light and hope for the world—a privileged place for an authentic encounter with God.  As His Holiness Benedict XVI said to Catholic educators at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2008:

Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News.  First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.

An encounter with Christ and His teaching leads to a genuine desire to deepen one’s knowledge and understanding of the One who reveals the merciful love of the Father.

When this pamphlet was first produced in 1992, and even when re-issued in 1997, much was “up for grabs” in the world of Catholic higher education.  There had been, for a variety of societal and ecclesial reasons, a widespread loss of confidence in the Catholic nature, identity and mission of Catholic higher education.  Much of the general upheaval in our society about fundamental truths or even the possibility of there being truth was reflected in the life of the university.  Many of our Catholic colleges and universities were caught up in the spirit of this age and gradually (or sometimes, sadly, rapidly) “drifted” towards a more secular vision of the university’s mission and identity.

Much has changed since the last quarter of the 20th century.  In many places, especially among the young, there is a new confidence in the Church’s teaching office.  With the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the full implementation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the general reception of the teaching office of John Paul II and Benedict XVI (including such seminal documents as Fides et RatioVeritatis SplendorEx corde EcclesiaeDeus Caritas Est and Spe Salvi) and the clarification of the role of the local ordinary vis-a-vis institutes of Catholic higher education, there has been a renewed focus and vigor brought to our campuses.  Thus, despite the scandals in the Church and the general loss of a religious sense in some sections of our society, there is no better time than now to focus on the nature and purpose of Catholic higher education.

The magnificent leadership of John Paul II and Benedict XVI has helped bring a renaissance to many Catholic colleges and universities.  Coupled with a growing demand for spiritual substance and depth emanating from the current generation of college-age students3 and the appropriate emphasis on mission required by many accreditation agencies, there is a growing sense that Catholic universities are extremely well situated to serve the holistic needs—spiritual, intellectual, moral, physical—of a demanding and discerning population of college-age students and their parents.

The times call for clarity.  Institutions and their leaders must know who they are and why they are.  At Mount St. Mary’s University, we are unapologetically committed to being a proud and robust Catholic university preparing young men and women for the challenges facing them in the contemporary world.  This is reflected in our governing documents where our Trustees committed the University to fidelity to its Catholic mission:

The Board of Trustees reasserts the critical importance of the Catholic identity in all operations of the University.  A strong Catholic identity is central to the mission of Mount St. Mary’s University.  Therefore, all faculty, staff, administrators, executive officers and Trustees are to work in concert with and support this Catholic mission.

The basic tenets of this Catholic mission at Mount St. Mary’s include:

  1.  The University is committed to the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ as the foundation of our values and attitudes which are reflected in our campus culture, policies and procedures.
  2.  The University fully understands, respects and follows the teachings of the Catholic Church.
  3.  The University is in full compliance with both the letter and spirit of Ex corde Ecclesiae.
  4.  The University recognizes the authority of the Holy See and the authority vested in the Archbishop of Baltimore regarding the Catholic nature and direction of Mount St. Mary’s University.4

This statement, like any governing document or mission statement, is only effective if it is rigorously put into action in the day-to-day running of the university.  This takes a commitment, a “mission centeredness,” as Father Kennedy observes, from the entirety of the university community.  Beginning with the Trustees and Administration but continuing through the faculty, staff and students, the institutional and personal commitment to the mission must be absolute.  More than likely, not everyone will share the fullness of the Catholic faith on campus; but everyone working on behalf of the university ought to be dedicated to its mission.

This means, among other things, that there is a critical need for well-formed Catholics who know and live their faith and who are willing to serve at every level at Catholic universities.  There is a need for accomplished men and women who will be willing to place their managerial and leadership skills at the service of Catholic higher education as trustees.  There is an acute need for well-formed Catholic academics who are committed to integrating their faith, their lives, their research and their teaching into a unity of life.  Especially needed are those who are willing to engage both their academic discipline and the Catholic intellectual heritage at the highest level to help in the great task of integrating faith and life.  There is a need for administrators who can place their faith and leadership experience at the service of the community of learners that is the university.  Staff members, with various skills and vocations, aid in the building of an authentic community centered in Christ.  Clergy and religious, especially the Chaplain and his staff, must provide the “daily bread” of Word and Sacrament necessary for personal and spiritual growth and renewal.  Other interested members of the greater community and Church can aid the university in its mission.

As college administrators, we cannot overlook the vital role that the President and his or her cabinet play in keeping a university robustly Catholic.  Presidents have the most central role.  They must never waiver from “blowing the certain trumpet” for Catholicism and keeping the campus focused on Christ.  Their cabinets, especially the recently developed idea of mission officers and/or Vice Presidents for Catholic Identity, aid them in the task of “setting the tone.”  Obviously, the role of mission officers or Vice Presidents for Catholic Identity and Mission will need further development.  There is a vital need for ongoing formation and development of faculty, staff, trustees and administration.  There is also a need for liaison with the local church and the local shepherd, the bishop.

Indeed, the bishop’s role is vital.  College presidents rightly expect that the relationship with their ordinary will be a fruitful one.  But the relationship must be a two-way street.  Catholic universities are called to be faithful to the Church and to serve Her mission.  But the Church, especially in the person of the Bishop, must serve the University as well.  Universities attempt to teach and model “servant leadership.”  We ask of our bishops to do likewise by providing a clear vision of how we can help serve one another.  Unlike what was stated at Land O’Lakes in 1967, we know that the Catholic university is only one of the places where the Church does its thinking; but we also know that it should be a privileged place of research, discovery and instruction.  As Pope John Paul II wrote in Ex corde Ecclesiae:

Every Catholic University, as a university, is an academic community which, in a rigorous and critical fashion, assists in the protection and advancement of human dignity and of a cultural heritage through research, teaching and various services offered to the local, national and international communities. It possesses that institutional autonomy necessary to perform its functions effectively and guarantees its members academic freedom, so long as the rights of the individual person and of the community are preserved within the confines of the truth and the common good.5

The university serves the common good by its rigorous pursuit of the truth.

An important point must be made here. Academic freedom is not an absolute right—it is a means to assure that the University can pursue the truth and serve the common good. No university, Catholic or not, will allow an absolute license to say or do everything or anything on campus. No one would tolerate overt racism, a “holocaust
denier” or an advocate for the violent overthrow of the government (or campus administration for that matter!). Academic freedom ought not to be confused with freedom of speech. The latter is a political right guaranteed in our constitutional system for citizens. The former is one necessary condition for the free and rigorous pursuit of truth in accordance with the appropriate academic standards of each discipline. The Church protects and promotes a “right” or “just” autonomy of earthly affairs. But a rightful autonomy is not an absolute autonomy. As the Second Vatican Council taught:

There seems to be some apprehension today that a close association between human activity and religion will endanger the autonomy of man, of organizations and of science. If by the autonomy of earthly affairs is meant the gradual discovery, exploitation, and ordering of the laws and values of matter and society, then the demand for autonomy is perfectly in order: it is at once the claim of modern man and the desire of the creator. By the very nature of creation, material being is endowed with its own stability, truth and excellence, its own order and laws. These man must respect as he recognizes the methods proper to every science and technique. Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of the faith derive from the same God.  The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are. We cannot but deplore certain attitudes (not unknown among Christians) deriving from a shortsighted view of the rightful autonomy of science; they have occasioned conflict and controversy and have misled many into opposing faith and science.

However, if by the term “the autonomy of earthy affairs” is meant that material being does not depend on God and that man can use it as if it had no relation to its creator, then the falsity of such a claim will be obvious to anyone who believes in God. Without a creator there can be no creature. In any case, believers, no matter what their religion, have always recognized the voice and the revelation of God in the language of creatures. Besides, once God is forgotten the creature is lost sight of as well.6

Autonomy and academic freedom must be placed at the service of truth.

This is particularly true in the discipline of theology. Catholic theology properly understood is “faith seeking understanding” (fides quaerens intellectum). For the theologian, the starting point is faith. Catholic faith is to the Catholic theologian what the periodic table is to the chemist. The chemist may be “free” to reject the periodic table as an “external constraint” to his or her free inquiry. But with this the chemist ceases, in any meaningful way, to be a chemist. He or she may be practicing some kind of discipline, but it will look a lot more like alchemy than chemistry. Similarly, the Catholic theologian who rejects the faith of the Church as interpreted and handed on by the Magisterium of the Church ceases in any meaningful way to be a Catholic theologian.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated this in its Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian:

Among the vocations awakened in this way by the Spirit in the church is that of the theologian.  His role is to pursue in a particular way an ever deeper understanding of the Word of God found in the inspired Scriptures and handed on by the living Tradition of the Church.  He does this in communion with the Magisterium which has been charged with the responsibility of preserving the deposit of faith.7

This wonderfully describes the vocation of the theologian.

Even secular sources recognize that academic freedom is not an absolute.  In a provocative editorial in The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Academic Freedom is Not a Divine Right,” scholar Stanley Fish states that academic freedom is a freedom limited to the task at hand—what he calls “freedom for academics—that is, for those engaged in a certain task.”  Fish writes:

It is the nature of that task and not any large abstraction like freedom or freedom of speech that determines the range of permissible and prescribed behavior.  You start with the idea of pursuing a line of inquiry to whatever conclusion it brings you, and then you ask for the freedom to engage in that pursuit without interference from external forces that would tie
you to the agenda of another enterprise.  The freedom you ask for is not added on to the project; it is constitutive of it, for you can’t follow where an inquiry takes you if obstacles are constantly put in your way.  When all is said and done, academic freedom is just a fancy name for being allowed to do your job, and it is only because that job has the peculiar feature of not having a pre-stipulated goal that those who do it must be granted a degree of latitude and flexibility not granted to the practitioners of other professions, who must be responsive to the customer or to the bottom line or to the electorate or to the global economy.  (That’s why there’s no such thing as “corporate-manager freedom” or “shoe-salesman freedom” or “dermatologist freedom.”)8

Indeed, academic freedom is ultimately about the freedom to do one’s job.

Ultimately, the idea of a Catholic University is about the mission to form students to become holy, saintly, well-educated, productive members of the Church and society. The essential characteristics necessary for this task are well laid out in Ex corde Ecclesiae:

  1. A Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such;
  2. a continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research;
  3. fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church;
  4. an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life. 9

These characteristics have not changed and will not change.  All are necessary if a college or university is to fulfill its mission as a Catholic institution of higher learning.

Father Kennedy’s essay contains many important points, some of which are absolutely essential for Catholic identity.  It also contains criticism of institutions and persons that, at the safe distance of time and space, may seem outdated.  We do not presume to be able to judge these persons and institutions.  Neither would we want to try.  We assume that the men and women of these earlier times were doing the best they could at the time with the lights they had.  Some documents, decisions and approaches obviously did not work to enhance the authentic Catholic witness of our colleges and universities.  Hopefully, we have learned much from these false starts and failed experiments.  Knowing most of the institutions described and most of the major players involved, we believe that, on the whole, these were good-willed and well-intentioned attempts to advance the Catholic intellectual apostolate.  With 20/20 hindsight it is easier now to recognize the failures and mistakes that others have made.

But dwelling on these past problems will not necessarily make the future brighter.  This will come only when we who are now entrusted with the stewardship of our Catholic universities hear the clarion call to fulfill our vocations in Christ.  We must hear and heed the call to what Pope Benedict XVI calls “intellectual charity”:

This aspect of charity calls the educator to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is noth ng less than an act of love. 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. Here they will experience “in what” and “in whom” it is possible to hope, and be inspired to contribute to society in a way that engenders hope in others.10

It is this commitment to charity grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ that requires of us that we be faithful stewards of our great heritage and bearers of hope to those entrusted to our care.

Preface to the Third Printing

The Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities is the official document of the Catholic Church dealing with Catholic universities.  It is known from its opening words in Latin as Ex corde Ecclesiae.  Issued in 1990, it still has not been fully accepted by most of the Catholic universities of the United States. A complex and protracted document history eventually resulted in The Application of Ex corde Ecclesiae for the United States, which became particular law in 2001 through the action of the American bishops.

Years earlier, the American bishops had appointed a committee to recommend national directives for the application of Ex corde Ecclesiae to the United States.  This committee met with a committee appointed by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, but substantial agreement was difficult to obtain. A pro-tem agreement was signed in June 1996, but many competent observers considered this to have been simply a papering over of substantial disagreement. Further re-workings were required to obtain final Vatican approval. The intransigence of American Catholic universities continues to have a great effect on the Canadian situation. It was not until 2006 that ordinances approved by the Canadian bishops for the implementation of Ex corde Ecclesiae took force.

Charles Rice, now an emeritus professor of the University of Notre Dame Law School, believes that several Catholic universities are past the point of no return, and has listed the three most contentious requirements of the Apostolic Constitution: (1) those teaching theology must have a mandate from the bishop of the diocese in which the university is located; (2) the university should adhere to the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium; and (3) the majority of the faculty must be Catholic.11

Concerning the first point, Kenneth Whitehead has traced the history of contemporary negotiations between Catholic universities and the Holy See back to their beginning in 1968 and the founding of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU); in its 1972-74 document the IFCU said that bishops have both the right and the duty to intervene in university matters, even to the point of declaring teachings to be incompatible with Catholic doctrine.  And Whitehead points out that the 1983 Code of Canon Law requires teachers in the theological disciplines to have a teaching mandate from the competent ecclesiastical authority (canon 812).12 In 2001, the American bishops authorized publication of Guidelines Concerning the Mandatum in Catholic Universities, intended “to explain and serve as a resource for the conferral of the mandatum” according to the binding ordinances of The Application.

Concerning the second point, Gerald Bradley, another Notre Dame Law School faculty member, states that “our university theological establishment is neck deep in dissent from authoritative church teaching,” and Ralph McInerny, also of Notre Dame, claims that, for American universities, “The enemy is no longer a Vatican bureaucracy but the faith itself.” A quote from the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen is still instructive: “I tell my relatives to send their college-age children to secular institutions where they will have to fight for their faith, rather than to Catholic institutions, where it will be stolen from them.”13

The late Monsignor Terry Tekippe of Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans studied the declaration of the Catholic Theological Society of America on this matter, and said that its “statement appears aggressively to separate the Catholic college or university from any connection or responsibility to the larger Church.”14

Concerning the third point, McInerny laments: “A laicized priest, a former religious, a fallen-away Catholic, or a Protestant may be at the front of the classroom. Recently a student told me that, in his biology course, the assigned content was tossed out in favor of prolonged bull sessions on women’s ordination. The student, having noted that several recent magisterial documents dealt with the matter, suggested that these be read and studied. The suggestion was laughed away. The instructor was Lutheran. This is far from being an isolated incidence.”15

Tekippe believed that “the question of the future of the Catholic university in the United States, then, becomes the question whether a critical mass of faculty and administrators, committed to the Catholic model of the university, is present, or can be hired in the foreseeable future.”  “In my sober estimate,” he wrote, “that is likely in a minority of universities…but not in a majority.”16 One example of the decline of Catholic faculty in Catholic universities is the University of Notre Dame. The Sycamore Project reports in 2008 only about 52 percent of the faculty are Catholics, down from 85 percent in the 1970s.17 Project President William Dempsey concludes, “Worse, with a reduction to account for dissident and nominal Catholics, there is no longer a faculty sufficiently Catholic to sustain the school’s historic claim to Catholic identity.”18

An organization dedicated exclusively to the re-Catholization of de-Catholicized universities in the United States, The Cardinal Newman Society, began in 1993.  It contacts administrators, faculty, students and alumni of American Catholic universities in an effort to improve the faith commitment of these universities in the short run and to save the universities for the Church in the long run.  I am pleased that this organization through its research division, The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education, is republishing this book.

How to Keep Your University Catholic has been written in the hope that at least some of the many Catholic colleges and universities of the United States and Canada may be saved for the Faith.

Preface to the First Printing

Two words in the title of this book should be explained at the outset. For the sake of simplicity, and with only a few obvious exceptions, “university” stands for
college or university. “Catholic” implies “loyal to the teachings of Christ as proposed by the Catholic Church’s Magisterium.” Today, many load this word with various unorthodox meanings, but I have no desire to preserve inauthentic Catholicism in our institutions.

It is my contention that Catholic universities in the United States are not healthy. This book is based on the premise that the condition of these universities can be improved. Perhaps other denominations will find it useful also. The basic problem in nearly all our Catholic universities is not financial, but whether or not to be truly Catholic. Many persons believe that, if the financial problem were solved, all would be well. This delusion is widespread, despite the fact that some of our universities are flourishing financially and close to bankruptcy religiously. The late writer Christopher Derrick states:

Within American higher education today, it is becoming increasingly unreal to apply the objective “Catholic” to institutions which once claimed it proudly and with good reason….In a number of cases, the college has frankly renounced its claim to have a distinctively Catholic character, usually in return for government money. This was at least honest. But that claim often continues to be made even where it has lost all plausibility.19

Ralph McInerny writes:

Unless we say our prayers and God is merciful there will be no colleges or universities worthy of the name Catholic before many years have passed. Except for the new ones, like Thomas Aquinas, Thomas More, Christendom.20

Alice von Hildebrand says:

The sight that confronts us is a pitiful one….Wherever we look, we see only ruins: many Catholic universities have been closed; others have betrayed their Catholicism and are vying with secular universities in their secularism….Catholic schools, colleges, and universities have been sold to the “spirit of the time”; they have caught the “ism” disease, succumbing to subjectivism, relativism, historicism, or idealism. For all practical purposes, in several of these schools, God is dead.21

And we have an equally dismal picture from a special committee struck by the American Philosophical Association to examine the teaching of philosophy in Catholic universities. Claiming that Catholic universities “are vague and confused about their objective and their nature,” the committee says:

In many “Catholic” colleges, a good number of professors are either not basically committed to passing on a Catholic tradition in any definable sense of the term or, if they are, they find their own work…not relevant to any properly Catholic objective….Some “Catholic” colleges…judged “the Catholic philosophical tradition to be either of small or of no relevance whatever to their teaching.” The chairman of philosophy in one large “Catholic” university replied that none of almost a dozen full-time philosophers found the Catholic philosophic tradition relevant to their teaching.22

My own study will not be exhaustive; it is not the result of surveys based on questionnaires sent to all Catholic universities. Such a study would have its value, but more needed is a modest program for immediate implementation. The program presented here, and its practicability, have to recommend them actual participation in, and reading about, the life and difficulties of Catholic universities over many years. I have been dean of philosophy in an American Catholic university and president of two Catholic colleges in Canada. Most of the problems of being Catholic are common to the universities in both these countries.

How to Keep Your University Catholic

Author’s Note

This publication is a straightforward guide to help those committed to promoting a true Catholic identity at Catholic colleges and universities. This prescription covers the role of bishops, trustees, administrators, faculty members and students, as well as the impact of the curriculum, academic freedom, “indoctrination” and federal aid.

A Case Study

One common reason for Catholic institutions diluting their Catholicity has been a real or imagined threat of going bankrupt, a fear intensified by the realization that the number of priests and religious on the faculty is steadily decreasing. This fear is the reason for all but one of the Catholic universities of New York State accepting state money on condition that they restrict their Catholicity.

Foreseeing that situation, Fordham University in New York commissioned two lawyers to determine what changes would have to be made if Fordham were to cease being Catholic and so become eligible for state funds as a private university.

Their report, published in 1970,23 is thorough, well-written, and includes an excellent summary of the state-church relations with regard to education. The report notes that New York State forbids aid to universities “in which any denominational tenet or doctrine is taught.” In another state the report’s recommendations may have been in degree rather than in kind. According to the report, courts and judges would consider a university non-sectarian only after considering many aspects of the institution, such as:

  1. Its description of itself.
  2. The manner of selecting the governing board.
  3. The manner of selecting administrators, faculty, and students.
  4. The university’s ties with a religious community, or its financial arrangement with a church or body affiliated with a church.
  5. Associations in which the university holds membership.
  6. Religious symbols.
  7. Whether Catholic religious observances are required, facilitated, or suggested.
  8. Whether religious activities of non-Catholic groups are encouraged or allowed.
  9. The place of religion in the curriculum.
  10. Extracurricular religious activities.

The suggested changes for Fordham to achieve a nonsectarian status were sweeping. Some of them were:

  1. It should not call itself Catholic and should, in its self-description, sound as secular as possible.
  2. The Jesuit monopoly of legal power should be terminated.
  3. The president should not have to be a Jesuit; faculty should not have to be Catholic or even sympathetic toward Catholic principles or committed to the Christian way of life.
  4. The university should distance itself from parts of it that are too obviously Catholic: its preparatory school, the John XXIII Center for Eastern Christian Studies, the main chapel, the Jesuit residence, and the graduate theology section.
  5. Some non-Catholics, or at least “Catholics who have had a nonsectarian education experience,” should be hired to teach theology.
  6. The university should discontinue membership in organizations whose members must be distinctly Catholic.
  7. Most of the crucifixes should be removed.
  8. The Cardinal Bea Institute (which studies the relevance of religion to contemporary life) should become less distinctively Catholic.
  9. There should be “a greater infusion of…secular and non-denominational activities on the summer-time campus.”
  10. Non-Catholic religious groups should be allowed use of one or more of the university’s chapels.
  11. No Catholic “tenet or doctrine” should be taught.

We would hardly believe that Fordham could have contemplated taking any such steps until we discover, however, that some of the more unpalatable ones had already been taken and more were on the way. In its advertising, for example, Fordham was hiding its Catholicity. An official in the Admissions Office said: “We make a secular university pitch, never a religious one. We don’t sell Fordham as a place where you can save your soul. The kids to whom we are talking want to know whether they can get a good education at Fordham—and a good job afterward.” Already somewhat tolerant of non-Catholic teaching in the theology and philosophy departments, Fordham was slowly to become more indifferent: “Fordham, has done enough—and will no doubt in time do even more—to show persuasively that…faculty members who are theologians and philosophers…are not doctrinally shackled.” A newly proposed statement of academic freedom dropped this sentence: “The teacher in entitled to freedom…but he should be careful not to introduce into his teaching controversial matter which…is contrary to the religious…aims of the institution.” If religious aims remained at the end of its transformation, Fordham professors would not have to respect them.

The authors found that the theology department had already dropped any concern about being “a place where you can save your soul.” Indeed, according to the authors, “the Department of Theology declares purposes in terms that might readily be adopted by any of the scientific or humanistic departments of the University.” And the students’ code, they note approvingly, was already “completely secular in tone.”

It is clear that Fordham had lost much of its Catholic nature before it commissioned a study of how it could cease to be Catholic to the extent necessary for receiving government funding. Did a desire for government aid come after the Catholicity had waned?

That secularization and government aid are two different issues is more easily seen in Canadian Catholic colleges. In Canada the state may help religious institutions provided it does not favor one denomination. The execution of this principle belongs to the ten provinces individually, each of which is in charge of its own educational policies. In some of these provinces at the present time, Catholic elementary and secondary schools are fully funded for both capital and operational expenses; in some, Catholic and other denominational colleges, as part of the provincial universities, are fully funded operationally, but are responsible for their own capital expenditures such as construction. Better funded by the government than their counterparts in the United States, these Catholic colleges are not all doing well with regard to their Catholicity, however.

Fordham University, one surmises, hoped to balance being Catholic against being non-sectarian in order to gain sufficient state aid and continue to exist. But how is it possible to be Catholic and non-Catholic? If New York State cannot give aid to a university which teaches Catholic doctrine, and a university which does not teach Catholic doctrine cannot be a Catholic university, how can aid be received without the university foregoing its Catholic identity? Even the authors of the Fordham study advert to this danger: “…public aid is not worth having if it can be gained only by ignoring the goal a college or university is striving to attain.”

At any rate, Fordham applied for nonsectarian status and state aid, and on February 19, 1970, the State of New York decreed “that Fordham was no longer a sectarian institution.” Now, if it is not sectarian, how can it be Catholic? And, if it is not Catholic, how can it be Jesuit?

The amount of money received from New York State is comparatively little. A colege in Rochester formerly conducted by my own religious community, which made itself non-sectarian, receives only four percent of its budget from New York State.

One might expect some of these universities to have realized their mistake, but a certain internal logic works against reversing such a step. First, people do not like to admit that they have been wrong. Second, the institutions become dependent on the money, however small the amount. Third, one step involves others, so that extrication becomes almost impossible. After all, once there is a secular definition of academic freedom, the institution is very soon practically a secular university.

Fordham provides a convenient example: In the 1980s it was charged by the State of New York with religious discrimination, being sued by Dr. Phyllis Zagano for not reappointing her to the faulty of the Department of Communication because she was “too Catholic”; the head of the department who opposed her reappointment wrote for a pornographic magazine; and Fordham’s Jesuit president defended the department head’s doing so.24 Decisions, after all, have consequences.

The Bishop

Who is the “your” in How to Keep Your University Catholic? A professor? A group of professors? The president? An alumni organization? A religious community? It may be any and all of these, but ultimately the bishop and the trustees (or directors, or regents, as they may be called) must be won over. It is to them, therefore, that this book is primarily addressed.

In some diocesan universities the bishop is chairman of the trustees, in others simply a member of the trustees, and in others not a trustee. But is should make no difference. And it should make little difference whether a university is conducted by a diocese, a group of Catholic laity, a religious congregation, or a board of trustees set up by a religious congregation; for, according to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, a bishop has the duty and right to see that the principles of Catholic doctrine are faithfully observed in all institutions of higher studies in his diocese which call themselves Catholic (canons 810, 814). He can declare a university to be Catholic or no longer Catholic (canon 808) and can withdraw from anyone teaching theological subjects the mandate to do so (canon 812). No doubt these powers should be exercised only after other means of dealing with difficulties are exhausted; these canons are first of all intended to ensure that a Catholic university will consult with the local bishop. Of course, if a bishop has a diocesan university, he could influence it more readily than otherwise.

The chief barrier to bishops exercising, or trying to exercise, effective influence over universities in their dioceses is one of attitude. Up to 1960 Catholic universities transmitted the faith, and bishops could follow a policy of benign neglect. But, although the faith has not been transmitted well since 1960, the bishops have continued their policy of neglect to the point that some are encouraging universities to become independent of bishops and the Pope. Both an archbishop and an auxiliary bishop signed the Land O’Lakes (Wisconsin) document of 1967, advocating that Catholic universities be free of church authority.25 And, in the bishops’ only pastoral letter on Catholic higher education,26 there was no mention of episcopal rights vis-à-vis theologians, but simply a wish that there be “a fruitful cooperation with theologians” and that a “delicate balance” be maintained. An archbishop gave an imprimatur to the American commentary on the new Code of Canon Law27which states that the Code does not apply to North American universities.28 And a president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated that “there is no reason in principle that the accepted standards of academic freedom should not be accepted in the study of Catholic theology,” thus accepting a definition of academic freedom which is opposed to canon law.29 Then, too, the bishops’ own university, The Catholic University of America, was a hotbed of dissent in the 1980s, its then-president pushing for a secular definition of academic freedom in the university’s own publication.30 And action against its dissent came, finally, from the Vatican rather than from the American bishops.

If the identity of Catholic universities is to be preserved, bishops will have to exercise their authority, a task best done through the trustees. For since any institution calling itself Catholic must follow Canon Law, those who legally control it, the trustees, are likewise bound by Canon Law. Nevertheless there remain those like Father Hesburgh, C.S.C., a former president of Notre Dame, who once said that the university’s trustees would not obey the local bishop because they are bound by the articles of the board of trustees.31 This is to deny the right of the Church to tell a Catholic university what the Board’s articles should say. As long as Notre Dame calls itself Catholic, its trustees are bound by Canon Law and therefore required to see that the principles of Catholic doctrine are faithfully observed at Notre Dame. If the present articles of the Board do not provide for such observance, they should be revised to accord with the sacred canons and to facilitate the bishop’s supervision of the university.

Ex corde Ecclesiae, issued by Pope John Paul II,32 has made this matter clear: “Every Catholic university…has a relationship to the Church that is essential to its institutional identity. As such, it participates most directly in the life of the local Church in which it is situated. At the same time…each institution participates in and contributes to the life and the mission of the universal church…One consequence of its essential relationship to the Church is that the institutional fidelity of the university to Christian message includes a recognition of and adherence to the teaching authority of the Church in matters of faith and morals” (27).

Ex corde says that bishops “should be seen not as external agents but as participants in the life of the Catholic university”(28), and that “a Catholic university is linked with the Church either by a formal, constitutive, and statutory bond or by reason of an institutional commitment made by those responsible for it” (Norm 2, 2). It also states that “a university…is to incorporate these general Norms…into its governing documents and conform its existing statutes both to the general Norms and to their applications and submit them for approval to the competent ecclesiastical authority” (Norm 1, 3). A university is also required “to make known its Catholic identity” and, “particularly through its structure and its regulations, is to provide means which will guarantee the expression and the preservation of this identity…” (Norm 2, 3). If a problem arises concerning a university’s Catholic character, “the local bishop is to take the initiatives necessary to resolve the matter…, if necessary with the help of the Holy See” (Norm 5, 2).

We can see from these provisions of Ex corde that bishops are empowered to recognize as Catholic only those universities which require of the Board of Trustees, the administrators, and the faculty, a formal institutional commitment to the truth of the Catholic faith and to the authority of the Church’s Magisterium, and whose curriculum and organization of student life reflect this commitment.

In the present crisis in Catholic universities, many bishops will have to act. Prudence dictates strong action in critical situations. Why, then, cannot each bishop ask universities within his jurisdiction to have the articles of the board of trustees explicitly accept the teaching of the Church and the canonical authority of the bishop? Such a request could uncover unresolved problems in the relations between a bishop’s universities and the Church.

Unfortunately, ambivalence over dissent has kept many bishops from acting against their universities.  We must ask,“If the trumpet give forth an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?”  The disorder in our universities is a continuing cause of disorder in the Church, but it is also, at a deeper level, a result of it.  For this reason, a diocese which has not decided to reform dissent in general cannot hope to reform dissent in its universities.

The Trustees

According to civil law, the board of trustees has ultimate authority over a Catholic university. We have examined the board’s duty to have the statutes of the university recognize Church law. Now let us look at the composition of the board. In the euphoric atmosphere of the last twenty-five or more years, many religious communities felt guilty about owning universities. There was a vague feeling that it was more appropriate to surrender control of them, with the result that many religious orders, acting rather imprudently, gave their control away. They did not consider setting up a purely advisory board, whose advice would always be followed except in decisions detrimental to the religious nature of the institution; or a board with full power but whose members were chosen by, and held office at the pleasure of, the religious community or episcopal corporation. Nor did they limit membership on the board to Catholics. In many cases, then, Catholics were chosen initially, but later appointments included non-Catholics or nominal Catholics. Often, too, members of the religious community or episcopal corporation on the board were in the minority.

Most boards, in religious matters as in academic ones, follow the wishes of the president and faculty. In other words, except in financial matters, boards do not formulate policy. Consequently many boards do not concern themselves with the preservation and improvement of the university’s religious goals. Once this situation develops, the Catholicity of such institutions is in jeopardy. And, indeed, once the trustees accept, explicitly or implicitly, that first step towards de-Catholization, the slope downward is slippery indeed.

In a Catholic institution, the board’s chief responsibility is to safeguard its religious nature. Ex corde says that “the responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of the university…is entrusted principally to…the chancellor and/or a board of trustees or equivalent body…” (Norm 4, 1). And, unless the board is composed mainly of committed Catholics, it is simply unrealistic to think that it can carry out its task. How can a board preserve an institution as Catholic if the board itself is not thoroughly Catholic? The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities has been lyrical in its praise of appointing non-Catholics as members of boards.33 My own experience has been that the scholastic adage operatio sequitur esse (“a thing acts in accordance with its nature”) is as valid here as anywhere and admits of no exceptions.

Assuming, however, that we have a board that wishes to maintain a Catholic university loyal to the Magisterium, we must next explore the wording of its statutes and by-laws. Legal assistance should of course be sought, but the lawyers themselves will need guidance in their task.  The final arbiter as to what is, or is not, the teaching of the Magisterium should be the local bishop. An alternative would be to make the arbiter a small committee composed of, say, the bishop, the chairman of the board of trustees, and the archbishop of the ecclesiastical province concerned (or a neighboring archbishop if the university is in an archepiscopal see). No doubt the law will require some concrete arbitration procedure and a concrete arbitrator or arbitration panel, and such can be arranged.

This matter of statutes and by-laws is extremely important: everything should be set down in writing and approved by the board. At the time of their founding most Catholic institutions had so clear a purpose and nature that the principles and details of operation were seldom committed to writing or explicitly approved. The situation is different today. The university’s policies on all matters must be put in writing and be approved by the highest governing body. In this way the policies can shape the institution, and be less threatened when disputes arise.

I repeat: the Catholicity of a university rests with the board of trustees. If the board does its work well, receiving direction from canon law and working in harmony with the bishop, the institution will retain its authentic religious nature. Perhaps the most significant passage in Ex corde is this: “The identity of a Catholic university is essentially linked to the quality of its teachers and to respect for Catholic doctrine. It is the responsibility of the competent authority to watch over these two fundamental needs in accordance with what is indicated in Canon Law” (Norm 4, 1).

The Administration and Faculty

Since we are dealing in this book with only one point—the Catholicity of our universities—we must take for granted that, in appointing administrators and faculty, the board will assure itself that candidates have sufficient training, competence and experience to fill job requirements other than those required by the religious nature of the institution. The point here is that the religious character of the university determines the most important requirements for administrators and faculty. The religious dimension of the university has as its goal the religious formation of the students, a goal which will be achieved primarily through the influence of administrators and faculty for, although the functions of the university chaplaincy are important, they can only supplement the influence of administrators and faculty; they cannot equal it. For example, on a secular campus, as much as a chaplain might try to counteract this influence, his success will be limited. At worst, unsuitable administrators or faculty members may thoroughly undo the work of the chaplaincy; at best they will lessen it.

Administrators are no less important in Catholic universities than elsewhere: they set the tone for faculty and students, and they have great influence in appointments of faculty. Great care is required therefore in the appointment of the president and other administrators. They should be committed Catholics, with a thorough knowledge of Catholic theology and Church history, convinced of the importance of Catholic universities and what is required to keep them Catholic. The president, in particular, will be the instrument through whom the trustees will implement many of their decisions. The Ex corde says that “the responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of the university…calls for the recruitment of…administrators who are both willing and able to promote that identity” (Norm 4, 1).

I never cease to be surprised at the lack of concern in some administrators about appointing committed Catholics. They may admit that a certain number of the faculty should be such Catholics, but no more. Rarely is such a qualification a sine qua non of appointment. Yet the Code of Canon Law reads: “It is the duty of the competent statutory authority to ensure that there be appointed teachers who are not only qualified in scientific and pedagogical expertise but also outstanding in their integrity of doctrine and uprightness of life (canon 810). It is thought fanatical to suggest that all faculty members should be good Catholics. What was taken for granted some decades ago is now denied without an argument. And, should administrators deign to argue the matter, they always raise the same eleven points:

  1. It would not be possible for us to discontinue the contracts of a large number of people, many of whom have tenure.

To this I reply that there is a difference between hiring and firing. We are not recommending an undoing of the past but a fresh start for the future. There are obvious obligations to present faculty, who will understandably be afraid of being let go. If job security is not assured at the outset, nothing will be accomplished.

2. There are many Catholics whom I would not want on the faculty.

Strange to say, this argument is frequently encountered. Of course, no one is suggesting that faculty be hired solely on the basis of their being Catholic. The principle is that, in addition to being competent teachers, in addition to being congenial and hardworking, faculty members should be good Catholics.

3. No one can say whether a person is a good Catholic.

This statement can be interpreted in two ways. It may imply that the Catholic faith is so amorphous that practically anyone calling himself a Catholic must qualify as a good one. What an institution needs, then, is an objective criterion, and an effective one is at hand: does the person wish to be loyal to the Church’s Magisterium? If so, the understanding of the faith is clear enough, since it can be found in the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church. If not, the very notion of a test of Catholicity has been abandoned, and the institution can only end up being of disservice to the Church. The second meaning of the statement is that a person’s faith and religious practice cannot be determined. But this is simply erroneous; determining it is as easy or as difficult as learning what the person’s teaching competence is. A diligent inquiry may be required in either case, but it is equally possible in both.

4. Seeking information of this type is illegal.

Legal matters can be settled by consulting a competent lawyer. And consultation shows that such information may be asked for. Federal and state (or, in Canada, provincial) laws allow religious educational institutions to use religious faith and practice as a criterion in appointments as long as the criterion is publicly stated. It is therefore as alarming as it is revelatory to see Catholic colleges advertising without reference to their religious commitment, or even stating that they hire without discrimination as to creed.

5. At our particular institution we have accepted state aid and have given up the right to prefer Catholics.

To this I say that it would be better to refuse state aid and save the nature of your institution.

6. There are some wonderful people on our faculty who are not Catholics. They are good teachers, congenial, and dedicated to the purpose of the institution.

Of course, we all know such persons and are thankful for them; but we should not argue by exceptions. We want the ideal professors. If one is not available in a given case, we have to approximate to the ideal. Most of the time this will still result in appointing someone who is a good Catholic, though it may be that a devout Protestant Christian would be hired.

7. We shouldn’t live in a ghetto.

This slogan is often used. There are two replies. The first is that no ghetto could survive in the modern world, even if it wanted to. Students view television and films, read newspapers and magazines, and meet every kind of person. This leads to the second and the real reply to this slogan; that is, that in one sense we do want a “ghetto” as an oasis where Catholics can be Catholics, where the faith can be expressed, discussed, and developed. Only with this kind of help will they be able to remain committed Christians in a secular world.

8. The Church wants its institutions to be ecumenical.

Correct. But true ecumenism is an attitude of understanding joined to charity, not of indifferentism. In Catholics it requires a thorough knowledge of their faith. To turn out graduates who do not know their own religious tradition is to be anti-ecumenical at the most fundamental level. The ecumenical orientation of our colleges would be better expressed by dialogue with other religious institutions, not by confusion at home. Furthermore, faculty hired today will often be on staff for thirty or forty years. An institution could easily become more “ecumenical” than Catholic.

9. Hiring good Catholics is important in the theology department, but it is not necessary for other departments.

If only our colleges would hire, for their theology departments, Catholics loyal to the Magisterium! We would then see more clearly that all the departments of the university should contribute to the Catholicity of the students’ education. If these latter departments were to present their subject in a framework of faith, they would deepen the students’ ability to integrate their knowledge and their religious belief. Why should a Catholic college not use all its resources? And what type of person can best help in this work of integrating knowledge and the Catholic faith? An agnostic? Certainly not; this is work for a committed Catholic. Ex corde  states: “Aided by the specific contributions of philosophy and theology, university scholars will be engaged in a constant effort to determine the relative place and meaning of each of the various disciplines within the context of a vision of the human person and the world that is enlightened by the Gospel and therefore by a faith in Christ…” (16).

10. To follow this principle in hiring would be insular and intolerant.

A Catholic university has a definite aim. Achieving it requires appropriate means. The Catholic university cannot achieve its aim without hiring good Catholics, any more than a French-speaking university can attain its goal without hiring French-speaking professors. A Catholic university need not apologize for preferring Catholics any more than does a French-speaking university for preferring faculty who speak French. One could not imagine an American Jewish community allowing a professor to teach anti-Semitism, nor could one imagine the American public faulting the university for not hiring the professor. Similarly Catholic universities should not hire professors whose religious orientation is at variance with Catholicism.

11. Many of our students are not Catholic.

The primary purpose of a Catholic university is to produce Catholic leaders. To form them requires using all the university’s resources. And the primary resource of the university is the faculty. The faculty therefore should be thoroughly Catholic. If non-Catholic students come to a Catholic university, they should do so because it is Catholic. If this is not their motivation they should not be admitted. The presence of non-Catholic students is therefore no reason for making the university less Catholic by hiring non-Catholics.34

If possible, then, all the administrators and faculty in a Catholic university should be practicing Catholics. Why settle for less? Perhaps, in a given case, it may not be possible to find the right person, but one can wait for the right person by making temporary arrangements with the best approximation to the ideal. After all, a Catholic university has the right to be Catholic and therefore the right to use the means necessary to guarantee, and enhance, its Catholicity.

Taking religious commitment as the basic criterion for appointment, the same holds for promotion and for the granting of tenure. A university lax in hiring will be forced to continue in the same lax mode. On the other hand, it could be made clear to professors applying for tenure or promotion that a basic criterion by which they will be judged is their incorporation of religion into their work. It is unfair to bring in new criteria after they are hired. They should know, therefore, from the start, that a deficiency in this matter papered over at the time of their hiring can be grounds for denying promotion or tenure. Ex corde Ecclesiae says that “all teachers…, at the time of their appointment, are to be informed about the Catholic identity of the institution and its implications, and about their responsibility to promote, or at least respect, that identity” (Norm 4, 2), and that “all Catholic teachers are to be faithful to, and all other teachers are to respect, Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching” (Norm 4, 3). Also, “in particular, Catholic theologians, aware that they fulfill a mandate received from the Church, are to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church as the authentic interpreter of Sacred Scripture and sacred tradition” (Norm 4, 3).

Something similar holds even for tenured professors. Even after receiving tenure they too will know that the religious dimension of their teaching is of prime concern. It is unfair to dismiss them for what was present and known at the time they were given tenure, but not for changes after they are tenured. A Catholic university should not allow teaching opposed to the Magisterium of the Church at any time, whether before or after tenure. The university should be serious and adamant in this matter. Of course,
especially in the case of a tenured professor, the matter must be important and there must be a refusal to correct it, a refusal given in words or deeds. The university’s statutes should state this plainly, and list the steps to be taken in a case of dismissal.

Everyone knows how upsetting and unpleasant a dismissal is. All the more need for care to be taken at the time of appointment, promotion, and the granting of tenure! The words of The Imitation of Christ come to mind: “Resist beginnings; all too late the cure when habit has gained strength by long delay.”

A committee of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, the committee mentioned earlier, warns us of the dangers of appointing faculty who are unsuitable from a religious point of view:

It is foolish not to take into consideration the moral character of a candidate for faculty membership. When a scholar becomes a member of a university faculty, he becomes part of a collegium, a collegium that he will in due course come to influence, whose tone he will help to establish.35

Yet we find universities which do not mention specifically Catholic or even Christian qualities as being normative for faculty. Take, for instance, this statement from St. Norbert College:

Within the academic program the college considers it the responsibility of all members of the faculty to embrace such personal values as integrity, honesty, and concern for others as well as such societal values as a commitment to thoughtful citizenship, social justice, and peace….Some faculty, while neither sharing the Catholic tradition nor the Christian faith, remain at St. Norbert’s because they lead lives of inquiry that support a commitment to the realm of moral value.36

One wonders what “moral value” is envisioned here. Is it: Love of God? Or the Catholic teaching related to the family? Or is it the condemnation of contraception, abortion, homosexual activity and remarriage after divorce? Under so vague a clause Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud would have qualified for appointment. One suspects that this institution’s commitment to Catholicism has already been so diluted by the presence of non-Catholic faculty that the institution is no longer able to state what a Catholic university stands for.

At the heart of Catholic education are good, learned, Catholics, who love God and their faith, and share this love and this faith with the younger members of the university community. Pope John Paul II is certainly convinced of this:

The purpose of a Catholic university lies in the pursuit of research and instruction but such a university must likewise allow the students to carry on their studies in an atmosphere consistent with the faith, to find the means to deepen this faith, to learn the rudiments of the spiritual life and Christian activity….Such a demand concerns first of all the professors on the staff, who must not be afraid of bearing witness to the faith which motivates them, to their ethical reflection in the light of the Church’s teaching.37

I remember few incidents in my undergraduate days that impressed me as much as one of my chemistry teachers marveling in front of the class at the divine wisdom after he had taught us the laws of thermodynamics. I have forgotten the laws of thermodynamics, but not his love of God.

The Students

The primary purpose of a Catholic university is to produce well-trained Catholics who will occupy influential places in society as clerics, lawyers, doctors, nurses, judges, businessmen, educators, and so on, as well as influence others through their roles as spouses, parents, and parishioners. According to Ex corde, students “should realize the responsibility of their professional life, the enthusiasm of being the trained ‘leaders’ of tomorrow, or being witnesses to Christ in whatever place they may exercise their profession” (23).

Most of our universities have enrolled non-Catholics, many in large numbers. Non-Catholics may be enrolled if their purpose is to obtain the special benefits Catholic universities offer, and if suitable Catholics are not thereby prevented from attending. Ex corde states that “the education of students is to combine academic and professional development with formation in moral and religious principles,” and that “courses in Catholic doctrine are to be made available to all students” (Norm 4, 5). In many Catholic universities, however, there are no requirements for the moral or religious education of all students, even of all Catholic students.

Many non-Catholics register in Catholic universities for other reasons: The universities are closer, they are less expensive, a friend is going, the entrance standards are lower, the entrance standards are higher and so on. One might hope that the Catholic environment will have a beneficial effect on such persons, and no doubt it sometimes does. But, to the extent that they really do not want what is distinctive in a Catholic university, they are dead weight at best; at worst they are influences counter to the university’s primary work. It is unfortunate that so many of our universities accept these extra students to balance the books. The temptation to solve a financial problem in this way is strong, and, once given in to, tends to become habitual. Our universities would do better to become smaller, and establish a lower quota, so that they might admit only Catholics and a few special non-Catholics.

Ex corde Ecclesiae declares that, “in a Catholic university,…Catholic ideals, attitudes, and principles penetrate and inform university activities” (14). But how can this be done unless Catholic dogma and morality are omnipresent? And how can they be omnipresent unless the students either are Catholic or are sincerely interested in learning about Catholicism? Ex corde also states that “everyone in the [university] community…contributes…toward maintaining and strengthening the distinctive Catholic character of the institution” (21). To admit students who are not really interested in Catholicism is to make a mockery of such statements.

A fair number of non-Catholics will change the climate of a Catholic university. Crucifixes and other religious symbols will disappear, prayers before class will be eliminated, specifically Catholic topics and teachings will be avoided. A good test of whether non-Catholic students are being admitted for the right reasons and in the right numbers is the continuing Catholicity of the university. And a good indication of admissions policies is the promotional literature of the university. Is the institution called Catholic? Is its Catholicity highlighted? Is the religious purpose of all instruction mentioned?

The Curriculum

We are not concerned here with all aspects of the curriculum but only those involved in the Catholicity of an institution. To simplify our presentation we will also leave graduate programs out of consideration.

A university is not truly Catholic unless it both teaches theology and requires theology classes of all its undergraduate students, no matter what their program. Many Catholic young people emerging from high school are badly informed about their faith; and all need a more mature treatment of their religion during the undergraduate years since, when the dichotomy between what they believe and what they see in the secular world around them strikes home, students often question their beliefs in an adult fashion.

There is much to learn because, while the Catholic faith is simple enough for a child to believe, it is also complex enough to allow a lifetime of study. Undergraduate students therefore need a thorough presentation of the articles of their faith, of the history of Catholicism, of the Old and New Testaments, of the sacraments and the liturgy, of moral theology and spirituality. This is not religious studies, but the study of our faith based on an acceptance of fundamental revealed doctrines. Religious studies examine from the outside the content, history, and present status of various religious traditions. In Catholic theology, the content of faith is accepted as true; in religious studies it is viewed as an historical phenomenon. Catholic universities should teach Catholicism as theology and other religions as religious studies.

The minimum amount of theology required of all students should not be set at less than twelve semester hours. A good selection of courses would be: Dogma; Scripture; Moral Theology and Spirituality; the Sacraments and Liturgy. Of course, there is room for variety here, and perhaps some choice might be allowed, particularly in the later years. But the minimum number of semester-hours should never be reduced.

Should theology courses be required for non-Catholics? It would be unwise to require such courses for Catholics only, for several reasons. First of all, Catholics might see this as “laying a burden” on them from which others are exempt. Second, non-Catholics need theology as much as Catholics do. Third, we have already established the principle that non-Catholics should not be accepted unless they apply because the university is a religious university.

Non-Catholics should therefore be required to take the same number of semester-hours in theology as Catholics. Some universities will also require that they study Catholic theology as well as Scripture and Apologetics, not to require them to accept it as true but to instruct them in this important area of thought and history. If the curriculum is thoroughly influenced by the Catholic faith, as it should be, students should know about this faith in some depth. Other universities will leave the study of the Catholic faith as an option for non-Catholics, and will devise special courses for the ones who do not exercise this option. No doubt most of the non-Catholics will be Protestants; most will probably be poorly informed even about their own religious tradition. Courses in Scripture, in the history and forms of Protestantism, or in issues of morality, would be suitable. No doubt more choice should be allowed in these matters than for Catholics if the number and variety of non-Catholics is great.

However, even courses in the core curriculum designed specifically for non-Catholics should be taught by Catholics. There are three reasons for this. First, it will happen, for one reason or another, that some Catholics will take these courses, if perhaps only for extra theology credits. Second, the variety of students in them does not justify the choice of any one denomination rather than any other. There will probably be atheists, agnostics, Jews, Moslems, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians and so on. There is then no need for any particular non-Catholic professor rather than a Catholic one. Third, professors once hired tend to be on the staff for thirty or forty years. It is no small matter to hire a non-Catholic these days. It would be preferable to hire someone on a temporary or part-time basis if need be. Such a temporary arrangement should, of course, in justice, be made clear, and the person should be properly paid so that a good job will be done.

Philosophy is as important as theology in a Catholic university because it provides an underpinning of faith. It is true that philosophy can be required in universities because it trains students to think clearly and because it studies the history of highly influential ideas. Certainly these reasons are good ones for insisting on philosophy in a humanities program or a liberal arts program but, when we are speaking of a philosophy requirement for all undergraduate students in the university, whether they are in business, nursing, pre-medicine, education, or any program whatever, the only argument is its necessity for developing an educated believer. Philosophy deals in great part with the same matters as theology—the origin of the universe, its purpose of human life, and how that purpose is attained. It can therefore contribute immeasurably to the believer’s appreciation of divine revelation.

Theology never replaces philosophy. It is true that a Catholic, by his faith, knows the truth about these matters, by revelation, but a mature person will always ask for rational, philosophical answers as well, and will not be satisfied until they are given.

The objection is bound to rise that there are many philosophies, frequently contradicting one another in important areas. To simply require courses in philosophy, then, will not achieve the intended purpose. This objection leads however, not to the conclusion that philosophy should not be required, but that the right philosophy should be required.

What is the right philosophy? Obviously it must be a Christian philosophy. A minimum requirement of a Christian philosophy is that it not be in conflict with Christian faith. A non-Christian philosophy cannot be true on the points on which it disagrees with the faith. The choice then narrows down to a decision for one Christian philosophy or for an eclectic selection from several Christian philosophies. Do we have a way of deciding? We cannot simply assume that all Christian philosophies are correct and simply because they do not contradict the Catholic faith.

This is a problem Christians have dealt with since the second century, though most attempts ended ultimately in failure. But there is one philosophy the Church explicitly approves and asks scholars to cultivate—that of St. Thomas Aquinas. To require philosophy of students in Catholic universities while denying them the study of Thomism is to commit an injustice. We must remember that we are speaking here of the courses required of all students and therefore relatively few. It would be a wasted opportunity if all the required courses did not present the philosophy of Aquinas. The time is so short, the object so important, that such a course of action is called for. Of course Thomism
cannot be well taught without other major philosophical systems being studied.  What Thomism would provide would be the core of the program.38

How much philosophy should be required? The minimum should be the same as for theology, twelve semester-hours. Again, there is so much to cover: the existence of God, the nature of God, freedom of the will, the immortality of the human soul, the purpose of human life, and the means by which this purpose is obtained. A good choice of courses might be: The Philosophy of the Human Person; Ethics; Metaphysics; and Epistemology. And these courses might well be taken in that order. Ethics should follow the philosophy of the human person. Ideally it should also follow metaphysics but, being less abstract, it is better taken before metaphysics. Epistemology, theoretically, could well precede ethics and metaphysics but, since it is a second-order science, dealing with knowledge and not directly with reality, it requires knowledge of reality. Consequently it is better taken last. But it certainly should be studied, because our world is rampant with relativism, subjectivism, and skepticism, which must be dealt with head-on at some stage in a student’s career.

With the amount of knowledge students must acquire constantly increasing, and especially with growing demands on major requirements, there will always be agitation among some faculty to decrease the requirements in theology and philosophy, but theology and philosophy must hold pride of place in a Catholic university.

We find a strong statement concerning the importance of philosophy in an address by Alice von Hildebrand, wife of the late Dietrich von Hildebrand and herself a noted philosophy professor:

…[I]t should now be clear that philosophy must play a crucial role in Catholic education….I grant that it is better to study no philosophy than bad philosophy, and that, today, people who have no philosophy at all are usually better off than those whose training is based on the thought of a Russell, a Heidegger, a Sartre (to name but a few). But the fact remains that true philosophy is indispensable for a true Catholic education and, in particular, has crucial importance for theology. My husband used to say that the catastrophic theological systems which are proliferating today are to be traced back to the wrong philosophy on which they are based. Philosophy is so crucial in man’s intellectual life that everyone necessarily has a philosophy of life—and, if this philosophy is not sound, it has a devastating effect on man’s intellectual life. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that a Catholic university embrace and form its students in true philosophy, i.e., in an objectivistic philosophy exclusively based on rational arguments and at the same time in perfect harmony with faith.39

This matter of the amount of theology and philosophy required of all students is one that should be committed to writing by the board of trustees, and any change should require its approval.

We now leave the consideration of theology and philosophy and turn to the other subjects, all of which should be taught from a Catholic point of view. Ex corde teaches that “a Catholic university, as Catholic, informs and carries out its…teaching…with Catholic ideals, principles, and attitudes” (Norm 2, 2). Would that Catholic universities were as serious about this as the evangelical colleges are about coordinating with their curriculum. The president of the evangelical Christian College Coalition (now the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities), wrote:

The stand of our schools is: if you’re earnest about your faith, you can’t compartmentalize it. It weaves through everything you do.40

Obviously some subjects are less connected with the faith than others. But none of them should be taught in such a way as to contradict the faith. And many courses, such as history, psychology, sociology, and literature, touch on religion at every turn. But this is a question of who teaches these subjects rather than of their place in the curriculum, and we have dealt with this already.

A word might be added here concerning residence arrangements. A university which allows students to visit bedrooms of persons of the opposite sex fails in its duty to assist its students to live chastely. Such a disorder parallels in extracurricular matters the curricular disorders with which we are here primarily concerned.

Academic Freedom

The most important issue in Catholic universities at the present time is academic freedom. There are two possible definitions of it. A secular definition would be “the freedom of academic faculty to search for truth in accordance with the canons of their particular scholarly disciplines and to expound the results of this search for truth without undue restrictions being placed on them by university or outside authorities, or, more especially, without jeopardizing their academic positions and their tenure in these positions.”41 A definition suitable for a Catholic university would be the same except for this restrictive addition: “It is understood that faculty are not allowed to teach or write in such a manner as to oppose the religious purposes of their university.” Such a definition is vehemently opposed by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU)42 of the United States and by several presidents of institutions in the Association, but is required by the Code of Canon Law. Though the ACCU fears more than anything else an effective episcopal presence in our universities, it also opposes any boards of trustees that would safeguard Catholic doctrine.

The freedom of one person or group cannot be absolute but must be exercised in such a way as to respect the freedom of other persons or groups. For example, my freedom to smoke in a public place may legitimately be restricted by the rights of non-smokers who would suffer harm or discomfort from smoke. Now, there is more than one freedom involved in academic freedom. Besides the freedom of the professor there is that of the institution and that of the students. An institution should be free to pursue its goal—in this case to provide Catholic education—and students should be free to receive a Catholic education in a Catholic university. When a professor attacks the religious purpose of his university, he offends against both its freedom and that of its students. What is needed, then, is a means of balancing these freedoms.

A professor who publicly and unrepentantly promotes doctrines opposed to Catholic beliefs is, in the name of his freedom opposing the university’s freedom. Yet, since he is a member of a Catholic university and was aware of its beliefs when he was hired, it is clear whose freedom must give way. This becomes even more cogent given that the freedom of the university exists for the sake of the students’ freedom to obtain a Catholic education. The freedom of both the faculty and the university is ordered to the students’ freedom.

We must remember also that the professor was hired by the institution to help it in its aims, not to oppose these aims. It is consequently an implicit condition of his appointment that he not do so. It would be better, of course, to make such a condition explicit, as well as the procedure to be taken against offenses in this matter.

Most Catholic universities in the United States were founded by bishops, directly or through religious orders, to provide a Catholic education. Benefactors supported these universities because of their religious purpose. The universities, then, have a publicly known purpose that is recognized by canon and secular law. There is no need for these universities to be defensive about their position. Why is it, then, that they are defensive, or even willing to forego their rights?

The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) in 1976 provided three answers to these questions. The first is a fear that enemies of the Church:

will contend derisively that truth cannot be upheld and defended without resort to penalties and outside sanctions, confirming for some the suspicion that Catholic institutions cannot be true universities.

The second and third are:

Catholic colleges and universities in the United States cannot deprive faculty members of their civil right as defined by American law, nor limit their academic rights which are supported by accrediting and otherprofessional associations, without severe penalty to the institution, not least of which would be the loss of prestige and influence in American society and particularly in the American intellectual community.43

Apparently the NCEA agrees that Catholic universities are not true universities if they have a religious definition of academic freedom. The fact is, however, that Catholic universities that have adopted a secular definition of academic freedom have not remained substantially Catholic. And the reasons are not hard to find: they cannot defend their nature; they cannot keep their enemies outside; they must fight for their existence with their gates wide open to attack. It is not too much to say that a Catholic university with a secular definition of academic freedom cannot remain Catholic.

My own opinion is that the administrators in these institutions fear that secular colleagues will think less well of them or their institutions if they do not act as secular administrators or universities do. In effect, they share the secular assumption that the Catholic faith is a hindrance to the search for truth. The reason given for accepting a secular definition of academic freedom is that it enables professors to search for truth wherever it may be found, and this includes a search among doctrines opposed to Catholic teaching. But, if Catholic teaching is true, the search for truth among doctrines opposed to it is bound to be fruitless and, usually, harmful. A Catholic university is therefore justified in forbidding the teaching of doctrines opposed to the Catholic faith; indeed, it is required to forbid it. The Catholic faith is to Catholic theology what empirical data are to the natural sciences. Certainly no university would allow its natural scientists to reject or falsify the raw data of science.

The Ex corde says that an “essential characteristic” of a Catholic university is “fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church” (13), and that the “institutional fidelity of the university to the Christian message includes a recognition of and adherence to the teaching authority of the Church in matters of faith and morals. Catholic members of the university community are also called to a personal fidelity to the Church with all that this implies. Non-Catholic members are required to respect the Catholic character of the university…” (27). And this applies especially to theologians: “Since theology seeks an understanding of revealed truth whose authentic interpretation is entrusted to the bishops of the Church, it is intrinsic to the principles and methods of their research and teaching in their academic disciplines that theologians respect the authority of the bishops and assent to Catholic doctrine…” (29).

No doubt some of the Catholics who want to have a secular definition of academic freedom in a Catholic university do accept the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium. Yet the logic of their position is faulty. They do not wish to deny their own faith, but the do not mind if their university denies its faith, as it must when its faculty teach what is contrary to the Church’s Magisterium.

The history of the very recent demand for a secular definition of academic freedom in Catholic universities is instructive. It began with the Land O’Lakes document of August 1, 1967, signed by representatives from a number of Catholic universities, including Georgetown, Boston College, Catholic University of America, St. Louis, Fordham, Laval, and Notre Dame. The document claimed “the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself.”44 This was a demand for freedom from episcopal and papal authority. On the other hand, at his meeting with Catholic university leaders in New Orleans in September, 1987, Pope John Paul II stressed that the influence of bishops and the pope is not external to Catholic institutions, but intrinsic to them. The position of the Land O’Lakes signers was adopted by the NCEA in 1976.45 Speaking for 223 Catholic universities of the United States, the NCEA stated that “a juridical relationship between the Church and Catholic institutions in the exercise of their proper autonomy” is not “desirable or even possible….” It patronizingly granted that “bishops and other church leaders can provide significant insights into the particular needs of service to the local Church,” but added: “We believe the word ‘cooperation’ or the phrase ‘mutual respect and support’ best characterizes the kind of relationship that should exist between institutions and Church.”

Furthermore, no American has a civil right to teach what is contrary to Catholic teaching in a Catholic university. Nor do accrediting and other professional associations limit the rights of Catholic universities to be Catholic. So what the Association really fears is “the loss of prestige and influence…in the American intellectual community.”46

Opposed to the Land O’Lakes statement and the NCEA paper is the Code of Canon Law. The Code teaches that bishops have the duty and right to see that principles of Catholic doctrine are faithfully observed in their universities (canon 812); the right to bestow or withdraw the designation “Catholic” (canon 808); and the authority to see that teachers lacking integrity of doctrine are removed from office (canon 810).

Episcopal powers in a Catholic university would be completely stymied by a secular definition of academic freedom, and the university could not long continue as Catholic. That is why the Code implicitly demands a religious definition of academic freedom in Catholic universities.

Much of what has been said so far is justified by the Charles Curran case. Father Curran sued The Catholic University of America because it had refused to let him continue to teach theology.47 The judge recognized that Catholic University “shares with the Roman Catholic Church a common bond of faith and mission to preserve and protect the church’s doctrine,” and that the University aims, at the same time, at “the goal of unfettered and robust academic inquiry.” He saw that this was bound to raise problems but that is was for the University to decide how to resolve them: “On some issues—and this case certainly presents one of them—the conflict between the University’s commitment to academic freedom and its unwavering fealty to the Holy See is direct and unavoidable. On such issues, the University may choose for itself on which side of that conflict it wants to come down…”

What decided the issue was the civil law of contracts: “It is the law of contracts which must govern the decision.” In other words, since the University’s statutes stated that theology professors must have canonical mission, the University can dismiss a professor who loses his: “The court prefers…to rest its decision on the canonical mission requirement incorporated into the contract by the…statutes….” The judge declared that the professors of the University were aware of the relationship between the University and the Church: “no one…could have contracted with the Catholic University of America without understanding the university’s special relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, with all of the implications and obligations flowing from that relationship.”

We thus see that, as far as civil law goes, what a university’s statutes state concerning academic freedom will be upheld in a civil court. The Curran case will be a landmark case. Those administrators in Catholic universities who have been defending a secular definition of academic freedom in Catholic institutions by threatening legal difficulties will now have to rethink their position.

“Indoctrination”

There are those, even among Catholics, who claim that Catholic universities that follow canon law do not teach but rather indoctrinate. This claim is made chiefly with regard to the teaching of theology, but the argument here applies to every subject in the curriculum. Father Hesburgh worries about indoctrination wherever a bishop can require a Catholic university to forbid a professor to teach theology judged to be contrary to Catholic faith.  A generation ago, he wrote:

Obviously, if [the] church…can dictate who can teach…, the university is not free and, in fact is not a true university where the truth is sought and taught. It is rather, a place of…religious indoctrination.48

Father Hesburgh would be right if we did not know that the Catholic faith is true. But a university which does not accept it as true is not Catholic. Why, then, should a Catholic university allow teachers to claim that it is false? We might worry about a bishop making a mistake in judgment, but this worry cannot invalidate the bishop’s right or the university’s duty in general. Of course, provisions have to be made for a proper procedure which will reduce the number of mistakes, but this is a different matter from Father Hesburgh’s denying the general principle altogether.

Is it indoctrination when a Catholic university appoints a committed Catholic to teach theology, or any other subject? “Indoctrination” usually has the pejorative meaning of “induction of convictions by improper means.” Now, any subject taught improperly can become indoctrination. Teaching history is indoctrination if evidence is suppressed; teaching mathematics is indoctrination if students are led to memorize rather than understand; and teaching psychology and sociology is indoctrination if the principles underlying them are passed on by repetition, rather than made explicit and examined. But, just as any subject can become indoctrination, so any subject can avoid this pitfall. Theology can be taught objectively, making clear why it accepts divine revelation and only then interpreting and building on it. Once this principle is publicly stated, to act in accord with it is no longer indoctrination. The professor of theology need not disbelieve what he is teaching or disguise his faith, any more than a mathematics professor need deny the laws of logic. Why should a Catholic university
be allowed to teach mathematics or physics or history as true, and not be allowed to teach Catholicism as true? Not to present Catholic theology as true would be contrary to a Catholic university’s nature.

We find Catholic universities bending over backwards to avoid “indoctrination” in Catholicism. Some teach not morality but “values clarification.” A midwestern Catholic college, for example, wants to avoid a “prescriptive model” of teaching the faith, which would have the teachers “dictating” this faith to their pupils. Instead there is a pursuit of truth: “the pursuit of wisdom and truth, the very reason for the existence of St. Norbert, is manifested…in the curriculum.” This pursuit of truth, we are told, demands that some non-Catholic, even some non-Christian, faculty be appointed:

Some faculty, while sharing neither the Catholic tradition nor the Christian faith, remain at St. Norbert because they led lives of inquiry that support a commitment to the realm of moral values. This pluralism is demanded by the conscientious pursuit of truth in personal freedom by a diverse group of people.49

There are no theology courses, only religious studies courses, none of which are required. Furthermore, the “Values Program” does not mention anything Catholic or even Christian in its objectives.

…The program proposed as its objective several things: [to] help students become explicitly aware of their own value systems and give them the opportunity to compare these to the value systems of others; [to] help students identify their own objectives and their value systems…

From the experience gained thus far, it is evident that the students who have participated in the program have indeed become more conscious of
their own values and more aware of the value component in every decision.

And what has replaced required classes in Scripture, Catholic dogma, and Catholic moral theology? A “religiosity” is fostered by “people processes,” “process-oriented counselor functions,” and “the advisement system.”

We find another example of the avoidance of indoctrination at Loyola University of Chicago. Loyola, to judge by the papers in its symposium on ethics,50 avoids indoctrination in Catholic morality by teaching non-Catholic morality. One speaker says that students should be made “more aware of the moral questions that there are, waiting to be addressed,” but warns against “final answers to moral questions,” as if there were no clear Catholic positions on such topics as abortion, contraception, homosexuality, or marriage after divorce. Indeed, although the editor says that “the panelists presented views that showed that we are not always certain what the norms are,” it would be truer to say that their views claim that we are never certain what the norms are.

Many pages of talks given at this symposium are given over to a presentation and discussion of the “values clarification” teachings of Kohlberg, who, as one of the questioners pointed out, has little to offer Catholic ethicists.51 And, though advertising for the book claims that it contains “a discussion of all aspects of ethics in higher education” (emphasis added), many important aspects are omitted:

  1. What is the relationship between the ethics advocated at the symposium and Catholic teaching? Is Catholic ethics being discussed when the keynote speaker defines ethics as “our relationship to other persons in this world and to ourselves as persons in this world,” with no mention of our relationship to God?
  2. There is no discussion of whether ethics is to be required of some or all students. Actually one hopes that the type of ethics presented here is not required at all. On the other hand, why should a proper ethics not be required, and of all students?
  3. What are the prerequisites for the study of ethics? Can it be studied properly without a knowledge of God and His attributes, without a knowledge of the immortality of the human soul? And where should this prior knowledge come from? From required courses in theology or philosophy, or in both?
  4. Who are to teach these ethics courses? We have shown earlier that they must be taught by committed Catholics, but there is no discussion here of this aspect of the topic.

There is certainly no danger of indoctrination in Catholic thought envisioned by the speakers at this symposium; one would think they were discussing ethics in a secular university. It seems that Catholicism is so carefully handled in this Catholic university that it is less in evidence than other religious traditions:

…in some areas we don’t do as much as other, non-Catholic institutions do, and we are more shy about expressing our religious ethos than our co-religionists, even those here at Loyola, are.

That a Catholic university should publish the papers of such a symposium is an indication of how far down the road to non-Catholicism some “Catholic” universities are.

Federal Aid

The Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), in opposing the Vatican schema, has said that a Catholic university that is too Catholic will be denied federal funds. The claim, worded a little differently, is that Catholic universities not accepting a secular definition of academic freedom, or teaching the Catholic religion as true (“proselytizing”), or following Canon Law, will lose their accreditation and their federal aid. Sister Alice Gallin, O.S.U., then the ACCU’s executive director, said:

Catholic institutions…must meet the standards for accreditation by regional accrediting agencies recognized by civil authorities…Such accreditation, as well as the federal and state funding that accompanies it, requires that institutions respect academic freedom and that the curriculum not be used for proselytizing on behalf of any religion.52 It is virtually certain that such aid would be withdrawn if it could ever be shown that Catholic colleges and universities were “controlled” by the Catholic Church.53 It is clear that the favorable decisions regarding public aid to Catholic colleges or universities are founded on a perception by the court that the church does not control them.54

And Father Theodore Hesburgh, then president of the University of Notre Dame, agreed: “We would stand to lose a lot if we conformed to the dictates of the church.”55
But his view has been denied by Kenneth Whitehead, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education.56

Sister Gallin and Father Hesburgh were simply wrong in their contention that accreditation requires a secular definition of academic freedom, and avoidance of the teaching of the Catholic faith, and an avoidance of the effective presence of bishops.

As regards academic freedom, “a religiously affiliated institution requiring a certain standard of doctrinal ‘orthodoxy’ on the part of its faculty…would not jeopardize its accreditation, provided it plainly announces beforehand its requirements in this regard. In practice, the same thing would be true of requirements regarding the moral behavior expected of faculty members of students at the institution.”57 The Northwest Association, for example, an accrediting agency, “specifically affirms that ‘intellectual freedom does not rule out commitment…Institutions may hold to a particular…religious philosophy.’”58

The same applies, of course, to a university’s teaching a specific body of religious doctrines as true: “…if the stated purpose of a religiously affiliated college or university is to provide a higher education within the specific context of the teachings of a given religion or denomination, carrying out this stated purpose would in no way constitute a bar to accreditation….”59

The same is true of a particular church having a great deal of influence over a university:

…neither the accrediting agencies nor the Supreme Court…seem to object to sponsoring church representation on college governing boards. Yet such representation is normally all that a church might require to ensure that a school it sponsors remains authentic from the point of view, for example, of the theology taught there.60

Whitehead also points out that, even if existing accrediting agencies refused to accredit Catholic universities loyal to their Catholicism, these universities could form their own accrediting agency which would be acceptable to the Federal Government provided it met the criteria required of such agencies.61

Some Catholic university authorities have stated that, unless their institutions conform to the secular definition of the Association of American University Professors (AAUP), their institutions will lose their federal grants. But Whitehead has shown that the AAUP does not have a secular definition of academic freedom and, further, that institutions censured by it “go right on being accredited and go right on receiving federal aid.”62

How ironic that it is not the Federal Government but Catholic universities themselves which envisage a withdrawal of federal aid because these universities are religious.

The conclusion is inescapable: “institutional autonomy” and “academic freedom” are defined to permit wider variations in practice. They clearly allow for institutional freedom of religion. Narrowly defined as the freedom of professors to teach what they want or as the freedom of an institution to be free of any constraints from its sponsoring church or other body they are clearly not requirements for accreditation (and hence for federal aid).63

The real danger to Catholic universities, Whitehead points out, is that they might lose their privileges as religious institutions if they become only half-Catholic by divesting themselves of the legitimate control of the church. A university hospital, for example, might be forced to either allow abortions or close up.64

Whitehead asks an embarrassing question of the Catholic universities which claim that federal aid would be lost if the universities accepted Canon law:

What is the real motive and origin of the claim that Catholic colleges and universities must have “institutional autonomy” and “academic freedom”? This inquiry has demonstrated that these things are not strict requirements of the federal or state governments, of the accrediting agencies, or even of the AAUP.65

The answer seems to be that these universities were deceitful: they wanted a secular definition of academic freedom, they wanted freedom from church “control,” and so they proceeded to bully the bishops into accepting half-Catholic universities:

As far as Catholic colleges and universities are concerned, the evidence examined in this enquiry suggests that these colleges first decided they wanted to have “institutional autonomy” and “academic freedom”—and only then decided to adduce supposed government requirements for giving out aid as a principal reason they needed to have these two things.66

If it were actually the case that federal funds would be available only if a Catholic university ceased to be truly Catholic, the fitting reaction of Catholic universities would be to change the system or to forego federal funds. The universities of which we have been speaking, then, which allege that federal funds would be unavailable except to watered-down Catholic institutions, have been wrong not only on a matter of fact but on a matter of principle. It would be crippling to American Catholicism if her
universities were to cease being truly Catholic; and they certainly will cease being so if they accept a secular definition of academic freedom, if they cease to proclaim Catholic truth “with unmistakable clarity,”67 and if they reject that part of canon law which applies to Catholic universities.

Whitehead is convinced that, even if federal funding were denied openly religious universities, it would be possible for Catholics to have the policy changed.

It is fair to say that no public policy opposed with cogent and persuasive reasons by a united Catholic community both knowledgeable and determined about its rights and responsibilities could long survive in the United States. Once again, one has to wonder where American blacks, far fewer in number than Catholics, would be today if they had simply continued to acquiesce in the various kinds of disabilities that a number of courts and state governments had tried to impose of them.68

Certainly the first instinct of any Catholic university should be to oppose unjust laws rather than give in to them. It is, however, an unfortunate characteristic of so many Catholics today to give in to secular pressures rather than to fight them.

Of course, it is quite possible that problems will arise concerning government funding or concerning other sources of financial assistance. But the answer to such problems will be to solve them in such a way that the Catholic university keeps its Catholicism intact.

Afterword

Many persons, on reading this little book, will think it too idealistic, perhaps fanatical, in making its case. They will respond immediately that life is too full of compromises to expect perfection. Now, life is full of compromises, and we are well advised not to expect perfection, but it would be a serious mistake not to know what perfection is, and not to strive for it. To become so accustomed to second-best that one takes it for granted is to make an ideal of the status quo. And to do this is to court disaster.

What has been recommended is, in most cases, a return to the practice of a few decades ago, when many principles questioned today were taken for granted. Some will think this is a step backward, but others will see it as a return, after a failed experiment, to what was good, just as the present liberalism in the Church will finally burn itself out and leave the old orthodoxy intact.

A final point: Perhaps most important for keeping a university Catholic is courage. Of course, knowledge of the importance of a university’s fidelity to the Magisterium, and of the means to bring this about and preserve it, is imperative, but, without firm commitment despite all the difficulties that arise, efforts are useless and the best intentions cave in under pressure.

There should be no compromise on essentials. I know that those who insist on this will be crucified, but the line has to be held. No university administrator or member of a board of trustees can afford to be thin-skinned in our day. The former Rule of my religious community said that no one should accept the post of Superior unless he could steel himself to discipline others when it was needed. And I say that no one should accept the post of Catholic university trustee or administrator unless he can steel himself against all the attempts to dilute his institution’s religious character. To settle for less might give the university the whole world, but only at the loss of its very self.

 

 

 

The Enduring Nature of the Catholic University

Commemorating the Anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s Address to Catholic Educators on April 17, 2008

A collection of essays on the renewal of Catholic higher education by Most Rev. David Ricken, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, Rev. J. Augustine DiNoia, Rev. Joseph Koterski, Rev. David O’Connell, and Dr. John Hittinger with a foreword by The Hon. Kenneth Whitehead

Dedicated to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI with gratitude for his vision for Catholic higher education

Table of Contents

Introduction

Foreword
by The Honorable Kenneth D. Whitehead
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Postsecondary Education

Catholic Higher Education in the United States: A Modern Retrospective
by Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M.
President of The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

The Restoration of a Catholic ‘Idea of a University’
by Most Rev. David L. Ricken
Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin

Vatican II, Evangelization and Catholic Higher Education
by Dr. John P. Hittinger
Professor of Philosophy at University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas

Taking a Catholic View on Academic Freedom
by Rev. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J.
Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University, New York

Communion and the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian in Catholic Higher Education
by Very Rev. J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P.
Undersecretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Catholic Campus Ministry: Christocentric Accompaniment
by Rev. Msgr. Stuart Swetland
Vice President for Catholic Identity at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Emmitsburg, Maryland

Appendix
Address to Catholic Educators at The Catholic University of America
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Introduction

One year ago, Pope Benedict XVI invited the presidents of U.S. Catholic colleges and universities, as well as diocesan education leaders, to an address at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.  This book commemorates that momentous event on April 17, 2008.  Consistent with Pope Benedict’s key themes, our distinguished authors share insights and recommendations to advance the renewal of Catholic higher education in fidelity to the Holy Father’s vision.

But in considering the future of Catholic higher education, it is impossible to ignore the past.  “How did we get here?” is a question essential to determining how most American Catholic colleges and universities overcome their bland conformity to secular norms for curriculum, campus life, governance, and academic freedom.

Our authors embrace the shared vision of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II in stark contrast to the manifesto that American Catholic university leaders embraced more than forty years earlier.  The 1967 Land O’Lakes Statement, “The Nature of the Contemporary University,” sought to redefine Catholic higher education while weakening its association with the Catholic Church.  The Church’s response to the Land O’Lakes Statement has become increasingly clear: a Catholic university necessarily recognizes the doctrinal and pastoral authority of the bishops, it affirms faculty responsibilities as well as rights connected to academic freedom, and it concerns itself with the whole development of the student both inside and outside the classroom.

Father David O’Connell, president of The Catholic University of America, hosted Pope Benedict for his address last year.  Father O’Connell himself has contributed substantially to the American understanding of authentic Catholic higher education and has presided over welcome improvements at his institution, often called “the bishops’ university.”  He offers much insight as he looks back upon the modern history of Catholic academia, all with an appreciation for “how far Catholic higher education has come in this country” and confidence in the future guided by Pope Benedict’s vision.

Bishop David Ricken, on whose initiative one of the newest and most intriguing Catholic institutions—Wyoming Catholic College—was established, looks to the future.  He has little regard for the recent past of Catholic higher education; the Land O’Lakes Statement, he writes, “precipitated a revolution in Catholic higher education that amounted to heresy and schism.”  But he does have a clear idea of what Catholic colleges and universities should do to help develop “the whole person—mind, body, heart, and soul,” with compliments to Pope Benedict and his statements in April 2008.

John Hittinger turns the “spirit of Vatican II” mentality on its head—and does so with a thorough, literal reading of the documents of the Second Vatican Council as they apply to the nature of Catholic higher education.  Fundamental to Catholic education, writes Dr. Hittinger, is evangelization.  It’s a lesson that challenges the basic assumptions of many Catholic educators today and goes to the heart of secularization.

The near-limitless boundaries of “academic freedom” in American academia are sacrosanct, even among Catholic educators who should know better.  Certainly aware of the transgression, Pope John Paul II responsibly defined academic freedom in Ex corde Ecclesiae, the 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, and Pope Benedict XVI pointedly explained that “any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission.”  With the wisdom of an accomplished philosopher and the clarity of a teacher, Father Joseph Koterski helps us navigate the “dialectical relation between truth and freedom.”

Father Augustine DiNoia is one of America’s leading doctrinal authorities, and his discussion of the theology of “communion” in Catholic higher education is essential to moving beyond the errors of the Land O’Lakes period.  Father DiNoia considers communion with relation to the essential role of the Catholic theologian at a Catholic college or university—making the  point that dissent prevents the possibility of genuine theology.  He also addresses the mandatum for theologians, a requirement of Canon Law that remains a point of contention in the United States.

Monsignor Stuart Swetland earned a national reputation for his outstanding work as a campus minister at large secular universities, and now he oversees the Catholic identity of Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland.  Not only does he make a convincing argument for the approach that pastoral ministers should apply to their work with contemporary students, but even Father Swetland’s writing style conveys his commitment to “accompanying” the reader or the student on their journey to the truth—nothing that can be learned in the classroom alone, but by developing a genuine love for Jesus Christ and His Church.

The key to understanding Catholic higher education, then, is found in Pope Benedict’s call to center all activities on Christ.

“A university or school’s Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students,” Pope Benedict said.  “It is a question of conviction—do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear? Are we ready to commit our entire self—intellect and will, mind and heart—to God?”

Like Christ’s challenge to the wealthy man to give up everything and follow Him, the Holy Father’s proposal allows for two responses from Catholic educators: turn away in despair, or claim the inheritance that God has set aside for those who lead young souls to Him.  Ultimately this book gives one hope that the mistakes of the past can be washed away, and the renaissance of genuine Catholic higher education in the United States has already begun.

Foreword

The Honorable Kenneth D. Whitehead

On July 23, 1967, at a meeting in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin, twenty-six leaders of Catholic higher education representing some ten Catholic colleges and universities in the United States of America issued what became known as the Land O’Lakes Statement. This statement, officially titled “The Nature of the Contemporary University,” declared that:

The Catholic University today must be a university in the full modern sense of the word, with strong commitment to and concern for academic excellence. To perform its teaching and research function effectively, the Catholic University must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself. To say this is simply to assert that institutional autonomy and academic freedom are essential conditions for life and growth and indeed of survival for Catholic universities as for all universities.1

Although the few Catholic educators who signed this Land O’Lakes Statement had no mandate to speak for Catholic higher education, their Statement nevertheless turned out to be surprisingly influential, and for many years it enjoyed near “official” status as describing what many had come to think the Catholic university ought to be today. The Statement both articulated some of the reasons for and encouraged the rapid secularization that was taking place on many Catholic college and university campuses from the late 1960s on. For the next few decades, the Catholic identity of many Catholic colleges and universities was either ravaged or, in most cases, simply regarded as a very low priority.

It now appears that the long winter has given way to an emergent but reliable thaw. It began with Pope John Paul II and his 1990 apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae,2 although at the time one could hardly have expected positive results, given the immediate, out-of-hand rejection of the Vatican’s expectations by many Catholic educators. It was confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in his address to educators at The Catholic University of America on April 17, 2009, which this book commemorates.  Although the hard work of renewing authentic Catholic identity at many of America’s institutions remains undone, the Holy Father was clearly aware that the time was right to present a vision for Catholic higher education that moves far beyond the minimal expectations of Ex corde Ecclesiae.  It was a clear signal of the progress that has been made in nearly twenty years—in no small part due to the example of those colleges and universities that stayed true to the Church, as well as the attention of the Vatican and the U.S. bishops to the need for education reform.

But the times were much different in 1967, and the signers of the Land O’Lakes Statement very likely believed they had established a new, permanent direction for Catholic higher education. The Statement represented a virtual declaration of independence from the Church for those institutions that came to accept it. Unfortunately, many Catholic colleges and universities did come to accept it, especially in and through the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU). They accepted it because it justified many of the measures they were taking to secularize their institutions by modifying or dropping many features that had formerly marked an institution as “Catholic.”

The principal idea behind the Land O’Lakes Statement lay in its assertion that the Catholic university must be a university “in the full modern sense of the word.” The leaders of what amounted to an institutional revolt by them against the Catholic Church saw themselves as adopting a modern, secular “model” of a university as the only model of what it was to be a university. If an institution was not such a modern, secularized university, then the implication was that it was not a true university at all. Being relegated to this status was not a fate most Catholic educators wanted to risk.

While the Catholic Church beginning in medieval times had encouraged the founding of the first universities and, indeed, in a true sense could be said to have actually “invented” the very idea of a university, those days were long ago and no longer counted. What those who accepted the Land O’Lakes Statement apparently wanted was full acceptance by the American secular academic establishment. They wanted to be accepted as being on a par with secular institutions, without the baggage, as they considered it, of any odd or embarrassing or moralistic “Catholic” encumbrances. Certainly it was thought that there was no way any truly “modern” university could continue to be “subservient” to an authoritarian Church, for example.

From that day to this, the administrations and faculties of most Catholic institutions, hewing to the Land O’Lakes line, have consistently played down or eschewed specific Catholic  policies, practices, or commitments seen as incompatible with the modern secular institutional model. At the same time, they have continued to insist that they are still fully “Catholic.” According to them, their Catholic identity was in no way attenuated or diminished just because, for example, they dropped prayers or chapel requirements, removed crucifixes from classroom walls, abandoned the idea that a critical mass of the faculty ought to profess the Catholic faith, ceased attempting to teach academic subjects in the light of Catholic truth, and eschewed acting in loco parentis as far as their students were concerned.

What everybody had formerly understood to be Protestant “private judgment” was now suddenly taken by the Land O’Lakers to be some new kind of “Catholic” norm: they would henceforth decide, not the Church, what rightly belonged to Catholic higher education, and what could conveniently be downgraded or dropped.

They also continued to belong to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities as if nothing were amiss in the way of their Catholic identity. The ACCU leadership, meanwhile, over many years, itself followed and championed the Land O’Lakes line and steadily opposed all episcopal or Roman efforts to reinforce or restore policies or practices deemed essential by the Church to an authentic Catholic identity.

One of the principal reasons for the almost instant wide acceptance of the Land O’Lakes Statement within Catholic higher education was the idea that the Statement had ostensibly derived from secular American academic practice, namely, that to be a university in the true sense a school must enjoy “institutional autonomy” and “academic freedom.” However, the near absolutist way in which these two features had come to be understood by most Catholic educators made it difficult if not impossible for the Church to require any real Catholic discipline or to guarantee the integrity of her teachings as presented by theological and other faculties.

As for “institutional autonomy,” properly understood, it is an essential characteristic of any true institution of higher learning, and the Church strongly affirms it; she does not claim, and has never claimed, that universities must be directly operated or managed as a part of or within the Church’s own structure. But it is false that modern secular American universities enjoy the kind of total independence from any authority “external to the academic community itself” which the Land O’Lakes Statement implies they enjoy. American colleges and universities are subject to and regularly answer to a myriad of “authorities” external to themselves, whether federal, state, or local laws and ordinances pertaining to higher education, or the requirements of boards of trustees or regents, accrediting agencies, scholarly, scientific, professional, athletic, faculty, and alumni associations and societies, not to speak of the often stringent requirements imposed on them by legislatures, foundations, and other funding agencies. Secular modern American universities typically today even “answer to” outside “politically correct” pressure groups. So there was never anything inappropriate about independent Catholic institutions answering to Catholic authority insofar as the universities claim a Catholic identity and teach in accord with Catholic doctrine.

As for “academic freedom,” the Catholic Church affirms it when properly understood—although the Church does insist that academic freedom “must be preserved within the confines of truth and the common good” (Ex corde Ecclesiae, 12). Yet the signers of and adherents to the Land O’Lakes Statement appear to understand the term as the near absolute right claimed today by many secular academics. The description of it in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences is often cited as authoritative: “Academic freedom is the freedom of the teacher or research worker in higher institutions of learning to investigate and discuss the problems of his science and to express his conclusions, whether through publication or in the instruction of students, without interference from political or ecclesiastical authority” (emphasis added).

This definition makes the freedom and rights of professors or teachers almost absolute, while the corresponding freedom of churches or other sponsoring institutions to set up, operate, and control their own colleges and universities, as well as the freedom and rights of students and their parents to be assured that the education being imparted is within an announced religious or creedal framework, is simply cancelled out by the supposed academic freedom of professors to do or say what they please. Acceptance of this definition of academic freedom quite simply abolishes the right of the Church to insist that subjects be taught in a Catholic institution in accordance with the truths of the Catholic faith.

The Church was initially slow in responding to the challenge posed by the Land O’Lakes Statement. In 1972 the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) adopted a document setting forth “the essential characteristics of a Catholic university,”3 which were incorporated into the revised Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983.4 The canons affirm the right of the Church to sponsor universities (Canon 807); require that no university may bear the label “Catholic” without the permission of the competent ecclesiastical authority, namely, the bishop (Canon 808); insure the autonomy of the university while upholding the integrity of Catholic doctrine (Canon 809); stipulate that scholars and teachers may be removed if they fail to meet the Church’s doctrinal and moral standards (Canon 810); and require that those who teach theology in any Catholic university must have a mandate (mandatum) from ecclesiastical authority, again the local bishop (Canon 812).

The ACCU, as well as many of the heads of Catholic colleges, vehemently opposed these canons during the drafting of the new Code. A delegation of American bishops actually went to Rome to lobby against them. Following the promulgation of the Code, the Canon Law Society of America prepared a commentary suggesting that these canons were not applicable in the United States. They were not, in fact, implemented here.

The Holy See responded on August 15, 1990, with Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae. Besides being a beautiful description of everything that a Catholic university should be, ECE includes some twenty-five general norms which, among other things, insist that a truly Catholic university is necessarily linked to the Church and is subject to episcopal oversight, especially in the doctrinal and moral areas. Following a period of intense opposition from many American educators, the U.S. bishops, in November 1999, approved an application of ECE which came into force in June 2001. Another document implementing the theological mandatum requirement was approved by the bishops a year later.

With the enactment of these episcopal ordinances, it could finally be said that the U.S. bishops, after more than forty years, had resumed their proper proprietorship over the definition of the term “Catholic university.” It was never anything but a huge anomaly that a group of self-appointed Catholic educators meeting in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin, should have presumed to be able to redefine this term. But for a long time, it seemed they had succeeded.

The Church has a long road to travel before Catholic higher education is fully back in the fold. The habitual opposition of scholars continues in many places and many Catholic colleges and universities are not fully in compliance with Ex corde Ecclesiae. What is clear, however, is the direction in which things are moving. The restoration of the true definition of the term “Catholic university” by Church authority marked the formal end of the Land O’Lakes era. It is the fidelity and creative leadership of a new generation of educators and leaders—including those whose valuable work is featured in this collection—that point the way forward.

Kenneth D. Whitehead, Ph.D., is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Postsecondary Education in the Reagan Administration.  Among the more than one dozen books that he has authored or co-authored is Catholic Colleges and Federal Funding (Ignatius, 1987).

 

Catholic Higher Education in the United States: A Modern Retrospective

Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M.

One year ago (April 17, 2008), Pope Benedict XVI arrived on the campus of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to deliver a much anticipated address to Catholic college and university presidents and diocesan education administrators. As president of The Catholic University of America, I was honored to be his host that day.

Although some observers predicted a “pontifical spanking” for those gathered, the Holy Father’s speech was anything but that. In carefully planned and beautifully delivered remarks, Pope Benedict XVI both praised and encouraged Catholic educators for their great service to the Church in our country. At the same time, he presented a vision of and for Catholic education that was clear and compelling:

Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord’s disciples, the Church.5

With respect to the meaning of Catholic identity, the pontiff observed:

Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). In this way our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society. They become places in which God’s active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ’s “being for others” (cf. ibid., 28).6

He also presented an insightful and instructive understanding of academic freedom, born from his own experience as a university professor and, now, as Chief Shepherd and Teacher in the Church:

In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges and universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church’s munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.7

His address was well-received and deeply appreciated. As I sat there, listening to Pope Benedict, I could not help but reflect how far Catholic higher education has come in this country in the past more than half-century.

Doubting the Catholic university

In 1955, Monsignor John Tracy Ellis, professor of Church history at The Catholic University of America, wrote a scathing criticism of the quality of American Catholic intellectual life in a paper that he delivered at the annual meeting of the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs in St. Louis. In his presentation, later published in the Fordham University journal Thought, Ellis gave voice to the belief noted in a popular text of his day on American institutions that

… in no western society is the intellectual prestige of Catholicism lower than in the country where, in such respects as wealth, numbers, and strength of organization, it is so powerful.8

Ellis went on to observe that:

No well-informed American Catholic in this country will attempt to challenge that statement. Admittedly, the weakest aspect of the Church in this country lies in its failure to produce national leaders and to exercise commanding influence in intellectual circles, and this at a time when the numbers of Catholics in the United States… and their material resources are incomparably superior to those of any other branch of the universal Church.9

Ellis presented these ideas over fifty years ago. If his stinging indictment were considered to be true at that time or up to that time, we should wonder why. Much of the fault, I believe, lay not so much in a fear that Catholic scholars demonstrated for Church authorities as some have argued but, rather, in a fear of the judgments of their secular academic counterparts. The lack of courage to present the teachings of the Church with conviction in their inherent truth within a broader scholarly community evidenced a not-too-subtle belief among our own Catholic scholars that religious faith and scholarly activity based upon it was an embarrassment that relegated Catholic intellectuals to a second-class status. Faith, after all, was considered in the secular arena to be the true enemy of reason in an “enlightened” intellectual world.

There was, no one can honestly doubt, an anti-Catholic prejudice at work in the United States from the time of its foundation and a genuine hostility “to all things Catholic,” as Monsignor Ellis noted.10 Even Harvard professor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., once labeled “bias against your Church as the most persistent prejudice in the history of the American people.”11 For that reason, among others, much of the energy within the American Catholic community in general and the American Catholic professorate in particular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was devoted to “apologetics” rather than pure scholarly endeavor. The audience to which they made their appeals was largely an immigrant population that did not place primary value on Catholic intellectual advancement let alone creating great Catholic institutions of higher learning. One needs look no further than the history of The Catholic University of America to verify that assertion.12

The concept of a national Catholic research university was hotly debated within the American hierarchy itself. And, yet, although visible efforts were made by many within the Catholic academy to promote Catholic higher education as their existing colleges expanded into universities, as late as 1938 the challenge was presented to the Church and Catholic scholars that “research cannot be the primary object of a Catholic graduate school because it is at war with the whole Catholic life of the mind.”13 American Catholic “universities” were popularly viewed as concerned not so much with the penetration of truth as they were with passing on a given tradition of truth, the Catholic tradition, in which little in the way of addition, alteration, or development was deemed necessary.14 It was an unfortunate perception that higher education within the American Catholic academic community was an “either/or” proposition rather than “both/and.”

When Ellis authored his now famous essay, he had no idea that a Vatican Council would soon be convened to address the situation of the Church in the modern world. The pope who would call for that council was still the cardinal archbishop of Venice. When he assumed the papacy in the fall of 1958 and a year later announced the 21st ecumenical council, Pope John XXIII would usher in a new era in the history of the Catholic Church and with it, a new urgency to reform its structures and institutions throughout the world. Catholic higher education was not spared the effects of this “aggiornamento.”

In his apostolic constitution Humanae salutis convening the Council, Pope John XXIII wrote that the Church at that moment was:

…witnessing a crisis under way within society. While humanity is on the edge of a new era, tasks of immense gravity and amplitude await the Church, as in its most tragic periods of history. It is a question in fact of bringing the modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel, a world which exalts itself with its conquests in the technical and scientific fields, but which brings also the consequences of a temporal order which some have wished to reorganize excluding God. This is why modern society is earmarked by a great material progress to which there is no corresponding advance in the moral field.15

The Holy Father addressed the hierarchy gathered in Council on October 11, 1962, stating that “the greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.”16 Notice the phrase “guarded and taught!”

That concern, as it related to Catholic institutions of higher learning, had been voiced some thirty-one years earlier by Pope Pius XI in his apostolic constitution Deus Scientiarum Dominus where he wrote that the Church’s chief concern in all of Catholic education had always been the correct teaching of doctrine.17 Anyone well acquainted with Church teaching and its development in history could hardly argue that this process was ever or could ever be legitimately envisioned as a static enterprise.

Defining the Catholic university

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) dealt specifically with the broad topic of formal Catholic education in their 1965 declaration Gravissimum educationis. It has been said that the underlying concern of the Council was “education,” “Catholic education” in one form or another.18 The situation of Catholic universities and colleges received specific attention. The declaration stated that:

The Church is preoccupied too with schools of higher learning, especially colleges and universities and their faculties. In schools of this sort which are dependent upon her, she seeks in a systematic way to have individual branches of knowledge studied according to their own proper principles and methods, and with due freedom of scientific investigation. She intends thereby to promote an ever deeper understanding of these fields, and as a result of extremely precise evaluation of modern problems and inquiries, to have it seen more profoundly how faith and reason give harmonious witness to the unity of all truth. The Church pursues such a goal after the manner of her most illustrious teachers, especially St. Thomas Aquinas. The hoped-for result is that the Christian mind may achieve, as it were, a public, persistent, and universal presence in the whole enterprise of advancing higher culture, and that students of these institutions may become men (and women) truly outstanding in learning, ready to shoulders society’s heavier burdens and to witness the faith to the world.19

One should notice the emphasis given here to proper disciplinary methodology, due freedom of inquiry, growth in understanding, students outstanding in learning, advancing higher culture and witness to faith.

During the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council, Catholic universities and colleges throughout the world engaged in an effort to define their nature and mission in the Church and world more clearly. That process witnessed the eager participation of members of the American Catholic academy, chastised as they had been by Monsignor Ellis over ten years earlier.

In 1967, a gathering of Catholic educators in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin, sponsored by the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) produced a document that set forth its own credo on the nature of Catholic colleges and universities:

The Catholic university today must be a university in the full modern sense of the word, with a strong commitment to and concern for academic excellence. To perform its teaching and research function effectively, the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical external to the academic community itself. To say this is simply to assert that institutional autonomy and academic freedom are essential conditions of life and growth and indeed of survival for Catholic universities as for all universities. The Catholic university participates in the total life of our time, has the same functions as all other true universities and, in general, offers the same services to society.20

Notice the emphasis given to authority “external to the academic community itself.” The stage was now set for what would become a decades-long effort to resolve growing contemporary tensions between the teaching Church and Catholic institutions of higher learning that existed in a variety of forms within its embrace in the post-conciliar era. Other international meetings would continue to occur but nowhere, at least in my opinion, were these tensions as keenly felt as within the American Catholic academic community.

The controversy surrounding the publication of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae21 in 1968, again in my opinion, distracted educators from the process of addressing the issue of the nature and purpose of Catholic institutions of higher education. In the minds of some, however, especially in the United States, Humanae Vitae was precisely the type of Church teaching that provided a timely example with which to frame the debate. Dissent over this encyclical crystallized the polarization between the faithful presentation and teaching of Church doctrine that Pope John XXIII saw as the “greatest concern” of the Council he convened and “the true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind” that was the mantra of those who subscribed to the assertions of the Land O’Lakes manifesto. In many respects, The Catholic University of America at the time was the epicenter of the storm.

In 1972, at the invitation of the Holy See and IFCU, Catholic universities and colleges were invited to send delegates to an international congress in Rome, the second such gathering in Rome since Land O’Lakes. Their deliberations resulted in a document, “The Catholic University in the Modern World,”22 which accomplished two major things:

  1. it defined six basic types of Catholic post-secondary institutions that existed within the Church:
    1. those directly established by ecclesiastical authorities and those which were not;
    2. those with statutory relationships to ecclesiastical authorities and those which had none;
    3. those with a formal, explicit commitment to Church teaching and beliefs and those whose commitment was merely implicit.
  2. it also provided a framework for Catholic identity and mission later cited by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae.23

Responding to this document, the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education at that time, Cardinal Gabriel Marie Garrone, wrote that although the statement envisioned the existence of Catholic institutions of higher learning without formally established or statutory links to ecclesiastical authority, Catholic institutions should not consider themselves removed from those relationships with the hierarchical structures of the Church which must characterize institutions that call themselves Catholic.24 A clear point of difference with the Land O’Lakes statement!

Ten years later, the revised 1983 Code of Canon Law,25 also mandated by Pope John XXIII along with the Second Vatican Council at the beginning of his papacy in 1959, introduced
specific legislation intended to address all Catholic colleges and universities, those canonically dependent upon the Church as well as others that claimed a Catholic foundation, character, and purpose but which lacked an explicit canonical establishment. Pope John Paul II had already addressed the former type of institution before the new Code appeared in his apostolic constitution Sapientia Christiana (April 15, 1979).26 It should be noted that the overwhelming majority of Catholic universities and colleges in the United States were of the latter variety. Needless to say, the provisions of the new Code received a chilly reception within the American Catholic academic community.

Magna Carta for Catholic higher education

Himself a Catholic university professor, Pope John Paul II evidenced a great concern for Catholic institutions of higher learning. Following on the heels of both Sapientia Christiana and the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the Holy Father published a second apostolic constitution in 1990 intended to address Catholic universities and colleges that were not ecclesiastical in nature. Ex corde Ecclesiae (August 15, 1990) was, in my opinion, the beginning of the “great thaw” in “the winter of our discontent.”

While not original in the sense that they first appeared in a 1972 document “The Catholic University in the Modern World” produced by the Second International Congress of Delegates of Catholic Universities referred to earlier, the observations of Pope John Paul II summarized what he considered the “bottom line” for Catholic institutions of higher learning. These “essential characteristics” are particularly significant not only because the Holy Father made them his own in Ex corde Ecclesiae but also because they are the reflections of a body of international Catholic educators that helped make the case for a strengthening of the meaning of Catholic identity in Catholic post-secondary academic institutions. Pope John Paul II wrote that:

Since the objective of a Catholic university is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in the university world confronting the great problems of society and culture, every Catholic university as Catholic, must have the following essential characteristics:

  1. Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such;
  2. A continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research;
  3. Fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church;
  4. An institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life.27

To assist in providing that assurance, the Holy Father noted, perhaps in part an answer to “Land O’Lakes” and other responses of similar kind:

Every Catholic University, without ceasing to be a university, has a relationship to the Church that is essential to its institutional identity. …One consequence of its essential relationship to the Church is that the institutional fidelity of the university to the Christian message includes a recognition of and adherence to the teaching authority of the Church in matters of faith and morals. Catholic members of the university community are also called to a personal fidelity to the Church with all that this implies. Non-Catholic members are required to respect the Catholic character of the university, while the university in turn respects their religious liberty.28

With the deftness and insight that have characterized his pontificate and all his writings, drawing upon extraordinary human experiences including that of being a university professor, Pope John Paul II provided in Ex corde Ecclesiae a “magna carta”29 for Catholic higher education throughout the Church, including the United States. Calling for a clearly recognizable relationship between Catholic colleges and universities and the universal and local church in which they exist,30 the Holy Father has wisely required that these institutions “operationalize” their Catholic identity through the assistance of a formal, juridical association with the Church. This juridical dimension and its accompanying call for greater accountability to the Church, unfortunately for some, dominated the discussions that would follow within the American Catholic academic community. I say “unfortunately” because the text and substance of the Holy Father’s apostolic constitution—recognized by many, including those outside of the Catholic academic community, as a magnificent exposition of the unique mission of Catholic higher education—have often been reduced by some to a mere set of legal norms.

When the constitution appeared in its final form, after three drafts and the widest, most extensive public consultations to accompany any Church document, it was generally well received in America. Bishops and Catholic educators in the United States appeared appreciative of the opportunities afforded them by the Congregation for Catholic Education to be involved in its formulation. Some hesitation still lingered in these and other circles with respect to the idea of any juridic norms at all—general or particular—but the prevailing sentiment seemed to be that “there was little to cause anxiety and much to enable and inspire” those involved in Catholic higher education.31

For the better part of the past fifteen years, the bishops and the Catholic academic community in the United States have been engaged in a dialogue regarding the regional application or implementation of the constitution required in its “General Norms.” Here again, several drafts and extensive consultations have accompanied the entire process.

From the beginning, two important presuppositions regarding the outcome of the process have been present: (1) that the application document would include juridic norms; and (2) that the application document would be the product of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops or NCCB (now, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or USCCB) as an episcopal document.

Although these “understandings” were present, their implications were not always clearly appreciated, even among the bishops. One could legitimately claim that they were often avoided or ignored in the hopes they would simply “go away.” In the months immediately preceding the 1999 NCCB meeting, these elements seemed to be all but forgotten, especially within Catholic academic circles. Discussions among Catholic university presidents for which I was present were openly hostile to the idea of episcopal juridic implementation.

The NCCB established an Implementation Committee of bishops in 1991, and several Catholic university presidents were invited to participate as consultors to the committee. An application document was developed, circulated for consultation, revised, approved by the NCCB with a vote of 224-6 on November 16, 1996, and forwarded to the Holy See for the recognitio required by canon law.32 The Congregation for Catholic Education praised the application but indicated that it needed further juridic refinement, especially with respect to Canon 812’s provision regarding the mandate to teach theological disciplines, before it could be passed on to the Congregation for Bishops.

Although the Holy See’s critique was not well received in the United States, the NCCB Implementation Committee set out to respond positively to the Vatican request. A subcommittee was created in 1997 and revised drafts of an application document were developed and circulated in 1998 and 1999 respectively, again accompanied by extensive consultations. A strong argument was made in the Catholic and secular press by critics of the application, including several university presidents and even some bishops, that its provisions would yield “disastrous” results for Catholic universities and colleges in the United States if approved. Concerns were voiced that the new text was, at best, risky and, at worst, destructive of whatever progress had been made in the ongoing dialogue about Catholic identity that had been occurring among bishops and Catholic educators since Ex corde Ecclesiae was first issued in 1990.

Anyone participating in American Catholic academic life since the Code of Canon Law was revised and promulgated in 1983 has heard these concerns before. In fact, some of the more controversial elements now found in the document of implementation known as The Application33 are already contained in canon law’s treatment of “Catholic Universities and Other Institutes of Higher Studies (807-814),” although they were deemed by educators and some canonists as doubtfully applicable in the American Catholic academic context. Similarly, as Ex corde Ecclesiae progressed through its own draft stages in the late 1980s, these same concerns surfaced again.

It would be a mistake to separate The Application as it currently exists from the constitution itself. The “General Norms” accompanying Ex corde Ecclesiae require “local and regional” implementation of the constitution.34 A very concerted effort was made by those concerned with drafting The Application to insure that this text remained directly focused on the constitution, its exhortations and canonical provisions. In fact, several Catholic university presidents explicitly made that recommendation, myself included, during the consultation. Hence, what is required as normative in the resulting juridic text must always be viewed through the broader lens of the constitution itself for accurate interpretation and implementation.

It would equally be a mistake to separate the constitution and The Application from “the teaching of Vatican II and the directives of the Code of Canon Law” upon which it is based, as Pope John Paul II himself has stated.35Ex corde Ecclesiae, he wrote, “was enriched by the long and fruitful experience of the Church in the realm of universities and open to the promise of future achievements that will require courageous creativity and rigorous fidelity.”36 In the minds of some, these two concepts—courageous creativity and rigorous fidelity—can make strange, even difficult bedfellows. I certainly do not believe that to be the case.

Hope and vision for the future

Apart from a few members of a vanishing generation of Catholic academics, there has been no revolt as had been predicted. In fact, Catholic institutions of higher learning in this country have been unusually quiet given recent history. Catholic universities and colleges continue to possess what the Church has called a “rightful” autonomy and a “legitimate” academic freedom. There have been no major legal battles as had been predicted and the allegedly adverse financial consequences have been exposed as myths. We have witnessed no “pastoral disaster” as one bishop claimed or anything even slightly problematic.

And Catholic teaching continues to be faithfully presented in our institutions by those who are faithful, although it is still challenged by some who view faith and reason at odds. I doubt very much that we will ever make converts of them, no matter what is said or done. The rigorous fidelity of their peers, a new generation of creative Catholic intellectuals and students seeking the truth, and, ultimately, time itself will work together toward the long hoped for renewal in Catholic higher education. The greatest evidence of renewal, however, is present on our campuses within the Catholic students themselves. It has been my experience that they are eager for leadership, hungry for truth, seeking to pray, and open to service to their neighbors. In many ways, they are teaching us.

Ex corde Ecclesiae and The Application promulgated to implement it, in my opinion, spearheaded and inspired an attempt to present a coherent vision that continues to unfold for and within our Catholic universities and colleges in this country. It is up to all of us to replace the tired, negative rhetoric of the not so distant past—when political and polarized ideologies seemed to dominate the conversation—with voices of Catholic scholars and leaders who are faithful and who are “convinced of the priority of the ethical over the technical, of the primacy of the person over things, of the superiority of the spirit over matter,” joining knowledge to conscience;37 voices of Catholic scholars and leaders who do not, in the words of our Holy Father’s encyclical Fides et Ratio, “run from the truth as soon as they glimpse it because they are afraid of its demands”38 but who stand and serve the truth in charity.

New leadership in the Church brings new emphases. Building upon the strong legacy of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI has addressed the value and importance of Catholic higher education several times. Even before his election to the papacy, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote to me of the importance of involving our Catholic universities and colleges in confronting the pressing moral issues of our day. “Universities,” he stated, (should) “organize symposia, possibly with the participation of representatives of different confessions, religions and cultures, in order to identify currents and points of agreement which may be productive in renewing an understanding of the natural moral law.”39 He sees Catholic universities and colleges as an effective element for positive social and cultural change, a “positive choice,” in his words, for all that Catholicism and Christianity represent.

In a speech at Rome’s Sacred Heart University in 2005, Pope Benedict remarked that “The Catholic university is a great workshop in which, in keeping with the various disciplines, new lines of research are constantly being developed in a stimulating encounter between faith and reason… This then is the great challenge to Catholic universities: to impart knowledge in the perspective of true rationality, different from that of today which largely prevails, in accordance with a reason open to the question of the truth and to the great values inscribed in being itself, hence, open to the transcendent, to God.”40 And when our students graduate, he continued, “How do they leave? What culture did they find, assimilate, develop?” Addressing himself to administration, faculty, staff and students, Pope Benedict encouraged all Catholic universities and colleges “to give life to an authentic Catholic university that excels in the quality of its research and teaching and, at the same time, its fidelity to the Gospel and the Church’s Magisterium.”41

At his Angelus address on January 20, 2008, the Holy Father responded to a protest that, despite the invitation previously extended, occasioned him not to speak on the campus of LaSapienza University in Rome. His words in St. Peter’s Square that day gave us a glimpse into his view of the mission of Catholic higher education in our world today:

The university environment, which for many years was my world, linked for me a love for the seeking of truth, for exchange, for frank and respectful dialogue between differing positions. All this, too, is the mission of the church, charged to faithfully follow Jesus the Teacher of life, of truth and of love. As a professor, so to say, emeritus, who’s encountered many students in his life, I encourage you… to always be respectful of other people’s opinions and to seek out, with a free and responsible spirit, the truth and the good.42

Very Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M., J.C.D., is president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and a consultor to the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education.

 

The Restoration of a Catholic ‘Idea of a University’

Most Rev. David L. Ricken

The 1967 “Land O’Lakes Statement” by leading Catholic educators precipitated a revolution in Catholic higher education that amounted to heresy and schism.43 Major Catholic universities in the United States—Notre Dame, St. Louis University, Georgetown, and Boston College, to name a few—proclaimed their independence from the Magisterium of the Church. Claiming that “the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of every kind, lay or clerical, external to the university itself,” the Land O’Lakes Statement announced its separation from the teaching authority and hierarchy of the Church and established its own magisterium, what Monsignor George Kelly called “a two-headed church.”44 Substituting liberal modernism for Catholic orthodoxy, the Land O’Lakes Statement viewed the mission of the college as conformity to the “modern,” as an education “geared to modern society”45 that resists “theological or philosophical imperialism.”46

Naturally, because no man can serve two masters, Catholic universities that subscribed to the Land O’Lakes Statement disowned their patrimony—the university as a gift from the heart of the Church, Ex corde Ecclesiae—and embraced the model of the secular university with its alleged uninhibited academic freedom. As the Statement reads, nothing is to be “outlawed,” and academic freedom means “no boundaries and no barriers.”47 The consequences of this commitment to the modernist movement are legion: the separation of faith and reason, the loss of Catholic identity, the reign of secular ideology, the establishment of moral relativism as the touchstone of truth, and the loss of an honorable academic heritage rooted in the wisdom of the ages.

Two modern papal pronouncements, John Paul II’s Ex corde Ecclesiae (1990)48 and Benedict XVI’s “Address to Catholic Educators” (2008),49 study this crisis in Catholic higher education and seek to restore the ideals of Catholic higher education. The two popes review the venerable tradition of Catholic learning as a treasury of wisdom that spreads the riches of the Gospel, humanizes and civilizes persons, promotes the dignity and inestimable worth of all human beings, and serves the common good of all societies.

As Pope John Paul II writes, the heritage of the Catholic university cultivates “the joy of learning” and rejoicing in the truth (St. Augustine’s gaudium de veritate).50 It teaches the ability “to think rigorously… to act rightly and to serve humanity better.”51 He argues that, contrary to the opinion of the Land O’Lakes Statement, a Catholic university never stifles the life of the mind or the passion for truth, because Catholic higher learning “is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man, and God” and “is dedicated to the research of all aspects of truth in their essential connection with the supreme Truth, who is God.”52 The Catholic university does not inhibit research or censor the quest for knowledge but insists on “the moral, spiritual, and religious dimension” of research and judges the methods and discoveries of science “in the perspective of the totality of the human person.”53

Thus the Catholic Church, “expert in humanity,”54 in its teaching authority always reserves the right to determine the norms of legitimate research and judge the uses of technology and medical procedures as either moral or immoral, as humanizing or dehumanizing, as upholding the dignity of human beings or exploiting persons as objects or instruments. In other words, neither academic freedom nor human freedom are absolute. Although the birth control pill, embryonic stem-cell research, and cloning have acquired respectability in the medical and scientific professions, the Magisterium of the Church exercises a higher standard than the secular world’s criteria of utility, pragmatism, and progress.

Likewise, Pope Benedict XVI’s address warns educators that the test of truth goes beyond contemporary intellectual fashions, whether it is “the cold pragmatic calculations of utility” that determine right and wrong on the basis of self-interest or cost-effectiveness, the “positivistic mentality” that exalts the scientific method and empirical data as the ultimate test of objective truth or “secularist ideology” that divorces reason and faith and reduces truth to political opinion.55

While the Catholic university welcomes all knowledge from the many fields of learning and honors the freedom “to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you,” this human knowledge does not qualify the modern university’s pursuit of academic freedom “to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church.”56 Revealed knowledge and the divine wisdom of God from Scripture, tradition, and the teachings of the Magisterium represent eternal and ultimate truths that subordinate man’s knowledge and human wisdom. That is, if worldly wisdom in the form of legal decisions, medical ethics, and political views claims the “right” to abortion, euthanasia, or same-sex marriage, the Church judges these views in the light of revealed truth, eternal law, natural law, and the teachings of the Church’s encyclicals.

In short, contrary to the Land O’Lakes Statement, academic freedom, scholarly knowledge, and human opinion possess no independent authority or autonomy exclusive of the Church. As Cardinal Newman explains in The Idea of a University,57 when the circle of knowledge excludes theology from the body of truth, it creates a void. Because nature abhors a vacuum, other fields of knowledge then usurp the authority of theology and assume airs of their own infallibility. Newman writes, “Religious doctrine is knowledge, in as full a sense as Newton’s doctrine is knowledge. University teaching without theology is simply unphilosophical. Theology has at least as good a right to claim a place there as astronomy.”58 The modern, then, must be judged in the light of the ancient, and science must be judged in the light of theology. The question is not only “Is it possible?” but also “Is it moral?”

Given the recent crisis in Catholic higher education and its renunciation of its venerable ideals of transmitting the fullness and unity of the truth, the treasury of wisdom from great art and literature, its integration of reason and faith, and its education of the whole person, how can Catholic higher education in the modern world restore its sublime vision of “the idea of a university”? How does it once again reclaim its special identity as many small Catholic alternative colleges strive to create a living Catholic ethos on their campuses?

Fifty percent of education consists of atmosphere, G. K. Chesterton remarked, and one of the marks of authentic Catholic education is the culture or environment that it creates. In the right atmosphere or environment, natural, vigorous growth follows whether it is the life of a plant, an animal, or a human being—whether it is the life of the mind, the heart, or the soul. As Pope Benedict XVI proposed in his “Address to Catholic Educators,” the renewal of Catholic higher education requires colleges with a distinct, unmistakable Catholic identity. He asks, “Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God’s creation?”59

This aura of a genuine Catholic culture expresses itself in small things and in great matters. Do young men and young women dress in good taste and beautiful modesty and behave with gracious civility and cheerful affability? Is theology an integral part of the curriculum, and are students introduced to the riches of Scripture, the wisdom of the church fathers, and the lives and writings of the saints? Does the ordinary life of students allow for friendship, conversation, athletics, contemplation, and prayer—a balanced, rhythmic life of work and play, activity and rest? Does the curriculum instill in students a desire to discover knowledge, to love the truth, to defend the good, and even to suffer for noble ideals such as the right to life and the defense of traditional marriage? Does the college introduce students to “the best which has been thought and said”60 in the books and courses that form the course of study?

Bona fide Catholic colleges manifest tell-tale signs that introduce students to a world that radiates purity, charity, joy, and wonder—what the Greeks called the art of living well as opposed to merely living, surviving, or earning a livelihood. As Benedict XVI states, “Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content.”61 A day in the life of a true Catholic university reveals prayer, learning, conviviality, charity, and service—daily Mass, the study of great subjects or classics, the joy of learning for its own sake, the graces of friendship, civility, and hospitality. This atmosphere is always reflecting goodness, beauty, and truth in its myriad forms—in St. Paul’s words, “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely” (Phil 4:8). Thus, a Catholic university brooks no tolerance for the base, the ugly, the tawdry, or the banal. Rock music, prurient or lewd films, access to internet pornography, or student organizations that promote homosexuality all poison the entire ambience of a Catholic university and rob it of its identity.

An authentic Catholic college, then—like a loving home—breathes life and invites participation. It cultivates an atmosphere that makes truth good (“Taste and see the sweetness of the Lord,” declares the Psalmist in Psalms 34:8), associates the beautiful with the true (“Glory be to God for dappled things,” writes Gerard Manley Hopkins)62, and equates the good with the true (“You love us, Lord, as if we were the only one,” St. Augustine states). Whenever truth, goodness, and beauty are appreciated and cherished for their own sake—as ends in themselves—they create what Cardinal Newman calls an “overflow.” Newman explains: “Good is not only good, but reproductive of good; this is one of its attributes; nothing is excellent, beautiful, perfect, desirable for its own sake, but it overflows, and spreads the likeness of itself all around it.”63 In this atmosphere of overflowing and spreading, prayer, love of learning, and mirth happen naturally, and students acquire a sense of the excellent, the highest, and the noblest—the Christian ideals that restore man’s dignity and remind him of the meaning of being a human being created in the image of God.

As Pope Benedict remarks in his “Address to Catholic Educators,” a Catholic college that inspires the imitation of Christ moves a person “to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true.”64 This aspiration for transcendent values and eternal truths provides student with a moral vision that transcends popular culture, political ideology, and moral relativism—the mentality of “political correctness.” Benedict XVI writes, “Similarly the Church never tires of upholding the essential moral categories of right and wrong” lest man embrace the “cold pragmatic calculations of utility which render the person little more than a pawn on some ideological chess-board.”65 In the environment of a Catholic college, a student learns that truth is divine in origin, not man-made; he discovers that truth is eternal and universal, not relative or subjective; he recognizes that faith and reason complement one another and, in Benedict XVI’s words, “never contradict one another.”66 As the Pope explains, a Catholic college that informs minds with the light of divine wisdom teaches that “it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis.”67 In short, the intellectual atmosphere of a Catholic college creates an environment that exemplifies the liberating academic spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas, who frequently quoted St. Ambrose: “All truth, whoever said it, comes from the Holy Spirit.”

Rising above the platitudes of secular ideologies that profess “diversity” and “tolerance” as absolute values and that define the autonomous individual as the ultimate authority of truth (Protagoras’ “man is the measure of all things”), a Catholic intellectual culture pursues what Benedict XVI calls “the fullness and unity of truth”68—divine revelation, tradition, the wisdom of the past, the universality of great art and literature, the lessons of history, and the laws of science. In short, the intellectual culture of a Catholic college creates in the mind a sense of “enlargement” to use Cardinal Newman’s word from The Idea of a University69—the antithesis of intellectual trendiness or narrow ideology. Hence authentic Catholic colleges do not confer honorary degrees to heretical thinkers, welcome guest lecturers, or hire faculty that profess ideas that oppose the Church’s teachings on faith and morals. Like the Christian faith, a Catholic university is countercultural.

The environment of a Catholic college instills refinement in manners, morals, feeling, and thinking. In The Idea of a University, Newman argues that a liberal education forms a quality of mind that acts upon man’s moral nature and sensitizes him to practice acts of courtesy and honor in virtues such as “veracity, probity, equity, fairness, gentleness, fairness, benevolence, and amiableness”70—all qualities that elevate human life and create a civil society. This refinement of mind acquires a natural taste for the noble, the chivalrous, and the ideal—what Newman calls “a fastidiousness, analogous to the delicacy or daintiness which good nurture or a sickly habit induces in respect of food.”71

This appreciation for high standards develops a discernment about the difference between proper and improper, civilized and barbaric, and excellent and mediocre—a sense of discrimination that forms “an absolute loathing of certain offences, or a detestation and scorn of them as ungentlemanlike.”72 Thus a liberal education fosters a moral sensibility that refuses to lower itself to crude manners, coarse language, or small-minded meanness. A refined mind possesses what Newman calls “a safeguard” or sense of shame that inhibits vulgarity or boorishness unworthy of a gentleman or lady—“an irresolution and indecision in doing wrong, which will act as a remora [delay] till the danger is passed away.”73 Hence, an authentic Catholic university will never host films, plays, or musical performances that give offense and stoop to bad taste, vulgarity, and obscenity in the name of academic freedom.

Another mark of Catholic education is a commitment to universal knowledge. John Paul alludes to a Catholic university’s “free search for the whole truth about nature, man, and God,”74 and Benedict XVI refers to the university’s obligation to communicate “the objective truth which, in transcending the particular and the subjective, points to the universal and absolute….”75 This thesis of course informs Newman’s The Idea of a University: “A university, I should lay down, by its very name professes to teach universal knowledge.”76 This type of liberal or classical education, then, values the great books of the past and immerses students in the classical-Christian tradition of Western civilization that illuminates the meaning of a “perennial philosophy” or knowledge of the “permanent things” such as the human condition, the unchanging nature of the human heart, the truth about love, or the ideals of manhood and femininity.

As students discover the permanence and continuity of universal knowledge by learning of the indebtedness of Plato to Socrates, Virgil to Homer, Dante to Virgil, Chaucer to Dante, or Dante to Aquinas, their study of the classics illuminates their minds with an understanding of the nature of wisdom—what is true for all people in all times and in all places. The restoration of Catholic higher education requires courses of study inspired by these great minds and masterpieces at the heart of the curriculum. As C.S. Lewis observed, not to have read the classics is like never having drunk wine, never having swum in the ocean, and never having been in love. The modern substitution of other studies for bona fide liberal arts courses in the humanities destroys the whole idea of universal knowledge as the essence of the university and creates the problem of “fragmentation” that Benedict XVI cites as a problem of the modern university.77

Because the genius of Catholicism consists of its balanced view of all of reality and the whole nature of man—its appreciation of both scientific knowledge and divine revelation, its respect for both reason and faith, its recognition of man as both body and soul, its confidence in both nature and grace—a Catholic university nourishes the mind, body, heart, and soul of its students, aspiring for the golden mean of a sound mind in a sound body, a charitable heart and a lively intelligence, social graces and a contemplative life. A Catholic university is not a place for technical training, an athletic camp, endless political activity or a monastic life. As Benedict XVI writes, “Truth speaks to the individual in his or her entirety, inviting us to respond with our whole being.”78 A Catholic university that speaks to persons in their entirety instills a love of leisure and the enjoyment of play as the essence of human happiness and as a reminder of man’s spiritual and religious nature—man’s need to rest on the Sabbath and worship God, to restore his strength and uplift his heart.

While a Catholic university forms virtues of mind, heart, and conscience that ennoble human work and elevate human society, it also instills an appreciation for the life after work—the capacity to enjoy all of life’s simple and aesthetic pleasures from the delight in friendship and hospitality to a love of music and art. This cultivation of the whole person—the senses, the imagination, the intellect—serves a person both at work and at play for a lifetime. In short, a Catholic university that addresses “the whole being” of man awakens a love of life in all of its abundance and richness. However, when modern universities disown their obligation of authority in loco parentis, create occasions of sin and temptation with coeducational dormitories, and ignore the physical health and spiritual well-being of students with ready availability of contraceptives, they do not show care for the whole person.

“See how they love one another,” the pagans said of the early Christians. The first followers of Christ possessed an unmistakable identity. They honored their marriage vows, they did not abandon their children to die on the mountains, and they practiced charity in the way they shared their possessions. “See how they live. See how they talk and treat one another. See how they play. See how they learn. See what they study. See how they think,” observers should say of the Catholic university as they see the light in the eyes, the joy and peace in the hearts, the kindness in the actions, the mirth in the games, the wonder in the minds, and the image of God in the souls of students and teachers doing their ordinary work in their part of the vineyard living in the world but not of the world.

It is important to be reminded that Christ taught us, “By their fruits you shall know them” (Mt 7:16). Certainly that applies to Catholic education. To be faithful to the Lord’s admonition, Catholic colleges must address the whole person—mind, body, heart, and soul—and illuminate the meaning of wisdom, purity, charity, and God’s mystery.

Bishop David L. Ricken, J.C.L., S.T.L., is Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He previously served as the Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and presided over the founding of Wyoming Catholic College.

 

Vatican II, Evangelization and Catholic Higher Education

Dr. John P. Hittinger

It is rare to find members of Catholic colleges and universities aware of the late Holy Father’s encouragement to them and his trust in them to take up the task of evangelization in Christifideles laici79 and Ex corde Ecclesiae.80

Indeed, the very word, evangelization, is jarring to the solemnity of institutional autonomy or academic freedom and questions the staid emulation of the secular academy now so deeply embedded in Catholic higher education. But there it is, the culminating point of Ex corde Ecclesiae, prominently displayed as if on a lamp stand: “By its very nature, each Catholic university makes an important contribution to the Church’s work of evangelization… all the basic academic activities of a Catholic university are connected with and in harmony with the evangelizing mission of the Church.”81 

What are we to make of this claim and this trust given to the universities? In the previous section, Pope John Paul II defines the notion of evangelization as follows:

The primary mission of the Church is to preach the Gospel in such a way that a relationship between faith and life is established in each individual and in the socio-cultural context in which individuals live and act and communicate with one another. Evangelization means “bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new… It is a question not only of preaching the Gospel in ever wider geographic areas or to ever greater numbers of people, but also of affecting and, as it were, upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, humanity’s criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation.”82 

This passage provides us with a proper orientation to the meaning of “evangelization.” As expected, it means “preaching the gospel,” the very idea that may cause the academy alarm that its mission is reduced to proselytism. But the gospel must be preached in a certain way, or with a certain end in view, namely that the dynamic relationship between faith and life is rightly and fruitfully established. We must recall that in the documents of Vatican II, a council celebrated for its absence of “anathema sit,” there is a condemnation of the split between faith and life, as the “serious error of our age.”83  The error consists in two extremes of either withdrawing into a religious sphere separated from the daily life of the world (“otherworldliness”), or alternatively, engaging in worldly affairs as if religion has no bearing on temporal matters (“secularism”). Faith must be available, through personal assimilation and cultural embodiment, to “transform” and “renew” humanity. The Catholic university is uniquely positioned and endowed to overcome this split. Through its formation and preparation of the young for entry into society, the Catholic university can assist men and women to fashion a unity of faith and life so that they bring the good news into “all strata of humanity.” And through the academic way of life, after the manner of a Socrates or Augustine, the Catholic university can challenge and upset “humanity’s criteria of judgment” and explore the integral human good. The central place for evangelization in the vision for Catholic higher education accorded by Pope John Paul II reflects his commitment to implement the message of Vatican II, as already begun by his predecessor, Pope Paul VI.

I would argue, therefore, that our failure to understand or to respond to this urgent plea for evangelization by Pope John Paul II is proportionate to the failure to understand or implement the message of the Second Vatican Council. For “evangelization” is the heart of the message of Vatican II, sometimes stated as such, or couched in the rubric of “missionary mandate” or “lay apostolate.”

Pope John Paul II never tired of voicing his gratitude for Vatican II. The Council, he said, was “the gift of the Spirit to the Church,”84  “the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century,”85  and “what the Spirit is saying to the Church with regard to the present phase of the history of salvation.”86  He made reference to his reliance upon its teaching and guidelines: it is “the authentic depository of the predictions and promises made by Christ to the apostles,”87  a “treasure… in the guidelines offered to us by the Second Vatican Council,”88  and a “sure compass by which to take our bearings.”89  He frequently spoke of our need as a Church to steep ourselves in its teachings.

In Christifideles laici, John Paul said “the lay faithful are invited to take up again and reread, meditate on and assimilate with renewed understanding and love, the rich and fruitful teaching of the Council.”90  In Novo Millennio Ineunte, John Paul challenged the Church “to examine herself on the reception given to the Council,” and repeated his plea that the Council documents, having “lost nothing of their value or brilliance,” need to be “read correctly, widely known, and taken to heart.”91  Indeed, Pope John Paul II concluded the apostolic letter repeating his now famous call to put out into the deep (“duc in altum”) because “a new millennium is opening before the Church like a vast ocean upon which we shall venture.”92 

The missionary mandate (Mt. 28:19) accompanies us on this journey. Christ is at work today and we may rely upon him for our venture of faith. So in Ex corde Ecclesiae he says that his hope is that “these prescriptions, based on the teaching of Vatican Council II will enable Catholic universities to fulfill their indispensable mission in the new advent of grace that is opening up to the new millennium.”93  He wrote Ex corde with an eye toward the Jubilee and the new millennium. To take part in the venture to which we are called as Catholic educators, we must have “discerning eyes” and a “generous heart.”94 

Presuming upon the generous hearts of my readers, I wish to make a small contribution to the discernment we need to see and begin to act for the paramount aim of Catholic higher education—evangelization. In this paper I wish to make a summary of the teachings of Vatican II in order to highlight the notion of lay apostolate and to see how this provides the essential purpose and ultimate outcomes, if you will, of Catholic higher education today. I will also indicate how the thought and writing of Pope John Paul II on Catholic higher education, including Ex corde, amplify and apply this teaching and purpose. I will conclude with some brief comments about what this means for Catholic higher education at the present moment.

Vatican II and evangelization

The mission, or gift of service [munus], of Catholic higher education, as evangelization, emerges through the notion of lay apostolate. We need to view this notion in the light of the dynamic relationship of the four major Documents of Vatican II—The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium)The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum concilium)The Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation (Dei verbum), and The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes). In addition, we must briefly consider some passages from The Decree On the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem)The Decree On the Mission Activity of the Church (Ad Gentes), and finally, The Declaration On Christian Education (Gravissimum Educationis). Arguably, the notion of lay apostolate, fully and properly understood, is the central focus of the entire Council. At the end of this paper, I provide a schematic of these seven documents exhibiting their relation to lay apostolate.

We must first of all consider the approach to the Church as “mystery” in Lumen Gentium.95  Not reducible to a sociological complex or a political interest group, the Church is a “communion of life, love, and truth,”96  “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of unity among all men.”97  The Church is a “complex reality” which comes together from “a human and a divine element,” much like the mystery of the incarnation of the Word.98  It is her mission to “reveal in the world, faithfully, however darkly, the mystery of her Lord.”99  Indeed, the church must fulfill the command of Christ to spread the faith to the very ends of the earth. The mandate to preach the gospel (Mt. 28:18-20), to evangelize, gives rise to a work that constitutes more than proclaiming the gospel: “through her work, whatever good is in the minds and hearts of men, whatever good lies latent in the religious practices and cultures of diverse peoples, is not only saved from destruction but is also cleansed, raised up and perfected unto the glory of God, the confusion of the devil and the happiness of man.”100  In other words, evangelization accomplishes renewal and transformation of culture. This requires entry into all “strata” of humanity and society.101  Here emerges the critical role for the laity.

The laity have a special role to play in the mission of the Church: “The laity are given this special vocation: to make the Church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that she can become the salt of the earth. Thus, every lay person, through those gifts given to him, is at once the witness and the living instrument of the mission of the Church itself ‘according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal.’”102  This vocation is called “lay apostolate,” and it is said to be “sharing in the salvific mission of the Church.”103  The laity are a witness and instrument primarily in the world, in secular activities, structures, and communities.104 

The laity share in the three-fold mission of Christ, as priest, prophet, and king. We can not do better than to quote Pope John Paul II’s own summary of Lumen Gentium:

The lay faithful are sharers in the priestly mission, for which Jesus offered himself on the cross and continues to be offered in the celebration of the Eucharist for the glory of God and the salvation of humanity. Incorporated in Jesus Christ, the baptized are united to him and to his sacrifice in the offering they make of themselves and their daily activities…. Through their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, “who proclaimed the kingdom of his Father by the testimony of his life and by the power of his world” (n.35), the lay faithful are given the ability and responsibility to accept the gospel in faith and to proclaim it in word and deed, without hesitating to courageously identify and denounce evil…. They are also called to allow the newness and the power of the gospel to shine out everyday in their family and social life, as well as to express patiently and courageously in the contradictions of the present age their hope of future glory even “through the framework of their secular life” (n.35)…. Because the lay faithful belong to Christ, Lord and King of the Universe, they share in his kingly mission and are called by him to spread that Kingdom in history. They exercise their kingship as Christians, above all in the spiritual combat in which they seek to overcome in themselves the kingdom of sin, and then to make a gift of themselves so as to serve… the lay faithful are called to restore to creation all its original value. In ordering creation to the authentic well-being of humanity in an activity governed by the life of grace, they share in the exercise of the power with which the Risen Christ draws all things to himself and subjects them along with himself to the Father, so that God might be everything to everyone.105 

The world, temporal society, is the place where the laity exercise their apostolate. So we must briefly examine the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes). Called to make common cause with men and women of goodwill, Christians need to understand the trends of the modern world in light of the gospel and the Catholic intellectual tradition. The document looks to the human aspiration for greater freedom and participation as a good thing, the awareness of human dignity and concern for rights is another positive aspect of the modern world, and finally the trend toward greater communication and exchange among all members of the world is a sign of a longing for brotherhood. But along with these signs of human development there are also signs which contradict them—the development of new forms of servitude, opportunities for debasement, and increased divisions and hatreds. In his first encyclical letter, Redemptor hominis,106  Pope John Paul II traces and elaborates on these themes from Gaudium et spes. A true Christian anthropology, a theocentric humanism, is the deep truth modern man needs to confront the challenges and fulfill his destiny. In light of the Christian anthropology, members of the Church will join in to explore ways to deal with five areas of special urgency: family and marriage, culture, economics, politics, and war and international cooperation. In light of the life and teaching of Christ, Christians can become involved in the common work of building a more just and humane world.

As explained in Ad Gentes, this activity takes on a missionary aspect and becomes a work of evangelization because the Christian acts as a leaven “even in the secular history of mankind.”107  Missionary activity is “an epiphany, or a manifesting of God’s decree, and its fulfillment in the world and in world history.”108  Missionary activity “wells up from the Church’s inner nature.”109  Pope John Paul II again amplifies this notion in his encyclical letter Redemptoris missio wherein he speaks of the “‘Areopagus’ in the modern world” as the new sectors which must be of special concern and attention of lay people today.110  The Church seeks to overcome the split between faith and culture.

The scope of this work and apostolate is vast. Pope John Paul II and Paul VI both refer to the Decree On the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem) which sets out key areas such as family, youth, professional life, politics, and international relations.111  A broader and more intense apostolate is necessary to meet the challenge of the present day, which again is stated in terms of an exaggerated autonomy of temporal affairs, or secularism which involve a “departure from the ethical and religious order” in the name of autonomy.112  In an important passage in Gaudium et spes, the Council fathers distinguish true and false autonomy of temporal affairs, seeking to avoid otherworldliness and secularism: “created things and societies themselves enjoy their own laws and values which must be gradually deciphered, put to use, and regulated by men.”113  The sciences and arts must be allowed to unfold according to their different methods. “But if the expression, the independence of temporal affairs, is taken to mean that created things do not depend on God, and that man can use them without any reference to their Creator, anyone who acknowledges God will see how false such a meaning is.”114 

Lay apostolate requires a wise combination of knowledge of the secular disciplines with a keen sense of the origin and end of all things in God, i.e., a theological context and perspective. But ultimately the lay person must achieve in their own person and work the unity of faith and life. The Church must be present to these groups and involved in the various activities and projects of the world today, or else modern man will be turned away from God by an excessive preoccupation with technology and mastery.115  The Council fathers say that the principal duty of men and women is “to bear witness to Christ, by their life and their words, in the family, in their social group, and in the sphere of their profession.”116  This is called “the apostolate of the laity.” As John Paul II says with very poignant words, the importance of this apostolate is made clear: “On a continent marked by competition and aggressiveness, unbridled consumerism and corruption, lay people are called to embody deeply evangelical values such as mercy, forgiveness, honesty, transparency of heart and patience in difficult situations. What is expected from the laity is a great creative effort in activities and works demonstrating a life in harmony with the Gospel.”117  The terms of the challenge are familiar—we must achieve unity of faith and life and bring the faith or the gospel to culture.

Contribution of Catholic higher education

How will such a vision be implemented and come to pass? Such a vision requires the special mission and resources of Catholic higher education. In Gaudium et spes the challenge to the laity is said to be the development of a “well-formed Christian conscience” so that they may “see that the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city.”118  The task requires as well the development of technical and professional competence. What is demanded of the lay person is a “vital synthesis” of “humane, domestic, professional, social and technical enterprises” with religious values, under whose “supreme direction all things are harmonized unto God’s glory.”119  In the spirit of Maritain’s notion of “integral humanism,” John Paul II concludes Christifideles laici with an articulation of “a total integrated formation for living an integrated life.”120  Of what does such an integral human education consist?

The first element and the foundation for this education must be “living by faith in the divine mystery of creation and redemption.”121  Obviously, the foundation for such formation and education is the knowledge of revelation through scripture and tradition, since “sacred tradition and sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church.”122  Sacred scripture must be part of the education for lay apostolate as it is said: “access to sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful.”123  Indeed, it is through the “word of the living God” that we are formed as a community.124  And we recall that “only meditation on the word of God” can we bring others to Christ and “make sound judgments on the true meaning and value of temporal realities.”125 

The second element in the education for lay apostolate would be the study of theology, ethics, and philosophy. Although called “solid doctrinal instruction,”126  such a study must be animated by the vital dialectic between faith and reason. Pope John Paul II sets out the vision for “an integral education” when he writes that “faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”127  He says further that faith and reason each contain the other128  and that one without the other is “impoverished and enfeebled.”129  Unpacking these ideas will provide very fruitful direction for the education of lay people for their apostolate. It is also useful to look back to the pioneers commended by John Paul II (Newman, Maritain, Gilson, and Stein) precisely in their efforts to connect the dynamic interplay of faith and reason with the formation of the laity for their special role within the Church. Certainly, Newman, Maritain, and Gilson were forerunners of Vatican II in their interests in the life of the laity in the Church and in their educational concerns for finding a proper balance between faith and reason.

The third element is said to be “general culture along with practical and technical formation.”130  Although this component may vary according to circumstances, clearly basic cultural literacy and ability to engage the culture and communicate in it are essential to lay apostolate. Science and technology are an important part of the modern world and the aspiration toward greater mastery. In addition, Pope John Paul II said that the modern age is especially an age of social communications, and that this is the first areopagus for evangelization. So too, practical and technical training depends in large measure on the profession chosen for achievement by the students.

Fourth, the lay apostle needs to have a knowledge of “social teaching especially, its principles and conclusions, as will fit them for contributing to the progress of that teaching, and for making correct application of these same principles and conclusions in individual cases.”131  Pope John Paul II, in speaking of the education for lay apostolate, states that lay people need “an exact knowledge of the Church’s social teaching.”132  The importance and role of the family needs to be the hallmark of this social teaching. But also, the political context for all social action must be understood. In Gaudium et spes, the Council fathers say that “there is no better way” to establish political life than by encouraging “an inward sense of justice of good will” and by consolidating basic convictions about the “true nature of the political community and the aim, proper exercise, and limits of political authority.”133  In other words, political philosophy is a very important part of the education for lay apostolate. Given the importance of dialogue and the trends toward greater international solidarity and cooperation, the lay apostle must be knowledgeable of diverse cultures, regions, and religions.

We have thus drawn from the documents of Vatican II, with the help of Pope John Paul II, the guidelines for Catholic education today, if we are to take seriously lay apostolate as the outcome or fundamental aim of Catholic education.

The unity of faith and life must be lived out in charity. In Apostolicam Actuositatem, the Council fathers said the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, “communicate and nourish that charity which is the soul of the entire apostolate.”134  This phrase no doubt alludes to the famous book, The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Chautard, in which he explains how apostolate must be the fruit and overflow of interior life, an interior life centered on the Eucharist: “Our Lord wanted to institute this Sacrament in order to make it the center of all action, of all loyal idealism, of every apostolate that could be of any real use to the Church.”135  Chautard said “the living memorial of the Passion revives the divine fire in the soul of the apostle when its seems on the point of going out.”136  He draws the necessary conclusion or law of apostolate if you will: “the efficacy of the apostolate almost invariably corresponds to the degree of Eucharistic life acquired by a soul.”137 

The apostolate of the laity requires “intimate union with Christ in the Church” chiefly by “active participation in the sacred liturgy.”138  It is interesting to go back and read the famous line from the document on liturgy: “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows. For the goal of apostolic endeavor is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of his Church, to take part in the Sacrifice and to eat the Lord’s Supper.”139  The source and summit of Christian life is directly linked to apostolate in the second sentence. So the source and summit of the life of the Church must frame for us an “apostolic goal,” that is, the Eucharist must send us forth to draw things to Christ and to renew the world in the Spirit. In receiving the sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord, must we not desire to serve him in love? We must be apostolic.

If we turn to section 8 of Ecclesia de Eucharistia we find a beautiful statement about the renewal and restoration of the world through the Eucharist:

Even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation. The Son of God became man in order to restore all creation, in one supreme act of praise, to the One who made it from nothing. He, the Eternal High Priest who by the blood of his Cross entered the eternal sanctuary, thus gives back to the Creator and Father all creation redeemed. He does so through the priestly ministry of the Church, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Truly this is the mysterium fidei which is accomplished in the Eucharist: the world which came forth from the hands of God the Creator now returns to him redeemed by Christ.140 

The “coming forth” and “return” is a variation of St Thomas Aquinas’ account of the structure of Summa, called in Latin the “exitus/reditus.” All things come forth from God, rational creatures return to God through reason and virtue, law and grace. The incarnation of Christ redeems man, body, and soul. The coming forth and return is reiterated in a key section of Gaudium et spes on the proper autonomy of secular affairs; the world is good and has a “proper autonomy” deriving from its creaturely status. False autonomy asserts that created things do not depend on God, and that man can use them without any reference to their Creator. The proper framework for apostolate is to understand the proper origin and end of creation in the Creator God. Without the creator, the creature is lost and becomes unintelligible.141 

The Eucharist therefore leads us to a deep affirmation of the goodness of God’s creation. Father Vann says that Thomas Aquinas is the Doctor of the Eucharist because he is “the expounder of this great affirmation: all things are good in themselves though evil has damaged and twisted them.”142  To restore what is damaged by sin; to straighten what is twisted and perverted by human willfulness—that is the effect of the Eucharist; that is the challenge to the lay faithful to bring to the altar God’s good creation, now wounded by sin, but redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ. This is lay apostolate.

A brief look at the document on Christian education (Gravissimum Educationis) would complete our effort to see the connection between the role of the Catholic university in evangelization and the thrust of Vatican II. The document opens with a reference to the Council’s care for the importance of education “in the life of man and how its influence ever grows in the social progress of this age.”143  The very conditions of the new era (i.e., growing awareness of human dignity, the movement for an active participation in economic and political life, new leisure, and new means of communication) make it both “easier” and more urgent to achieve this education. Attempts are made “everywhere” to promote “more education.” To fulfill its mandate for evangelization the Church has a role in the “progress and development of education.”144  The true end of education is the formation of the human person “in the pursuit of his ultimate end and the good of the societies of which, as man, he is a member, and in whose obligations, as an adult, he will share.”145  Young people must be helped to “acquire a mature sense of responsibility.”146  Such education should not only achieve the mature sense of their own responsibility but also cultivate awareness of the gift of faith and the opportunity to witness to the hope within them.147  The Church is responsible for announcing the good news to all men and is bound “to provide an education by which the whole life of man is imbued by the spirit of Christ and to promote the temporal good.”148  Catholic education should orient “the whole of human culture to the message of salvation” so that knowledge is illumined by faith.149  Such an education prepares students to work for the welfare of the world and to live “an exemplary apostolic life” and be a leaven in society.150 

Specifically, through the Catholic university the Church ensures a “public, enduring and pervasive influence of the Christian mind in the furtherance of culture.”151  Its students will be formed to be outstanding in their training and “ready to undertake weighty responsibilities in society and witness to the faith in the world.”152  Such a project must achieve the integration of faith and reason. The university respects the autonomy of the disciplines153  and strives to be true to the principles and methods of each discipline. And yet at a Catholic university there is an aspiration that “there may be a deeper realization of the harmony of faith and science.”154 

The Council recommends the tradition of the doctors of the Church on faith and reason, especially the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. John Paul II similarly commends Thomas Aquinas in his encyclical on Fides et ratio: “Saint Thomas is an authentic model for all who seek the truth. In his thinking, the demands of reason and the power of faith found the most elevated synthesis ever attained by human thought, for he could defend the radical newness introduced by Revelation without ever demeaning the venture proper to reason.”155  He also makes reference to Pope Paul VI, quoting an important passage from his allocution:

Without doubt, Thomas possessed supremely the courage of the truth, a freedom of spirit in confronting new problems, the intellectual honesty of those who allow Christianity to be contaminated neither by secular philosophy nor by a prejudiced rejection of it. He passed therefore into the history of Christian thought as a pioneer of the new path of philosophy and universal culture. The key point and almost the kernel of the solution which, with all the brilliance of his prophetic intuition, he gave to the new encounter of faith and reason was a reconciliation between the secularity of the world and the radicality of the Gospel, thus avoiding the unnatural tendency to negate the world and its values while at the same time keeping faith with the supreme and inexorable demands of the supernatural order.156 

I think we can see here a fitting conclusion to our study of Vatican II and lay apostolate and Catholic higher education. Vatican II, as we have seen, balances a respect for the world and its structures with the supernatural perspective of faith. It is precisely the radicality or newness of the gospel, made available through baptism, which gives the laity their participation in the office of Christ as priest, prophet, and king. The “secularity” of the lay member of the church is the distinctive attribute noted by the Council. But such secularity must be matched by, formed by, the radicality or newness of the gospel. Catholic higher education can avoid those extremes of the negation of the world and the marginalization of faith through paying attention to the mission of evangelization and the outcome of producing men and women who can be lay apostles.

Catholic higher education at the present moment

Catholic universities must set forth their vision for an integral education for lay apostolate and fulfill the trust given to them by Pope John Paul II for evangelization. We have instead accepted and exacerbated the split or divergence between faith and life, faith and reason, and faith and culture. A few lessons we may learn from the documents of Vatican II as a context for reading Ex corde Ecclesiae concern three points: (1) communio and the unity of faith and life, (2) curriculum and the unity of faith and reason, and (3) integration and the unity of faith and culture.

Communio and the unity of faith and life: The university must be first of all a true community rooted in faith, “ecclesial faith” as Pope Benedict would put it to American educators.157  The importance of hiring to mission is not only a matter of the statistical count of Catholics on the faculty or students recruited. There must be a faithful community gathered around the Eucharist. Out of this faithful communion springs the community of “joy in truth” that marks the university. The community itself is the first “sign” of God’s presence in the world.158  Around the sacrifice of the Mass and the word of God the community finds its bearings. At the very outset of the encyclical Fides et ratio, Pope John Paul II says that the young have no point of reference for their lives because the teachers have given up: “this time of rapid and complex change can leave especially the younger generation, to whom the future belongs and on whom it depends, with a sense that they have no valid points of reference. The need for a foundation for personal and communal life becomes all the more pressing at a time when we are faced with the patent inadequacy of perspectives in which the ephemeral is affirmed as a value and the possibility of discovering the real meaning of life is cast into doubt.159  We owe to the students to provide the points of reference embedded in our heritage and way of life. The professors are the first models and witnesses of the unity of faith and life. Their position at the university is an apostolic venture.

Curriculum and the unity of faith and reason: The dynamic interplay of faith and reason must characterize the curriculum of a Catholic university. This means that philosophy and theology provide the fundamental structure and animating content of the education. Authentic Catholic theology must be offered with no fear of watering it down. In addition, the curriculum requires a philosophy “consonant with the word of God” to complement the study of theology.160  As we noted above, St Thomas Aquinas should be the model for the dynamic formation curriculum. The unity of faith and reason is a model or template for the achievement of western culture as such, and some access to this achievement and its principles are important for Catholic higher education today.161  The plea for integration of knowledge and the encouragement of interdisciplinary studies should be viewed in the light of the formation for lay apostolate and the fragmentation of culture. A concern is expressed in Gaudium et spes about the influence of scientism, materialism, pragmatism and the deformation of education; they express the aspiration for a humanistic education achieved in “synthesis” of wisdom, the whole truth, a synthesis based upon the “whole human person,” a blending of sciences and morality and doctrine.162  All of this serves the renewal of life and culture of fallen man. Catholic education “strengthens, purifies, and restores” culture in Christ.163 

Integration and the unity of faith and culture: The integration requires a capstone course of some kind to facilitate that “synthesis” of professional knowledge with the theological principle. The faculty must be the chief models for this. Faculty development is required so that all faculty may place their discipline within a Christian worldview, as called for Ex corde Ecclesiae: “University teachers should seek to improve their competence and endeavor to set the content, objectives, methods, and results of research in an individual discipline within the framework of a coherent world vision. Christians among the teachers are called to be witnesses and educators of authentic Christian life, which evidences an attained integration between faith and life, and between professional competence and Christian wisdom. All teachers are to be inspired by academic ideals and by the principles of an authentically human life.”164  Clearly, the faculty at a Catholic university are the means of its success. As the decree on Christian education states: “Teachers must remember that it depends chiefly upon them whether the Catholic school achieves its purpose.”165 A recent sociological study of Catholic higher education underscores the pressing need for faculty development if universities are to maintain a sense of mission.166 The notion of lay apostolate and evangelization based upon the documents of Vatican II should be the foundation of any program for development.

The challenge by Pope John Paul II for Catholic universities to participate in the evangelization of culture could provide an opportunity for them to discover their true energy and splendor. For the Catholic colleges and universities that now struggle for maintaining their existence, the integrity of the evangelizing mission provides a framework for establishing priorities for re-structuring and re-allocation. For those colleges and universities that continue to see an increase in student enrollment and donations, the challenge continues to be that of fidelity to the Church and to see that the notion that unity of life and faith, or the internal coherence of Christian witness, is the primary value at stake in the educational arena, and not worldly success.

Taking a Catholic View on Academic Freedom

Rev. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J.

So much about an answer depends on the way one poses the question. In the old story about the two monks who liked to smoke, for instance, it is easy to see why the one who asked if he could pray while smoking received permission, but the one who asked if he could smoke while praying had his request denied.

There is all the difference in the world between asking whether academic freedom is an indispensable condition for intellectual inquiry or is itself the goal. It is surely a crucial condition for real intellectual progress, for we do not know all the answers to our questions. Even figuring out how best to formulate the questions can be a difficult task. The promotion of such freedom is a necessary feature of university life. This is as true of a Catholic institution as of any other. But to think of academic freedom as somehow more than a necessary condition for intellectual progress is to mistake the means for the end. Academic freedom cannot be rightly understood as a permission to advocate for policies that are intrinsically immoral or as an artistic license for the exhibition of what is obscene, for these are not part of the goal. Academic freedom, properly understood, is a sphere for genuine scholarly debate about the truth of things.

Robust and lax views of academic freedom

The effort to take a Catholic view on academic freedom is not to postulate that there is some distinct species of the genus (“Catholic academic freedom”). Quite the contrary—my suggestion is that a Catholic view on academic freedom provides a model of what academic freedom rightly understood ought to look like anywhere. We should not presume that what passes for academic freedom in the secular sphere is the true model, and that the Catholic view is some quaint, parochial version that unfairly permits special reservations or exclusions. A better understanding of academic freedom makes it possible to see how lax versions of it can obscure a proper understanding of the relation between truth and freedom.

In the academy today there is a tendency to envision academic freedom as utterly unrestricted and to criticize any position that might order freedom to the service of any other interest. But such a highly abstract view of academic freedom risks treating what is important as a condition for scholarly inquiry as if it were independent of higher goals such as academic instruction of students, or docility to inconvenient truths, or service to a particular community that a religiously affiliated university was founded to provide. Freedom in the academy, as anywhere else, ought to be understood in service of something higher. To put it very simply, freedom is not just a matter of freedom from but of freedom for.

The idea of a university

What is essential to the very idea of a university is an interlocking triad of functions: scientific and scholarly research, academic teaching, and a creative cultural life intended to be bear fruit for the larger society and for the body that sponsors the institution. The kind of intellectual formation that students may rightly expect to find at the university level will be more likely to occur when their instructors are personally engaged in research, so that what teachers impart is a personal sense of the quest and not just a set of pre-packaged results. The demands of teaching help keep researchers alert to the meaning of the indefatigable work their disciplines require. By teaching they are regularly challenged to relate their discoveries and frustrations to the whole of knowledge, for their students are studying other things and want to understand connections between the subjects under study, even if full achievement of the unity of all knowledge may remain out of reach.

What the faculty should hope to develop in university students is a love of the quest for truth as well as the skills and disciplines needed to join in that quest. The goal of university education is the development not only of the mind but of the whole person. There ought to be concern to make new discoveries, to impart what is knowable in a given discipline, and to contribute to the development of maturity in body and mind, heart and spirit. To treat academic freedom as if it were some privileged sphere for the expression of personal beliefs in a way that is unrelated to other—and sometimes higher—ends is to sacrifice certain essential concerns of the university to a mere abstraction.

As an institution within a culture, the university receives benefits that it could not obtain on its own. In turn it owes significant debts to that culture. The service that a university needs to render includes education of a new generation in useful disciplines and moral formation of persons with a sense of the common good, the discovery of approaches and solutions to genuine problems, and the transmission of wisdom, knowledge, and traditions important to the community. Seeing academic freedom in the context of these important relationships makes for a better sense of its true nature. From this expectation of mutual benefits come both the reason for the sacrifices needed to sustain universities and the need for those who are granted the freedom of a university to benefit the community precisely by contributing to all the missions of a university.

The relation of truth and freedom

One might well argue that the relationship of the university to the society is “dialectical,” like the very relationship between truth and freedom. Freedom is a condition for the possibility of truth, and truth is the goal of freedom. To assert that a relation is dialectical is to say that the terms stand in a kind of complementary relation to one another—here it is a relation between an enabling condition and the proper use of that condition. Grasping this dialectical relationship allows us to distinguish authentic forms of freedom from inauthentic forms. However much of a little world of its own the university tends to be, the university is not its own end, but an indispensable means for the progress of research and the transmission of knowledge and wisdom. Understood in light of the specific goals of any institution of higher learning, the freedom typical of university life can be seen to take authentic and inauthentic forms.

Negatively, academic freedom involves an absence of external compulsion. Granted the need to respect such practical concerns as the financial, universities need to resist utilitarian and ideological pressures, such as a quest to give intellectual respectability to positions that are not respectable or to provide sophisticated propaganda for partisan projects. Positively, academic freedom has to be a “freedom for truth,” that is, a condition suitable for enabling scientific and scholarly progress and for subjecting reasons and arguments to the most compelling scrutiny we can devise.

In more practical terms, a university marked by a true sense of academic freedom ought to be hostile to political correctness in any form. There should be a willingness to engage frankly and deeply even the positions with which a sponsoring institution most profoundly disagrees. Coming to an authentic understanding of the best reasons in the arsenal of one’s opponent is, after all, a hallmark of intellectual respectability and a better route for making sure of the validity of one’s own position than precluding the discussion of those points. On this point, Catholics have the testimony of none other than Pope Benedict XVI in his address of April 2008, when he urged that the idea of Catholic higher education is not only compatible with academic freedom in the genuine sense of the term but that ensuring appropriate instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice is crucial to advancing academic freedom and to honoring the institution’s mission:

In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges and universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet… any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission…. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual…. Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom.167

In his address Pope Benedict reinforces the notion that Catholic-sponsored institutions would fail in their duty if they did not provide adequate instruction in the religious tradition that supports the school.168 While an overly abstract understanding of academic freedom is only likely to bring confusion, academic freedom in its proper sense gives precisely the venue needed for the search for truth, wherever the evidence may lead.

Personal commitments and the university’s mission

In practice, I believe that there needs to be toleration for those who do not share a sponsoring institution’s outlook, but on the understanding that the specific mission goals of such a university may never be sidelined; rather, it must be given accurate presentation in any academic forum.169 This position does mean that we ought to resist the demand that every possible outlook be represented at a university; unless a given point of view produces scholars of the first rank, it has no claim to the status expected of a university faculty. Some will urge that it is not permissible to investigate a prospective member of the university’s beliefs, but only the person’s professional attainment and intellectual standing. But this also seems excessively abstract. In the effort to enhance the quest for intellectual progress and the teaching mission of a university, there has to be concern not just with the learning typical of a recognized discipline but also with the sort of truths that are associated with a person’s philosophy, that is, the insights that are not accessible by the relatively impersonal sort of thinking that is typical of training in a discipline but also those that require personal commitment. These are important concerns about the meaning of human existence, about the natural law that is beyond all jurisprudence, and about the reality of God, however ineffable and mysterious, and they will enter into the life of those who live and work at a university.

University faculty like to think of themselves as independent-minded. In many respects they are, for their training has generated habits of disciplined analysis. But in addition to learning in any area there is often a curious blindness to how little one knows outside the area of one’s discipline. The penchant of any professor to be a know-it-all can easily lead to the temptation to use one’s post as a bully pulpit for what is no more than an opinion. In our own day, the liberal biases of many graduate and professional schools can dull the awareness that this temptation specially afflicts the chattering classes.

The responsibility to use freedom for pursuing and presenting the truth

In this regard there is an immediate and direct implication of the relation between freedom and responsibility. Members of a university faculty should truly have the freedom to pursue truth according to the methods germane to their disciplines and should be free from interference by those outside the discipline. But it is also important to remember that in their use of this freedom they ought to remain true to the methods of their discipline that qualify them for the privilege of this freedom and that presenting themselves as authorities beyond the areas of their expertise risks misusing that freedom.170

Of special interest to Catholic universities, of course, is the academic freedom of theologians and the proper use of this privilege.171 In this sphere there is need to bear in mind not only the standard considerations about methodology proper to any discipline, but also the specific grounding in the truth of divine revelation and the teachings of the Church for the areas of knowledge that are particularly the concern of theology. The teaching of Catholic theology in a Church-sponsored institution requires an acceptance of the truth of revelation and the teachings of the Church.

In addition to the moral responsibility that individual faculty members must shoulder in this area, there is also a responsibility on the administration of a Catholic university.172 Such a university must have a staunch commitment both to protect the proper freedom of theologians for their research and to insist that the members of the theology faculty present the teachings of the Church faithfully. The obligation here involves ensuring that the university honor its commitments to its sponsoring tradition and safeguarding the principle that one not exceed the areas of one’s professional expertise in teaching, particularly in areas of special sensitivity.

Consider, for example, the problems that can arise in courses on moral theology and ethics, an area where there can be strong personal convictions by faculty members but also an area where the Church has clear teachings. These courses might be courses in general ethics or one of the various specializations (medical ethics, business ethics, professional ethics, etc.). The need to have faculty members teaching within the area of their expertise will require that the university provide teachers suitably trained in Catholic moral theology and disposed to teach such courses in ethics in a way that is consistent with the university’s Catholic identity by being faithful to Catholic doctrine.

Faculty members who are not Catholic theologians or not willing to do this should identify themselves in such a way that will prevent confusion about this matter. Likewise, the obligation not to teach beyond one’s area of expertise should preclude faculty members in other departments who are not trained in ethics or moral theology from teaching or promoting varieties of ethics that are inconsistent with the university’s Catholic identity. To say this is in no way to put into doubt that such individuals may well have personal convictions on matters of ethics; in fact, it would be highly appropriate and advisable to organize suitable forums for the discussion of these matters in interdisciplinary circles. But it is not appropriate to have individuals who have never formally studied ethics offering courses identified as courses in ethics or moral values within the course offerings of their various disciplines. For instructors who have not themselves formally studied ethics or moral theology to be offering such courses would be cases of teaching outside the area of their professional expertise and thus to go beyond the privileges accorded to academic freedom properly understood.

Privilege, obligation, and right

When discussing academic freedom, we would do well to speak in terms of “privilege and “obligation.” Academic freedom is a privilege, not a right. The language of right should probably be reserved to “the pursuit of truth.” Individuals are privileged to come to a university for the purpose of seeking truth, both to participate in its discovery and to play a role in its dissemination. But the human right to pursue truth unconditionally and for its own sake is what governs the privilege and grounds the obligation of those exercising this right to make proper use of it. Getting this relationship right requires keeping sharp one’s intellectual conscience and exerting conscious and honest control over one’s creative impulses, especially by staying alert to the consequences, immediate and far-reaching, for one’s ideas.

There can be failures to observe these proprieties. One might consider, for instance, the sad history of the German universities in the period leading up to the Second World War.173 Despite the courageous resistance of some of its members, a university can collapse under the attack of a dictator. We need to acknowledge a special responsibility for such a collapse that lies at the feet of those university professors who care too little about the interaction between academic life and its social and political environment. The rationalizations and justifications used for the programs of forcible sterilization and the murder of the mentally ill seem to be recurring in our debates on abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and euthanasia. The price of freedom is always vigilance and a readiness for sacrifice: in no walk of life may one take one’s post for granted and allow oneself not to see what one prefers not to see.

The dialectical tension between truth and freedom is one that academics sometimes do not like to hear about. Although a non-negotiable aspect of the life of a university, academic freedom is not an independent absolute but an absolute that stands in a dialectical relation to truth. Karl Jaspers put the point clearly when writing of those German universities:

Academic freedom can survive only if the scholars invoking it remain aware of its meaning. It does not mean the right to say what one pleases. Truth is much too difficult and great a task that it should be mistaken for the passionate exchange of half-truths spoken in the heat of the moment. It exists only where scholarly ends and a commitment to truth are involved. Practical objectives, educational bias, or political propaganda have no right to invoke academic freedom.174

Academic freedom does not refer to the political concept of freedom of speech, let alone to the liberty of pure license in thought, but to the liberty that is the condition for the possibility of truth. In turn, the truth toward which academic work is ordered as its goal justifies the freedom provided at a university and protected by our understanding of a university’s privileges. Academic freedom exempts a faculty member from certain kinds of external constraints so as to enable that person better to honor the obligations of a scholar to intellectual thoroughness, method, and system.

The correlative safeguards for the proper use of that freedom will presumably have to be moral rather than legal. This is often the case with other kinds of authority, for the highest administrators of legal justice are near the summit of law and generally have no higher authority watching over them. We depend upon justice being in the heart of the judge as much as upon the checks and balances of power that are so crucial to our system of government, and yet are ever subject to corruption. The frustrations of academic life (e.g., when one simply has no success in the lab, at the clinic, or in one’s research) point out clearly enough that freedom may be the condition for truth, but it is not a guarantee that one will automatically achieve truth merely by hard work or persistence.

In my judgment, the dialectical relation between truth and freedom constitutes a central aspect of academic freedom. That all of a university’s branches of learning work with hypotheses of only relative validity and do not describe the whole of reality itself but only particular aspects in no way alters or denies the goal of truth that belongs to the idea of the university. There remains a need for the guidance in our endeavors that the idea of the unity of knowledge provides. Only the goal of truth pursued in responsible freedom, guided by a sense of the oneness of reality, can sustain our search to know all the particulars as a way of getting at that basic oneness and wholeness. The result of a commitment to this idea will be not just the protection of academic freedom but the maturation of an increasingly authentic idea of freedom in the individual and the community of the university.

Rev. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J., Ph.D., S.T.L. is an associate professor of philosophy at Fordham University in New York and editor-in-chief of International Philosophical Quarterly. He also serves as president of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

 

Communion and the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian in Catholic Higher Education175

Very Rev. J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P.

It should be admitted at the outset that the cozy juxtaposition of terms in my title, as much as they might reflect an ideal state of relations, do not fully correspond to the reality of the situation in which we find ourselves today in the United States of America.

For one thing, that the vocation of theologians is a properly ecclesial one has been and continues to be doubted, disputed, or denied. Even if it is conceded that the theological profession entails a calling of some kind, it is supposed that this would be primarily an academic or intellectual vocation, involving overriding allegiances, not to a church or denomination, but to one’s scholarly guild and the larger academic community. The code of free inquiry upheld by these communities is thought to exclude in principle the intrusion of non-scholarly considerations (such as creedal or dogmatic ones) and even more so the interference of representatives of non-academic communities (such as bishops or the Holy See) in the pursuit of the theologian’s specific intellectual vocation. In this perspective, if the possibility of an ecclesial vocation were to be granted at all, then it would presumably have to be defined and expressed in ways that did not contradict the supervening obligations of a strictly academic or intellectual vocation.

Furthermore, that the theologian has a place in higher education is a proposition that has not been self-evident at any time in the past hundred years, and that remains in doubt among Catholic and non-Catholic educators alike. The issue here concerns not theologians qua theologians but the field of theology itself. It may come as something of a surprise—especially to Catholics thinking of the historic importance of theological faculties in the great universities of western Europe—that theology found its place in American higher education only relatively late, with difficulty, and at a moment coinciding with the ascendancy of religious studies. With or without an ecclesial vocation, the theologian’s place in Catholic higher education at the present can hardly be said to be a secure one.

Finally, that institutions of higher learning could maintain recognizable—not to say institutional—bonds to the Catholic Church and still be true to their mission as modern research institutions has been and continues to be questioned by many, both within the Catholic Church and beyond it. Behind this doubt stretches a long history of which the period since the publication of Ex corde Ecclesiae is but the most recent phase. The view that church affiliation and academic integrity might be incompatible with one another has led many Catholic and Protestant institutions of higher learning over the past century to weaken or dissolve the affiliations that bound them to their founding ecclesial communities. The pressure to pursue this course has perhaps been felt more acutely by Catholic higher education because the polity of the Catholic Church, in contrast to that of most other churches and ecclesial communities, is perceived to allow for a more direct involvement in the life of the Catholic campus. In the years since Ex corde Ecclesiae, it has perhaps become clearer that the issue here is not just the maintenance of a Catholic identity but also participation in Catholic communion. Disagreements about how to track the relationships between the Catholic college or university and the Catholic Church influence perceptions of the theologian’s vocation, as well as judgments about his or her place in Catholic higher education.

It is clear then that, far from announcing the exposition of truths concerning which there is an undisturbed consensus in Catholic higher education in the United States, my title in effect introduces a set of disputed questions about which there are widespread and persistent doubts even within Catholic circles. In the form of powerful cultural assumptions, these doubts have influenced the actual shape of Catholic higher education in this country.

Catholic higher education and the ecclesiology of communion

The Church’s teaching authorities, while cognizant of these doubts, cannot be said to share them.

Consider higher education first. The Second Vatican Council reaffirmed the traditional Catholic view of the possibility and character of Church sponsorship of colleges and universities.176 Following upon and implementing the conciliar teaching were two companion documents: Sapientia Christiana,177 concerning the governance of ecclesiastically accredited institutions, and Ex corde Ecclesiae,178 concerning all other Catholic institutions of higher learning. These apostolic constitutions laid out the different ways that ecclesial communion is embodied by Catholic institutions of these diverse types. The publication of Sapientia Christiana initiated a period during which American ecclesiastical faculties brought their own statutes into line with the new legislation, while in 2000 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ application of Ex corde Ecclesiae received official recognition by the Holy See.179 What is more, within postconciliar teaching, theology and education have been regularly addressed by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in their many discourses and encyclicals.

The call to holiness and communion is central to understanding the confidence—one could as well say the absence of doubts—with which the Church advances her vision of Catholic higher education and the place of theology within it. The ecclesiology of communion is of fundamental importance in sustaining this confidence and in articulating this vision.

The gift of truth that we have received from Christ is this: to know that no one has ever wanted anything more than God wants to share the communion of His life with us. What Christ taught us and what we proclaim to the world is that the triune God invites all human persons to participate in the communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and with one another in them. Holiness is nothing less than the transformed capacity to enjoy this communion, and ecclesial communion is at root nothing less than trinitarian communion.

This basic truth of Catholic faith unfolds in an ensemble of other truths about creation, incarnation, redemption and sanctification. The central truths of the Christian faith find their deepest meaning in the reality of trinitarian communion. Everything created exists so that the Blessed Trinity could realize this plan of love. Through the incarnation and the paschal mystery, Christ enables creaturely persons to enter into the life of the uncreated Persons. In the Church, the Holy Spirit unites all those transformed in Christ and draws them into the communion of trinitarian love. Ecclesial communion is nothing less than the beginning of our participation in the life of the Blessed Trinity.

Pope John Paul II repeatedly described this communion as a “participated theonomy” which draws us into the communion of trinitarian love in such a way that our full humanity is fulfilled and at the same time transcended. This theme, frequently reiterated in the Holy Father’s great encyclicals, is fundamental for developing a properly Catholic understanding of the place of education and scholarship in human personal, social, and cultural life. In Christian faith, the human reality is not suppressed but is fully realized. To embrace the First Truth and the Absolute Good who is God is not to accept constraints on human reason and desire, but to free them for their divinely willed destiny.

The Church’s teaching and legislation regarding Catholic higher education are unintelligible apart from the ecclesiology of communion.

Autonomy and institutional bonds of Catholic higher education

It is clear that a wide range of teaching activities is required if the Church is to be able to communicate the gift of truth she has received from Christ.180 The institutional expression of these teaching activities has taken many different forms throughout Christian history. In the field of higher education the evidence for continuing and vigorous Catholic presence is indisputable. Far from experiencing any doubts about this possibility, the Church assumes as her rightful role the establishment of colleges and universities, and the maintenance of appropriate relations with them.

From a theological perspective, the genius of Catholic jurisprudence in this area arises from its underlying Christian humanism. As personal and social beings, the Christian faithful possess an inherent dignity and autonomy which must be respected if ecclesial communion is to be realized. The reality of communion presupposes the reality of persons in communion and, in an ordered community like the Catholic Church, the reality of institutions in communion. It would be self-contradictory to invoke the ecclesiology of communion as grounds for infringing upon the autonomy rightly enjoyed by persons and institutions, and thus juridically protected, in the Catholic Church. The very notion of being in communion presupposes the integrity and autonomy, if also the interdependence, of the participants in ecclesial communion. The concrete expression of a series of relationships by its very nature affirms the proper autonomy and distinctive competencies of the persons and institutions enjoying ecclesial communion.

Although the grace of ecclesial communion is in the deepest sense an invisible reality, it is not an abstraction. Catholic tradition insists that it must take visible form in concrete communities and in their social and institutional structures. In the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, the Church has invited Catholic colleges and universities to internalize the renewed ecclesiology of communion in the structures of their institutions, and in different ways depending on whether they are ecclesiastically accredited or not.

The historical record in the United States supports the conclusion that, given the political and cultural pressures favoring increasing secularization over the past hundred years and into the foreseeable future, the Catholic identity of currently Catholic institutions of higher learning is not likely to be sustainable without concrete juridical bonds between these institutions and the Church. Naturally, in developing its teaching and legislation in this area, the Holy See does not have only the situation in the United States in view. But the practical implications of an ecclesiology of communion, formulated with the whole Catholic Church in view, nonetheless have particular urgency in a situation where “the disengagement of colleges and universities from their Christian churches” has become endemic.181 In his indispensable book on this topic, The Dying of the Light, Father James Burtchaell documented with considerable detail the informal arrangements by which hundreds of sincere and well-meaning faculty, administrators and church leaders of countless once church-related colleges and universities believed that they would be able to ensure the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, and other denominational identities of their institutions.182 Without the adoption of juridical provisions, and relying solely on the good will and sense of commitment of Catholic educators and bishops—as was strongly suggested by some—few of the currently Catholic institutions of higher learning in the U.S. are likely to remain distinctively and recognizably Catholic. Even with the adoption of something like clearly stated juridical provisions of the USCCB Application, it may be that the secularizing trends will turn out to have been irreversible in some of the two hundred or more Catholic institutions of higher learning in the U.S.

Recent studies, including those by Father Burtchaell, Philip Gleason, John McGreevy, Philip Hamburger, and others, have made it possible to identify with greater precision the cultural and political forces operative in the relatively swift transformation that has occurred in Catholic higher education in the U.S. since the 1960s.183 Significant anti-Catholic cultural assumptions, which in part contributed to shaping public policy towards education, gave prevalence to the notion that church affiliation, most especially in the Catholic ambit, inevitably compromised the academic excellence, research capacity, and institutional autonomy of institutions enmeshed in such relationships. In addition, it was widely held that, because of their submissiveness to church authority, Catholics could never fully internalize the valued American traits of individual autonomy and freedom of thought and expression that would make for good citizens of the republic. In so far as they were not actively anti-religious, these forces favored the development of a broadly enlightened form of religiosity, free of ties to particular churches or denominations, and of the dogmatic and institutional commitments entailed by these ties. The impact of these cultural and political forces was aggravated after the Second Vatican Council, not only by the collapse of a distinctively Catholic culture, but also by the uncritical embrace of the secular culture (mistakenly thought to be warranted by the council’s constitution, Gaudium et spes).184 Catholic educators (and others) failed to recognize that the ambient culture, whose values they sought to embody institutionally, was not religiously neutral but often encoded with actively de-Christianizing assumptions.

The call to holiness and communion, reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and vigorously reasserted in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, offers an opportunity for Catholic Church-related institutions of higher education in the U.S. to recover their distinctively Catholic identity and embody it in clearly expressed communal bonds with the Church. With a tradition of academic excellence and freedom of inquiry stretching back to the medieval universities, Catholic higher education should courageously address the range of anti-Catholic and, increasingly, anti-Christian prejudices that seek to exclude Catholics and other Christians from participation in public life and from influence on public policy. According to the Second Vatican Council, Catholic universities aim to ensure that the Christian outlook should acquire “a public, stable, and universal influence in the whole process of the promotion of higher culture.”185 As was true in the past, Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. have an important contribution to make to the Christianization of American culture. George Lindbeck, the distinguished Lutheran theologian and astute observer of the Catholic scene, has written: “The waning of cultural Christianity may not be a good thing for societies. Traditionally Christian lands, when stripped of their historic faith, become unworkable and demonic…. Christianization of culture can be in some situations the church’s major contribution to feeding the poor, clothing the hungry and liberating the imprisoned.”186 Catholic institutions of higher learning can play a central role in helping the Church, as well as other Christian communities, to monitor the impact of mass culture on the communication of the faith and the expression of Catholic and Christian life in western postmodern societies.

The place of theology in Catholic higher education

In addition to articulating a comprehensive vision of Catholic higher education, both conciliar and post-conciliar teaching consistently assigned a central role to theology and its cognate disciplines in Catholic higher education. Following upon Gravissimum Educationis of the Second Vatican Council, the twin post-conciliar apostolic constitutions on higher education each assume that theology will find a place in the Catholic colleges and universities. As might be expected in a document that contains norms for ecclesiastical faculties and seminaries, Sapientia Christiana provides a complete picture of the curriculum of theology and its associated disciplines. But Ex corde Ecclesiae is no less explicit on the matter, even if it concedes that in certain situations nothing more than a chair of theology will be possible.187 Both documents affirm that the primary focus of theology is to investigate and explain the doctrines of the Catholic faith as drawn from revelation. It is assumed that this study will be pursued in a spirit of true freedom of inquiry, employing appropriate methods, and acknowledging the derived character of the knowledge sought and thus its dependence on divine revelation. Significantly, both documents ascribe important integrating functions to theology within the overall programs of Catholic colleges and universities, a traditional emphasis in the rationales for theology in almost all church-related higher education.

Studying these documents within the framework of Catholic history in western Europe, one might well expect the legitimacy of theology’s place in the curriculum of higher education to be self-evident. Indeed, as Cardinal Avery Dulles has noted, it is unrealistic not to include theology in the university curriculum since “the Church and the Catholic people legitimately expect that some universities will provide an intellectual environment in which the meaning and implications of the faith can be studied in relation to the whole realm of human knowledge.”188

Nonetheless, for a variety of reasons, which are lately being subjected to more systematic study, the study of religion and theology did not enjoy an unchallenged place in the evolution of church-related, and indeed public, higher education in the U.S. Two brilliant books—D. G. Hart’s on the history of Protestant rationales for the study of theology and religion and Philip Gleason’s on the history of Catholic higher education in the twentieth century—give the topic the attention it deserves and at the same time provide fascinating reading for anyone interested in understanding the current situation of the study and teaching of religion and theology in American higher education.189

Hart and Gleason show that in the United States throughout much of the nineteenth century, both Catholic and Protestant educators tended to view theology as a discipline that belonged in the seminary, not in the college or university. In church-affiliated Catholic and Protestant colleges, religious instruction was more likely to be seen as catechetical and moral formation than as properly theological inquiry. Later, with the emergence of the modern research university, Protestant educators struggled to legitimate teaching and research in the Christian religion while at the same time downplaying the particular denominational entailments such teaching and research might otherwise involve. Catholic higher education in early twentieth century America tended to give a central role to religiously colored philosophical studies rather than to theology itself. Between the 1920s and the 1950s, neoscholastic philosophy played an influential role in curricular integration in Catholic colleges and universities and in the provision of the self-understanding that gave Catholic culture its shape. During this period, theology properly so-called only gradually began to find a place in Catholic higher education, though kerygmatic, liturgical, and Thomistic approaches remained in contention as Catholic educators strove to identify the kind of teaching that would be appropriate for undergraduates. Inevitably, both Protestant and Catholic curricula were influenced by the teaching of theology as conducted in their seminaries. For different but related reasons, neither Protestant nor Catholic university theology enjoyed the undiluted respect of the broader academic community. With the erosion of the hold of neo-orthodoxy in Protestant theology and the collapse of the neoscholastic synthesis in Catholic higher education, the 1960s were a time of crisis for both Catholic and Protestant theological and religious educators. The 1960s set in motion powerful cultural and educational trends that eventuated in the widespread (albeit unstable) prevalence of religious studies in Catholic, Protestant, and public higher education.190

In Catholic higher education, the displacement of theology by religious studies poses significant challenges. Frank Schubert’s important study of this shift covers the crucial period 1955-1985 and demonstrates the steady move away from courses engaging in appropriation of the Catholic tradition toward courses in the history, anthropology, and sociology of religion.191 While admitting areas of overlap between theology and religious studies, most scholars acknowledge the fundamental difference in perspective represented by the approaches to religious realities in these diverse fields. Whereas theology takes the claim to truth made by the sources of Christian revelation as its framework, the field(s) of religious studies systematically bracket the claims to truth made for contending religious traditions. For theology, revelation provides the principles for inquiry, and the truth of Christian doctrines is the basic assumption for this inquiry. For religious studies, the world’s religions present a richly diverse set of texts, institutions, rites, and other phenomena, which are studied employing a range of humanistic and social scientific methodologies.

In Catholic colleges and universities where this shift is complete and likewise unchallenged, it is difficult for theology to maintain its integrity and finality as fides quaerens intellectum. Apart from any other secularizing pressures that might be operative, in the midst of predominantly religious studies departments, theology itself can easily yield to the methods and perspectives of the study of religion. As we shall see shortly, the transformation of theology into a branch of religious studies makes it nearly unintelligible to claim for theologians any properly ecclesial vocation or even connection with the believing community.

The ecclesial vocation of the theologian

What must be surely regarded as among the most significant official documents on the place of the theologian in the Church appeared in 1990. It was prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was confidently entitled “The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian.”

Although the documents of the Second Vatican Council mentioned theology and theologians at various points—perhaps most notably in the Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum),192 the Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium),193 and the Decree on Priestly Formation (Optatam Totius)194—the council did not make this theme the focus of an extended treatment.195 Given the impact that the council had on the work of theologians, this may come as something of a surprise—all the more so perhaps, since it was “the great blossoming of theology between the world wars which made the Second Vatican Council possible.”196 After the conclusion of the council the continuing contribution of theologians was institutionalized in a remarkable way when Pope Paul VI established the International Theological Commission in 1969.197

The CDF Instruction reflects the Church’s renewed consciousness of the centrality of the role of the theologian in her life. Reprising significant elements of the Catholic tradition, as articulated in conciliar and post-conciliar teaching, the Instruction forcefully argues that the theologian’s vocation is a properly ecclesial one and, as in the case of Catholic colleges and universities, that the bonds of ecclesial communion implied by this relationship can be expressed juridically. The CDF Instruction may be taken as a robust reminder that the call to holiness and communion comes to theologians at least in part through the mediation of their ecclesial vocation precisely as theologians.198

At the start of his splendid book, The Shape of Theology, Father Aidan Nichols asks the question: “What sort of person must I be in order to become a theologian?”—to which we might well add, “and in order to continue being one.”199 This, in effect, is the arresting question posed by the CDF document. In addressing this question, the Instruction takes up in turn the divine gift of truth, the vocation of the theologian, and the role of the Magisterium. Under its consideration of the role of the Magisterium, the Instruction gives extended attention to the problem of theological dissent.200

But what is particularly noteworthy is that the Instruction begins, not with the Magisterium, but with the gift of divine truth. Indeed, the Instruction’s Latin title is Donum Veritatis, “the gift of truth.” Because theology is not simply an “ancillary function” of the Magisterium, we need to locate the theologian and the work of theology in the broader context of the life of Church, precisely as she is the locus of a truth which she did not generate but which she received as a gift. At the center of this truth is the person of Jesus Christ who reveals the divine desire to draw us into the communion of trinitarian love and, moreover, who enables us to enjoy this communion. The function of the Magisterium is to guard and teach this truth in its entirety which the Church received as a gift and is bound to hand on. For this reason, according to Cardinal Ratzinger, the Instruction “treats the ecclesial mission of the theologian not in a duality of Magisterium-theology, but rather in the framework of a triangular relationship defined by the people of God, bearer of the sensus fidei, the Magisterium, and theology.”201 In different ways, therefore, both the Magisterium and theology are servants of a prior truth, received in the Church as a gift.202

Perhaps the most important contribution of the Instruction is to have secured in this way what Cardinal Ratzinger called the “ecclesial identity of theology”203 and, correspondingly, the ecclesial vocation of the theologian. In the words of the Instruction itself: “Among the vocations awakened… by the Spirit in the Church is that of the theologian… [whose] role is to pursue in a particular way an ever deeper understanding of the Word of God found in the inspired Scriptures and handed on by the living Tradition of the Church… [which he does] in communion with the Magisterium which has been charged with the responsibility of preserving the deposit of faith.”204 The theological vocation responds to the intrinsic dynamic of faith which “appeals to reason” and “beckons reason… to come to understand what it has believed.”205 In this way, “theological science responds to the invitation of truth as it seeks to understand the faith.”206 But the theological vocation also responds to the dynamic of love, for “in the act of faith, man knows God’s goodness and begins to love Him… [and] is ever desirous of a better knowledge of the beloved.”207

The gift of truth received in the Church thus establishes both the context for the vocation and mission of the theologian, and the framework for the actual practice of the discipline of theology. This ecclesially received truth, as articulated in the deposit of faith and handed on by the Magisterium, constitutes not an extrinsic authority that poses odious limits on an inquiry that would otherwise be free but an intrinsic source and measure that gives theology its identity and finality as an intellectual activity. Hence, as Cardinal Ratzinger asks, “Is theology for which the Church is no longer meaningful really a theology in the proper sense of the word?”208 Examined independently of the assent of faith and the mediation of the ecclesial community, the texts, institutions, rites, and beliefs of the Catholic Church can be the focus of the humanistic, philosophical, and social scientific inquiries that together constitute the field of religious studies. But Christian theology is a different kind of inquiry. Cut off from an embrace of the truth that provides its subject matter and indicates the methods appropriate to its study, theology as the Church has always understood it loses its specific character as a scientific inquiry of a certain type.209 Its precise scope is to seek the intelligibility of a truth received in faith by the theologian who is himself a member of the ecclesial community that is, as Cardinal Walter Kasper has said, “the place of truth.”210

The theologian is thus free to seek the truth within limits imposed, not by an intrusive external authority, but by the nature of his discipline as such. As the Instruction points out: “Freedom of research, which the academic community holds most precious, means an openness to accepting the truth that emerges at the end of an investigation in which no element has intruded that is foreign to the methodology corresponding to the object under study.”211 Theology cannot “deny its own foundations,” to use the words of Cardinal Dulles; the acceptance of the authority and Scripture and doctrines in theology is “not a limitation but rather the charter of its existence and freedom to be itself.”212 The freedom of inquiry proper to theology, is, according to the CDF Instruction, the “hallmark of a rational discipline whose object is given by Revelation, handed on and interpreted in the Church under the authority of the Magisterium, and received by faith. These givens have the force of principles. To eliminate them would mean to cease doing theology.”213 The principles of theology, as we noted earlier, are derived from revelation, and constitute the discipline as such. In accepting them, the theologian is simply being true to the nature of his subject, and to his vocation as a scholar in this field.

These elements of the Instruction’s account of the theological vocation are ferociously contested in today’s academy, largely on the basis of what Lindbeck has called the “individualistic foundational rationalism” which shapes the deepest cultural assumptions of modernity.214 But the Church has a solid, well-substantiated, and historically warranted rationale for its account of the nature of theology as an intellectual discipline of a particular sort, and of the responsibilities of its practitioners. In the present circumstances, we need to make this case without apology. It is central to the convictions of the Catholic Church, and indeed of the Christian tradition as such, to give priority to a theonomous rather than to an autonomous rationality. It so happens that certain postmodern intellectual trends have begun to advance what Alasdair MacIntyre calls the traditioned character of all rational inquiry215 and Lindbeck calls the socially and linguistically constituted character of belief. This intellectual climate is, to a certain extent, more favorable to the defense of the principle of theonomous rationality that is crucial for the Catholic understanding of theology. But it must be recognized that the basis for this understanding is itself a properly theological one that is rooted in fundamental Christian convictions about the gift of truth and its reception in the ecclesial community.216

The Church embodies her understanding of the nature of theology and of the ecclesial vocation of the theologian by, according to both the discipline and its practitioners, a role in Catholic higher education according to the principles of the ecclesiology of communion which we considered earlier.

According to Ex corde Ecclesiae and Sapientia Christiana, the standard theological disciplines include: sacred Scripture, dogmatic theology, moral theology, pastoral theology, canon law, liturgy, and church history. Those teaching these disciplines are invited to make a profession of faith and oath of fidelity in order to express the derived character of these disciplines and the ecclesial space they inhabit. These formulas in effect allow the scholar to express a promise to respect the principles of his or her field as well as the personal communion of the theologian with the Church. Viewed in this light, theological disciplines and their practitioners are in a situation analogous to other disciplines and to scholars in other fields which are supervised by professional societies, by peer review, and by a whole range of certifying and accrediting bodies who maintain the standards within these fields and the credibility which they rightly enjoy among the general public.

In addition, the Church offers a canonical mission to theologians teaching in ecclesiastical faculties, and a mandatum to those teaching in all other institutions of higher learning. Although both the canonical mission and the mandatum have provoked controversy, the necessity of the canonical mission is perhaps better understood within the context of ecclesiastically accredited faculties. Here, I will confine my remarks to the mandatum.217

The nature of the mandatum referred to in Ex corde Ecclesiae is best understood in the light of the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the laity: “Thus, making various dispositions of the apostolate according to the circumstances, the hierarchy enjoins some particular form of it more closely with its own apostolic function. Yet the proper nature and distinctiveness of each apostolate must be preserved, and the laity must not be deprived of the possibility of acting on their own accord. In various church documents this procedure of the hierarchy is call a mandate.”218 (Apostolicam Actuositatem 24). While the mandatum has a different juridical character from the canonical mission of professors teaching in ecclesiastical faculties as required by Sapientia Christiana, both express in a concrete way the ecclesial identity of the theologianAccording to canonist Father Reginald Whitt, the above-mentioned mandate “refers to those apostolic activities that remain activities proper to the laity in virtue of their baptism yet joined closely to the apostolic ministry of the bishop.” A Catholic professor of theology in a Catholic university is thus considered “as one of the faithful engaged in the higher education apostolate entitled and required to obtain endorsement from the competent hierarch.”219

In requiring the mandatum (and, for that matter, the canonical mission) the Church acknowledges that the Catholic theologian pursues his or her inquiries under the light of revelation as contained in Scripture and tradition and proclaimed by the Magisterium. In seeking the mandatum, the individual theologian gives a concrete expression to the relationship of ecclesial communion that exists between the Church and the Catholic teacher of a theological discipline in a Catholic institution of higher learning. The acceptance of the mandatum does not make the pursuit and recognition of truth a matter of obedience to authority: as we have seen, it is not that the doctrines of the faith are true because the Magisterium teaches them, but that the Magisterium teaches them because they are true. It is the Catholic conviction that the
truths of faith point ultimately to nothing less than the First Truth itself, whose inner intelligibility constantly draws the inquiring mind to himself. The acceptance of the mandatum by a theologian is simply the public affirmation and social expression of this fundamental Catholic conviction.

Conclusion

We have considered the ecclesial vocation of the theologian in Catholic higher education and the ecclesiology of communion. We began with a series of doubts, but we end on a note of confidence. Surely, if the example of Pope Benedict XVI teaches us nothing else, it should teach us confidence in the inherent attractiveness of the Christian faith, and, in particular, the Catholic vision of higher education and of the vocation of the theologian. While the assumptions of the ambient culture will not always be friendly to it, this vision nonetheless deserves to be presented fully and without compromise. Indeed, because the call to holiness and communion originates not with us but with Christ, our hearers deserve from us a confident and unapologetic invitation to share a vision of human life that finds its consummation in the divine life of trinitarian communion. Nothing less will do.

Very Rev. J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., Ph.D., S.T.M., is undersecretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was previously executive director of the Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and professor of theology on the Pontifical Faculty of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

 

Catholic Campus Ministry: Christocentric Accompaniment

Rev. Msgr. Stuart W. Swetland

It began with music. Fr. Karol Wojtyla, a 31-year old parish priest who later would be known the world over as Pope John Paul II, had recently been assigned as an assistant at St. Florian’s Parish in Krakow. His duties included the role of campus ministry to the many university students in the parish. But how was he to minister to these students in 1951 Stalinist Poland? He began with music.

By Polish tradition (following the pre-Vatican II calendar), February 2nd (the Feast of the Presentation) ends the Christmas season. It is the “last chance” to sing Christmas carols. On February 2, 1951, Fr. Wojtyla invited some university students to the parish to sing carols. He also began to teach them Gregorian Chant. Soon he had developed a regular student choir for the parish. But Fr. Wojtyla was teaching more than music. The choir practices afforded him the opportunity to begin a real relationship with those who participated in it. Soon these students would also be attending a special Wednesday morning Mass and a Thursday evening conference and inviting their friends. Wojtyla’s campus ministry had begun.220

During this incredibly fruitful time for Fr. Wojtyla’s ministry, he developed many of the ideas and themes that would serve him—and through his papacy, the Church and the world—so well in the future. These included his understanding of the relationship of philosophy and theology, his “theology of the body,” and the idea of young adult retreats that eventually became World Youth Days. However, underlying all of these developments was his basic pastoral approach to campus ministry. Fr. Wojtyla made the conscious decision to approach his pastoral assignment through what his biographer George Weigel calls “the ministry of accompaniment.” The young priest would “accompany” the university students placed in his charge as they journeyed from childhood into the world of adults.221

This basic pastoral stance is not without its dangers. Many older adults think the way to relate to the younger generation is to become like them. This runs the double danger of insincerity and foolishness. Fr. Wojtyla’s accompaniment was different. While he did truly share his life with the students, even vacationing with them so that he could further instruct and serve them, he never attempted to become like them. Rather, he modeled the life of a fully formed Christ-centered adult so well that he made his students want to be like him. Weigel records that one of his former students, Stanislaw Rybicki, understood this well when he stated: “Today, many priests try to be like the kids. We were trying to be like him.”222

What made Fr. Wojtyla’s accompaniment different was that he was not just “hanging out” with the students through some vague “ministry of presence.” Rather his accompaniment was grounded in a thorough, total embrace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His accompaniment was absolutely Christocentric. As one of his students wrote in a pseudonymously signed article in the underground press of the time, Wojtyla taught them “to look at all things in the spirit of the Gospel.”223

George Weigel’s massive biography had not been published when I began working in campus ministry in the early 1990s. However, enough of Pope John Paul II’s life and writings were published for me to glean the essence of his pastoral approach. I attempted to focus the entirety of the campus ministries that I had the privilege to serve on “Christocentric accompaniment”—to accompany the students as they made the journey to adulthood and help them focus on the person and teaching of Jesus Christ so that they may begin “to look at all things in the spirit of the Gospel.”

In post-war Communist Poland there were great pressures brought to bear upon the young adults to abandon the faith. If loyalty to the Church could not be eradicated from the young, the authorities at least wanted to isolate Church activities from the rest of society. In particular, they wanted the young to separate their faith from the rest of their lives. Weigel writes, “In Poland as elsewhere, communism deliberately fostered the fragmentation of society and the atomization of its members, the better to maintain political control and the easier to form ‘new socialist man.’”224

While the powers that be in the United States have no such official policy, the social and political forces of today have a similar effect on young (and not so young) adults. The affluence in our society tends towards atomization, and various societal pressures tend toward asking of us, either explicitly or implicitly, a separation of faith from life. Catholics and Catholic university campuses are not immune from the temptation to compartmentalize our lives. Faith and the commitment to Christ can be seen as something to be limited to the one or two theology courses that are required of most students. Often these courses, attempting to cover everything and present all theological viewpoints, leave the students even more bewildered and lacking any core understanding of the purpose and meaning of Christ and His Church. Fortunately, many universities (like Mount St. Mary’s where I currently serve) are recognizing this problem and attempting to address the need to integrate faith and life in every aspect of the curriculum and campus life. However, this can only be done if campus ministry is providing the necessary atmosphere and opportunity for students to integrate their lives through prayer, study, and the sacramental life of the Church.

To be authentically Christocentric, the priests, religious, and laity who serve in campus ministry must be people who “think with the mind of the Church” (sentire cum ecclesia). All too often people are drawn (or worse, get assigned) to campus ministry who are dissenters or who struggle with fidelity to the Church’s sacramental practices. Perhaps people believe that the best place for such ministers is on a college campus where new and creative ideas are all the rage. In fact, the last place that any such people should be is anywhere near campus ministry. College-age students are at an incredibly important and vulnerable time in their faith development. During the ages 18-25 (or perhaps better in our age 18-30), young people must make adult decisions about the faith moving from the inherited faith of childhood toward a “fully owned” adult faith commitment. Hopefully, they will discern their vocation during this period. In addition, they will more than likely form the most important adult relationships of their lives (including meeting and perhaps marrying their spouse). Partly because of our dismal record in catechizing the young, partly because of the nature of this vulnerable time of life, young adults need a “meat and potatoes” approach to campus ministry. They do not need dissent and disobedience.

When I first started campus ministry, I took the Oath of Fidelity required of new pastors. I did this publicly, in front of a congregation of many of my students including most of the student leaders. I told them that they deserved in justice from their campus ministers two things: (1) the teaching and preaching of the Gospel whole and entire in accordance with the authentic teaching of the Magisterium of the Church and (2) the joyful celebration of the sacraments of the Church in accordance with the Church’s liturgical rubrics and norms.

All campus ministers and ministries should provide the same. It is a basic starting point for effective ministry and models for the students a Christ-like fidelity and obedience. The students will have their faith challenged in plenty of settings and situations; they will hear dissent from many quarters. They do not need to experience it from their campus ministry. In addition, making it clear that the students can expect to hear what the Church teaches and to experience what the sacred liturgy is meant to be, creates a much-needed attitude of peace and serenity in campus ministry amidst what can often be the whirlwind of college life. For too long, generations of college students have had to endure the “fluffiest” of teaching (often at odds with the Magisterium) and the lunacy of the latest fads at Mass. Campus ministers of all types have unjustly imposed their own ideas of “innovation” onto an unsuspecting and unprepared college community. Clown masses, “liturgical dancing,” black lights and gimmicks of all sorts have been forced upon students. The students usually vote with their feet. They do not want, and certainly do not need, at this point of their lives, such novelties. They are looking for some stability, real answers, authentic prayer, and deep spirituality in campus ministry. The gospel provides the kind of answers for which they seek; the liturgy, celebrated as the Church intends it, provides the “living space” for them to come into authentic contact with the Living Lord. Justice demands of the Church’s ministers that we provide it.

Campus ministry must also be a “school of prayer.” Campus ministers need to have a profound prayer life of depth and substance. Of course, all are called to such prayer, but in particular campus ministers will need such a spiritual life because of the demands of their vocation. Long hours, stressful days, constant demands, an almost infinite need for their help and guidance from their students means that campus ministers must be well-grounded in the Lord or they will quickly “burn out” or self-destruct.

But in addition to their personal need for prayer, campus ministers must be a model of prayerfulness for their people. Mark Twain used to joke that politics is all about sincerity—if you can fake that, you’ve got it made! Well campus ministry is all about sincerity, and you cannot fake this sincerity. The young, especially the young of the Millennial Generation now in college, can spot a phony at one hundred paces. Many of them and/or their friends have been lied to and betrayed at every turn. They are skeptical of those in authority because they have let them down so often. They long, they search for people who are authentic—people who live what they proclaim.

Campus ministry (and each campus minister) must, as much as possible, radiate Jesus Christ in word and sacrament in everything that it does. This is what Pope John Paul II called for in Veritatis Splendor when he spoke of the sequela Christi—the following of Christ—in all things. This is the central teaching of one of the finest theologians of the last century, Hans Urs von Balthasar (made a Cardinal by John Paul II), when he wrote, “For this reason, lest everything in the Church become superficial and insipid, the true, undiminished program for the Church today must read; the greatest possible radiance in the world by virtue of the closest possible following of Christ.”225 By radiating Christ in all things, campus ministry will give witness to the beauty, truth, goodness, and unity possible in, with, and through Christ and His Church. It will allow the students to flourish in their journey to full adult membership in the Church.

Adult faith formation

During the college years, most people make an adult decision about their faith life. Studies have shown that if Catholics practice the faith during their college years, they will almost always remain an active member of the Church. Conversely, all too many of the fallen-away Catholics began their rebellion during their college years. This is why there must be many programs and opportunities on our campuses for adult faith formation. Bible studies, prayer groups, small group experiences, classes, reading groups, question and answer sessions, individual counseling and spiritual direction, Catholic societies, and professional groups are just some of the ministries that will be needed. Hopefully, campus ministry is supported by a vibrant academic community which is dedicated to helping students integrate faith and life. Of course, an excellent and faithful theology department is essential to this task. One very central moment in adult faith formation is the Sunday liturgy where the homily should be a model of solid, practical, enlightening proclamation of the beauty and grandeur of the gospel.

Vocational discernment

The idea of vocation should be an essential unifying theme for campus ministry. As a young campus minister, Fr. Wojtyla taught his students to view life vocationally. Weigel reports that “he once told Danuta Rybicka, whether one lived in a convent, in marriage, or as a single person in the world, ‘You have to live for a concrete purpose.’”226

Not only did Fr. Wojtyla counsel this in personal encounters, but as Supreme Pontiff he made this concept the focal point of his first letter to the youth of the world before the very first World Youth Day. In this letter he used the story of the Rich Young Man’s encounter with Jesus in the gospel (Mk 10:17-22, Mt 19:16-22, Lk 18:18-23):

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Mk. 10:17-22)

This well-known story was used by John Paul II to illustrate some central teachings of the Second Vatican Council on vocation.

The story is filled with pathos. Obviously, the rich young man is drawn to Jesus. He sees something in him that touches him and makes him believe that perhaps Jesus can answer his questions. He is willing to abandon his social status by running after this poor homeless, rabbi and kneeling in front of him. He asks Jesus a great question, “What must I do to inherit everlasting life?” How like the young to have such wonderful questions!

Jesus tells him that he already knows the answer: keep the commandments. As John Paul II points out, what Jesus has said to the young man is that he is called, as we all are, to be holy—to be a saint. This is what the Second Vatican Council called “the universal call to holiness.” All are called to sanctity. Campus ministry must help instill in young people a genuine “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Mt 5:6).

But the story does not end there. The young man has been trying to live the commandments, to live a holy life, but he knows there is something more. “What more must I do?” Jesus, looking at him with love, tells him he must sell everything, give it to the poor, and then come and follow him. This young man was called to be a radical disciple, like the apostles were, following Jesus wherever he went.

Not everyone is called to such a witness to Jesus. But this man was. This was this young man’s particular vocation, his unique calling. He refuses and thus “goes away sad.” Campus ministry must help students have an authentic encounter with the Lord. They should help and guide students as they struggle to live lives of holiness. They should provide the time and space convenient for student’s schedules to frequent the sacraments (especially mass and confession). Campus ministry should challenge students to ask what it is that God is calling them to do and be. Abiding joy comes from following Jesus by doing the will of the Father. Campus ministers should help students discern their particular call so that no one will “go away sad” because they missed or refused God’s invitation to greatness.

Forming adult friendships

The college years provide a wonderful opportunity to begin the most significant adult relationships in one’s life. Campus ministry should aid students by providing the type of atmosphere where healthy and holy friendships can be formed and deepened. Social events, support groups, peer ministry, retreats, service opportunities, etc. all provide the kind of place and space where Christ-centered friendship can flourish.

Some of these friendships might develop into dating relationships. Campus ministers should encourage young men and women to view dating as discernment. Numerous classes and discussions on the Church’s teaching on sex and sexuality ought to be offered. Peer ministry in these areas can be helpful as can presentations focusing on the theology of the body. In their heart of hearts, most young Catholics want to be chaste and to discover who, if anyone, they are called to marry. Campus ministers should strive to help create the kind of atmosphere where it is easy to be good and normal (even “cool”) to be chaste.

A healthy campus ministry will also be heavily involved with preparing couples to marry. In many ways, the college campus is a privileged place for such preparation. This will entail coordinating many people to aid in the preparation, not the least of which is several couples who are certified teachers of Natural Family Planning (NFP).

In all these aspects of campus ministry, the goal of the campus minister is to meet the students wherever they are at in their journey with Christ and to accompany them as they move closer to the Lord. Notice that Pope John Paul II started with music. The young wanted to sing popular Christmas carols. That is where he met them. But he did not leave them there. He took them deeper. He introduced them to Gregorian Chant. But what is more, he began from this music ministry to form, holistically, these young men and women into the Christian disciples they were called to be.

The minister often acts as a guide and companion along the way. Sometimes the minister is more akin to a parental figure; sometimes more an aunt or uncle; friend or sibling. But the goal is always a Christ-centered journey by a Christ-centered community.

John Paul II in the end of his “Letter to the Youth of the World” holds up Mary for our contemplation as a model of this type of young adult ministry. He writes,

we have before our eyes the image of Mary, who accompanies Christ at the beginning of His mission among men. This is the Mary of Cana of Galilee, who intercedes for the young people, for the newly-married couple when at the marriage feast the wine for the guests runs out. Then Christ’s Mother says these words to those serving at the feast: “Do whatever he tells you.” He, the Christ.  I repeat these words of the Mother of God and I address them to you, to each one of you young people: “Do whatever Christ tells you.”

Mary accompanies the Church as we travel to our heavenly Cana. She intercedes and protects, guides and acts as a model of faithfulness. May all of us entrusted with the apostolate of campus ministry imitate her as she imitated her Son and Our Lord.

Monsignor Stuart W. Swetland, S.T.D., is vice president for Catholic identity and holds the ArchBishop Harry J. Flynn Endowed Chair for Christian Ethics at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He served for more than a decade as director of Newman Centers at Bradley University and University of Illinois.

 

Appendix
Address to Catholic Educators at The Catholic University of America

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

April 17, 2008

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Professors, Teachers and Educators,

“How beautiful are the footsteps of those who bring good news” (Rom 10:15-17). With these words of Isaiah quoted by Saint Paul, I warmly greet each of you—bearers of wisdom—and through you the staff, students, and families of the many and varied institutions of learning that you represent. It is my great pleasure to meet you and to share with you some thoughts regarding the nature and identity of Catholic education today. I especially wish to thank Father David O’Connell, President and Rector of the Catholic University of America. Your kind words of welcome are much appreciated. Please extend my heartfelt gratitude to the entire community—faculty, staff, and students—of this University.

Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord’s disciples, the Church.

The dynamic between personal encounter, knowledge, and Christian witness is integral to the diakonia of truth which the Church exercises in the midst of humanity. God’s revelation offers every generation the opportunity to discover the ultimate truth about its own life and the goal of history. This task is never easy; it involves the entire Christian community and motivates each generation of Christian educators to ensure that the power of God’s truth permeates every dimension of the institutions they serve. In this way, Christ’s Good News is set to work, guiding both teacher and student towards the objective truth which, in transcending the particular and the subjective, points to the universal and absolute that enables us to proclaim with confidence the hope which does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5). Set against personal struggles, moral confusion, and fragmentation of knowledge, the noble goals of scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope.

Dear friends, the history of this nation includes many examples of the Church’s commitment in this regard. The Catholic community here has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. This undertaking has not come without great sacrifice. Towering figures, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other founders and foundresses, with great tenacity and foresight, laid the foundations of what is today a remarkable network of parochial schools contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Church and the nation. Some, like Saint Katharine Drexel, devoted their lives to educating those whom others had neglected—in her case, African Americans and Native Americans. Countless dedicated Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society.

This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual, and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.

Some today question the Church’s involvement in education, wondering whether her resources might be better placed elsewhere. Certainly in a nation such as this, the State provides ample opportunities for education and attracts committed and generous men and women to this honorable profession. It is timely, then, to reflect on what is particular to our Catholic institutions. How do they contribute to the good of society through the Church’s primary mission of evangelization?

All the Church’s activities stem from her awareness that she is the bearer of a message which has its origin in God himself: in his goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal himself and to make known the hidden purpose of his will (cf. Eph 1:9; Dei Verbum, 2). God’s desire to make himself known, and the innate desire of all human beings to know the truth, provide the context for human inquiry into the meaning of life. This unique encounter is sustained within our Christian community: the one who seeks the truth becomes the one who lives by faith (cf. Fides et Ratio, 31). It can be described as a move from “I” to “we,” leading the individual to be numbered among God’s people.

This same dynamic of communal identity—to whom do I belong?—vivifies the ethos of our Catholic institutions. A university or school’s Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction—do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22)? Are we ready to commit our entire self—intellect and will, mind and heart—to God? Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God’s creation? Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold.

From this perspective one can recognize that the contemporary “crisis of truth” is rooted in a “crisis of faith”. Only through faith can we freely give our assent to God’s testimony and acknowledge him as the transcendent guarantor of the truth he reveals. Again, we see why fostering personal intimacy with Jesus Christ and communal witness to his loving truth is indispensable in Catholic institutions of learning. Yet we all know, and observe with concern, the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God. It is a complex phenomenon and one which I ponder continually. While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in—a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God. Such a choice would ultimately disregard the very truth we need in order to understand ourselves. A particular responsibility therefore for each of you, and your colleagues, is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief. It is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth. In choosing to live by that truth, we embrace the fullness of the life of faith which is given to us in the Church.

Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). In this way our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society. They become places in which God’s active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ’s “being for others” (cf. ibid., 28).

The Church’s primary mission of evangelization, in which educational institutions play a crucial role, is consonant with a nation’s fundamental aspiration to develop a society truly worthy of the human person’s dignity. At times, however, the value of the Church’s contribution to the public forum is questioned. It is important therefore to recall that the truths of faith and of reason never contradict one another (cf. First Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith Dei Filius, IV: DS 3017; St. Augustine, Contra Academicos, III, 20, 43). The Church’s mission, in fact, involves her in humanity’s struggle to arrive at truth. In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths. Drawing upon divine wisdom, she sheds light on the foundation of human morality and ethics, and reminds all groups in society that it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis. Far from undermining the tolerance of legitimate diversity, such a contribution illuminates the very truth which makes consensus attainable, and helps to keep public debate rational, honest, and accountable. Similarly the Church never tires of upholding the essential moral categories of right and wrong, without which hope could only wither, giving way to cold pragmatic calculations of utility which render the person little more than a pawn on some ideological chess-board.

With regard to the educational forum, the diakonia of truth takes on a heightened significance in societies where secularist ideology drives a wedge between truth and faith. This division has led to a tendency to equate truth with knowledge and to adopt a positivistic mentality which, in rejecting metaphysics, denies the foundations of faith and rejects the need for a moral vision. Truth means more than knowledge: knowing the truth leads us to discover the good. Truth speaks to the individual in his or her entirety, inviting us to respond with our whole being. This optimistic vision is found in our Christian faith because such faith has been granted the vision of the Logos, God’s creative Reason, which in the Incarnation, is revealed as Goodness itself. Far from being just a communication of factual data—“informative”—the loving truth of the Gospel is creative and life-changing—“performative” (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). With confidence, Christian educators can liberate the young from the limits of positivism and awaken receptivity to the truth, to God and his goodness. In this way you will also help to form their conscience which, enriched by faith, opens a sure path to inner peace and to respect for others.

It comes as no surprise, then, that not just our own ecclesial communities but society in general has high expectations of Catholic educators. This places upon you a responsibility and offers an opportunity. More and more people—parents in particular—recognize the need for excellence in the human formation of their children. As Mater et Magistra, the Church shares their concern. When nothing beyond the individual is recognized as definitive, the ultimate criterion of judgment becomes the self and the satisfaction of the individual’s immediate wishes. The objectivity and perspective, which can only come through a recognition of the essential transcendent dimension of the human person, can be lost. Within such a relativistic horizon the goals of education are inevitably curtailed. Slowly, a lowering of standards occurs. We observe today a timidity in the face of the category of the good and an aimless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. We witness an assumption that every experience is of equal worth and a reluctance to admit imperfection and mistakes. And particularly disturbing, is the reduction of the precious and delicate area of education in sexuality to management of “risk,” bereft of any reference to the beauty of conjugal love.

How might Christian educators respond? These harmful developments point to the particular urgency of what we might call “intellectual charity.” This aspect of charity calls the educator to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love. 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. Here they will experience “in what” and “in whom” it is possible to hope, and be inspired to contribute to society in a way that engenders hope in others.

Dear friends, I wish to conclude by focusing our attention specifically on the paramount importance of your own professionalism and witness within our Catholic universities and schools. First, let me thank you for your dedication and generosity. I know from my own days as a professor, and I have heard from your Bishops and officials of the Congregation for Catholic Education, that the reputation of Catholic institutes of learning in this country is largely due to yourselves and your predecessors. Your selfless contributions—from outstanding research to the dedication of those working in inner-city schools—serve both your country and the Church. For this I express my profound gratitude.

In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges and universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church’s munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.

Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual, or spiritual.

I wish also to express a particular word of encouragement to both lay and Religious teachers of catechesis who strive to ensure that young people become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith. Religious education is a challenging apostolate, yet there are many signs of a desire among young people to learn about the faith and practice it with vigor. If this awakening is to grow, teachers require a clear and precise understanding of the specific nature and role of Catholic education. They must also be ready to lead the commitment made by the entire school community to assist our young people, and their families, to experience the harmony between faith, life, and culture.

Here I wish to make a special appeal to Religious Brothers, Sisters, and Priests: do not abandon the school apostolate; indeed, renew your commitment to schools especially those in poorer areas. In places where there are many hollow promises which lure young people away from the path of truth and genuine freedom, the consecrated person’s witness to the evangelical counsels is an irreplaceable gift. I encourage the Religious present to bring renewed enthusiasm to the promotion of vocations. Know that your witness to the ideal of consecration and mission among the young is a source of great inspiration in faith for them and their families.

To all of you I say: bear witness to hope. Nourish your witness with prayer. Account for the hope that characterizes your lives (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) by living the truth which you propose to your students. Help them to know and love the One you have encountered, whose truth and goodness you have experienced with joy. With Saint Augustine, let us say: “we who speak and you who listen acknowledge ourselves as fellow disciples of a single teacher” (Sermons, 23:2). With these sentiments of communion, I gladly impart to you, your colleagues and students, and to your families, my Apostolic Blessing.

 

 

 

Behaviors and Beliefs of Current and Recent Students at U.S. Catholic Colleges

This analysis is based on a national survey of current and former undergraduate students at Roman Catholic colleges and universities in the United States, conducted by QEV Analytics for The Cardinal Newman Society.  In total, 506 respondents participated: 251 current students and 255 recent graduates or attendees under 30 years of age.  Data were collected in May and June of this year. The theoretical margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4.4% at the 95% confidence level.

This survey was administered on-line, utilizing a sample developed by a commercial sample vendor (Peanut Labs).  The vendor develops its sample through social networking Internet sites and reports a recruitment pool of 10 million.  The obtained sample of 506 current and recent students was weighted by age (18-29) to achieve an even distribution, and by institution to limit attendees of any one institution to 3% of the sample.

General Characteristics of Respondents

Half of the respondents are currently students at Catholic colleges and universities.  Nearly one-quarter (23%) have graduated from a Catholic college or university, almost all of them since the year 2000.  Just more than a quarter (27%) are former students at a Catholic college or university, but did not graduate from that institution.

The majority of respondents are female (57%).  This corresponds closely to trends in U.S. undergraduate enrollment reported by the U.S. Census Bureau:  a majority of college undergraduates have been women since 1979, holding steadily around 56% from 2000 to 2006.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of respondents identify themselves as Catholic today and also while they were students at Catholic colleges and universities.  Six percent (6%) were Catholic in college, but not now (only one percent were not Catholic in college but are now).  Another 29% were not Catholic in their last year of college and are not currently Catholic.

For comparison in this report, we use the term “sacramentally-active Catholic”—those who attend Mass at least once a week and participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year.  Just more than half (53%) the respondents report participating in a Catholic Mass at least weekly during their last year at a Catholic college or university.  Sixty-one percent (61%) report participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once in their most recent year attending a Catholic institution.  We combined these results to identify respondents who were sacramentally-active Catholics during their last year at a Catholic college or university.  While 65% of our sample considered themselves to be Catholic while attending a Catholic college, only 48% of respondents actually participated in the Sacraments with the frequency required of faithful Catholics.

More than half (54%) the respondents report a G.P.A. of 3.5 or higher while attending a Catholic college or university.  Nearly a quarter (23%) achieved grades of 3.8 or higher.

Representation of Students at Catholic Colleges and Universities

This random sample of students who attend or recently attended U.S. Catholic colleges and universities provides statistically valid results applicable to current and recent undergraduate students at Catholic institutions generally in the United States, within the theoretical margin of sampling error.

Respondents have attended at least 128 different Catholic colleges and universities, representing 62% of the universe of 208 institutions with undergraduate programs for lay students.  These may not include colleges and universities attended by 101 respondents (20% of the total sample) who provided ambiguous school names (e.g. “St. Mary’s,” which could apply to several institutions).

We undertook a review of the respondents to evaluate characteristics of the colleges and universities they attended, in comparison to all students currently attending Catholic colleges and universities.  We relied primarily on publicly available enrollment, location and admissions selectivity data from the National Catholic College Admission Association (NCCAA).  For several Catholic colleges and universities not included in the NCCAA data set, and missing data for institutions affiliated with NCCAA, we relied on publicly available data from Peterson’s college guides.

The survey respondents, all under 30 years of age, attended Catholic colleges and universities over a span of several years, but our comparison data is for current students only.  Some change in the enrollment and admissions selectivity characteristics of each college and university is likely over time.  Respondents who provided ambiguous school names were not included in the analysis.

Acknowledging the limitations inherent in any survey research of this kind, we found a high degree of comparability between the obtained survey sample and the profile of current students at Catholic colleges and universities.

  All Current Students
at Catholic Colleges
& Universities
Survey Respondents
(unweighted)
Locale of School    
Rural/Small Town 8% 11%
Suburban 48% 46%
Urban 44% 43%
Selectivity of School    
Open 5% 4%
Moderately Selective 39% 45%
Selective 46% 35%
Very Selective 10% 16%
Region of School    
North East/Mid Atlantic 31% 35%
South 6% 11%
Midwest 48% 35%
West 15% 20%
Student Body    
<2,000 26% 28%
2,000 – 2,999 22% 28%
3,000 – 4,999 25% 19%
>5,000 26% 25%

Goings-On, On Catholic Campuses

Certain behaviors of many students at America’s Catholic colleges and universities conform more closely to prevailing cultural norms than to traditional Catholic morality:

  • During their last year at a Catholic college or university, 46% of current and recent students engaged in sex outside of marriage (including 41% of respondents who say they were sacramentally-active Catholics during that year).
  • While attending a Catholic college or university, 84% of respondents had friends who engaged in premarital sex.
  • During their last year at a Catholic college or university, 27% of respondents regularly viewed pornography (including 28% of then sacramentally-active Catholics).
  • While attending a Catholic college or university, 19% of respondents personally knew a student who had an abortion or paid for someone else to have one.
  • During their last year at a Catholic college or university, 31% of respondents regularly got drunk (including 27% of then sacramentally-active Catholics).
  • While attending a Catholic college or university, 59% of respondents had friends who regularly used drugs for recreational purposes.
  All Catholic While in College Sacramentally Active in College
YES NO YES NO YES NO
During last year at Catholic college or university engaged in sex outside of marriage 46% 48% 45% 53% 41% 56%
During last year at Catholic college or university, regularly viewed pornography 27% 68% 26% 69% 28% 68%
During last year at Catholic college or university, regularly got drunk 31% 65% 30% 68% 27% 69%
While attending Catholic college or university, knew student who had or paid for abortion 19% 76% 18% 78% 19% 79%
  All Catholic While in College Sacramentally Active in College
None Less Than Half Half or More None Less Than Half Half or More None Less Than Half Half or More
Close friends who drank alcohol regularly 7% 27% 64% 10% 31% 58% 13% 40% 46%
Close friends who regularly used drugs for recreational purposes 36% 36% 23% 40% 36% 21% 44% 34% 19%
Close friends who engaged in sex outside of marriage 10% 26% 58% 14% 30% 54% 17% 38% 42%

Each negative behavior tends to correlate with other negative behaviors.  For instance, among those who had premarital sex during their last year at a Catholic college or university, 51% also regularly got drunk and 39% regularly viewed pornography that same year—as compared to 15% and 18% of students who abstained from sex during their last year.  Among those who regularly got drunk during their last year at a Catholic college or university, 74% also had sex and 47% regularly viewed pornography that same year—as compared to 34% and 18% of those who did not get drunk regularly during their last year.

The negative behaviors of respondents strongly coincide with having friends who engage in the same or other negative behaviors.  About two-thirds (64%) of respondents say that half or more of their close friends at a Catholic college or university drank alcohol regularly; 40% of those respondents got drunk regularly in their last year at the Catholic institution, as compared to 17% of students with a majority of friends who did not drink regularly.  Among respondents who reported that half or more of their close friends at a Catholic college or university engaged in premarital sex (58% of the sample), nearly two-thirds (64%) had premarital sex in their last year, as compared to 23% of students with a majority of friends who abstained from sex.

Respondents who were Catholic in college—and especially sacramentally-active Catholics—are somewhat less likely to have engaged in negative behaviors.  The difference, however, is not always very large given the Catholic Church’s strong teaching against these behaviors.  We find no more than a five-point difference between all respondents and sacramentally-active Catholics with regard to having premarital sex and getting drunk during their last year at a Catholic college or university.  There is no significant difference on viewing pornography.  There are significant differences, however, in the behavior of close friends of sacramentally-active Catholics.  Catholic students are just as likely to know a student who had an abortion or paid for someone to have an abortion.

Dissent from Catholic Teaching

Most respondents, including Catholics, disagree with traditional Catholic teachings on key moral issues and the priesthood, but Catholic respondents are more in accord with Catholic teachings on matters of dogmatic theology.

  • Sixty percent (60%) agree strongly or somewhat that abortion should be legal (including 53% of those who currently identify as Catholic, and half those who were sacramentally-active Catholics during their last year at a Catholic college or university).
  • Sixty percent (60%) agree strongly or somewhat that premarital sex with someone you really care about is not a sin (including 55% of current Catholics, 53% of sacramentally-active Catholics).
  • Seventy-eight percent (78%) disagree strongly or somewhat that using a condom to prevent pregnancy is a serious sin (including 73% of current Catholics, 69% of sacramentally-active Catholics).
  • Fifty-seven percent (57%) agree strongly or somewhat that same-sex marriage should be legal (including 53% of current Catholics, 48% of sacramentally-active Catholics).
  • Sixty-one percent (61%) of both current Catholics and sacramentally-active Catholics agree strongly or somewhat that women should be allowed to be ordained as Catholic priests.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of both current Catholics and sacramentally-active Catholics agree strongly or somewhat that the fullness of God’s truth is found in the Catholic Church.
  • Just more than two-thirds of current Catholics (67%) and sacramentally-active Catholics (69%) agree strongly or somewhat that the communion bread and wine at a Catholic Mass truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
  All Currently Catholic Sacramentally Active in College
Agree Disagree Agree Disagree Agree Disagree
“At a Catholic Mass, the communion host and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.” 49% 36% 67% 24% 69% 23%
“The fullness of God’s truth is found in the Catholic Church.” 43% 41% 64% 26% 64% 28%
“Women should be allowed to be ordained as Catholic priests.” 63% 22% 61% 29% 61% 30%
“The law should permit marriage between two people of the same sex.” 57% 35% 53% 40% 48% 46%
“Sex before marriage with someone you really care about is not a sin.” 60% 36% 55% 42% 53% 44%
“Women should have the legal right to have an abortion.” 60% 31% 53% 39% 50% 43%
“Using condoms to prevent pregnancy is a serious sin.” 15% 78% 19% 73% 24% 69%

With regard to traditional Catholic teaching, the average number of canonically correct answers for all respondents is two (out of seven); for respondents who were sacramentally-active Catholics during their last year at a Catholic college or university, it is three.

These next several questions gauge the morality of various acts.  In the following table, we have combined the responses “always morally acceptable” with “usually morally acceptable;” “usually morally wrong” with “always morally wrong.”  Here respondents are less in conflict with Catholic teaching, and a stronger difference is seen for current Catholics and respondents who were sacramentally-active Catholics during their last year at a Catholic college or university.

  All Currently Catholic Sacramentally Active in College
Moral NOT Moral Moral NOT Moral Moral NOT Moral
“Sex between college students who are not married.” 50% 44% 43% 52% 41% 56%
“Sex with someone of the same sex.” 40% 49% 33% 57% 30% 62%
“The regular viewing of pornography.” 41% 52% 34% 60% 34% 61%
“Having an abortion.” 29% 63% 25% 69% 24% 72%

Nearly half (47%) of the respondents who say that an abortion is usually or always morally wrong agree with the proposition that abortion should be legal. This is evidence that some respondents are reluctant to use the law to enforce a moral judgment, a reluctance also found among Catholic adults generally.  This phenomenon is also visible to a lesser extent on the question of same-sex marriage.  One third of those who hold that sex between persons of the same sex is usually or always morally wrong also agree same-sex marriage should be legal.

Student Activities

We asked respondents about their participation in extracurricular activities that are associated with three common emphases of Catholic educators: community service and promoting social justice, advocating respect for human life at all its stages, and spiritual development in the Catholic faith.

Half (50%) the respondents reported that while a student at a Catholic college or university, they participated “in an organization or program devoted to community service, alleviating human suffering, or otherwise concerned with social justice.”  Participation was slightly higher (55%) if the respondent was Catholic while in college, and even higher (62%) if sacramentally active in the last year at a Catholic college or university.

Among all respondents, 44% reported that while a student at a Catholic college or university, they participated “in an organization or program devoted to Catholic prayer or Catholic spiritual development.”  Participation was significantly higher (61%) if the respondent was Catholic while in college, and even higher (73%) if sacramentally active in the last year at a Catholic college or university.

Pro-life activity was less common.  Only 24% of respondents reported that while a student at a Catholic college or university, they participated “in an organization or program devoted to protecting human life from abortion, stem cell research or euthanasia.”  Participation was higher (32%) if the respondent was Catholic while in college, and even higher (42%) if sacramentally active in the last year at a Catholic college or university.

Academic Performance

Earlier it was noted that more than half (54%) the respondents report a G.P.A. of 3.5 or higher while attending a Catholic college or university.  Nearly a quarter (23%) achieved grades of 3.8 or higher.

Some positive behaviors correlate significantly with higher grades:

  • Sacramentally-active Catholics during their last year at a Catholic college or university were more likely (61%) to have a G.P.A. of 3.5 or higher than were those who participated in the Sacraments infrequently (47%) or never (48%).
  • Respondents who prayed more than daily during their last year at a Catholic college or university were more likely (62%) to have a G.P.A. of 3.5 or higher than were those who prayed about once a day (57%), at least once a week (50%) or less than weekly or never (51%).
  • Respondents who did not regularly view pornography during their last year at a Catholic college or university were more likely (57%) to have a G.P.A. of 3.5 or higher than were those who did regularly view pornography (48%).

Sexual activity and alcohol abuse, however, are not strong indicators of lower G.P.A.

Weak Impact on Students’ Catholicity

The experience of attending a Catholic institution of higher education does not appear to increase Catholic faith and practice for most students:

  • Fifty-seven (57%) percent of respondents say the experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their participation in the Catholic Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation—and 10% say the experience decreased their participation.  A significant minority (30%) say the experienced increased their participation.
  • Similarly, 54% of respondents say the experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their support for the teachings of the Catholic Church.  Thirteen percent (13%) say the experience decreased their support, 30% increased.
  • Again, 56% of respondents say the experience of attending a Catholic college or university had no effect on their respect for the Pope and Bishops of the Church.  Thirteen percent (13%) say the experience decreased their support, 28% increased.
  • For self-described Catholic students—and especially those who were sacramentally-active Catholics in their last year at a Catholic college or university—the impact of attending a Catholic institution is significantly stronger and more positive.  Nevertheless, a clear majority of respondents who were Catholic in college still report no impact or a negative effect on Catholic belief and practice.
  All Catholic While in College Sacramentally Active in College
None + None + None +
Impact of Catholic college experience on support for Catholic teachings 54% 30% 13% 47% 41% 11% 38% 51% 10%
Impact of Catholic college experience on respect for Pope, bishops 56% 28% 13% 50% 36% 12% 40% 46% 12%
Impact of Catholic college experience on participation in Sacraments 57% 30% 10% 47% 44% 9% 37% 51% 11%

We asked whether the college or university actively encouraged Catholic students to attend Mass and practice their faith (74% said yes), whether it actively encouraged participation in community service (83% yes), whether it actively encouraged unmarried students to abstain from sex (46% yes), and whether it actively discouraged the viewing of pornography (36% yes).

Overall, considering these four questions about efforts to encourage Catholic activity and moral behavior, 25 percent scored the Catholic college or university they attended 4 out of 4; 19 percent gave their school 3 out of 4; 31 percent gave it 2 out of four, 17 percent 1 out of four, and 7 percent zero out of 4.

Although Catholic colleges and universities appear to have had less impact on respondents’ Catholicity than might be hoped for, behavioral messages do seem to have some influence:

  • Students who attended Catholic colleges and universities that actively encouraged Mass attendance (overall, 74% of respondents) were more likely to attend Mass at least once a week during their last year at that institution (59%) than were students who attended schools which did not encourage Mass attendance (37%).
  • Students who attended Catholic colleges and universities that actively encouraged community service activities (83% of respondents) were slightly more likely to participate in a community service organization in their last year at that institution (53%) than were students at schools which did not encourage community service (49%).
  • Students who attended Catholic colleges and universities that actively discouraged sex between unmarried students (46% of respondents) were less likely to have engaged in premarital sex in their last year at that institution (44% versus 55% at schools which did not discourage sex between unmarried students).
  • Students who attended Catholic colleges and universities that actively discouraged the viewing of pornography (36% of respondents) were less likely to view pornography regularly during their last year at that institution (27%) than were students at schools which did not discourage the viewing of pornography (32%).

We also asked about certain influences in campus life at a Catholic college or university that would seem negative from a traditional Catholic perspective:

  • Of the 39% of respondents who say they experienced officials or staff encouraging students to use contraceptives, 53% engaged in premarital sex during their last year at the college or university, as opposed to 43% of the remaining respondents.
  • Of the 31% of respondents who say they experienced officials or staff encouraging the acceptance of gay or lesbian sexual activity, 45% support gay marriage (versus 29% of the remaining respondents), 56% agree that having sex with someone of the same sex is always or usually morally acceptable (versus 30% of the remaining respondents), and 43% say the visibility of gay and lesbian students on campus is fairly or very high (versus 11% of other respondents).

Decline in Catholic Affiliation

Earlier we noted that 58% of respondents consider themselves to be Catholic today and also while they attended a Catholic college or university.  Six percent (6%) were Catholic in college, but not now.  Only 1% are Catholic today, but were not in college.

This net decline in Catholic self-identification suggests that very few convert to the Catholic faith after leaving college.  Nearly a third of attendees of Catholic institutions of higher education (29%) were not Catholic in college and did not become so afterward.  There may be conversions going on during the years on campus which we did not detect, because respondents who say they were Catholic at some point during college may have entered college as self-described non-Catholics.

What is clear, however, is that current students at Catholic colleges and universities are also leaving the Catholic Church.  Among current students who say they were Catholic at some point during their studies, four percent report that they are no longer Catholic.  The percent of Catholic students leaving the Church over the course of a Catholic college education (usually four years) may actually be larger than this, because the current students who responded to the survey are of different ages, and most of them still have one or more years of study before they graduate.

Choosing a Catholic College or University

A majority of respondents (55%)—and especially those who were Catholic in college (74%) or were sacramentally-active Catholics during their last year at a Catholic college or university (84%)—say that the fact that a college or university is Catholic was very or somewhat important to their decision to attend the institution.

For almost half the respondents (47%), the decision to attend a Catholic college or university was made together with their parents—slightly higher (54%) for Catholic students.  Nearly one-third (30%) of all respondents say they made the choice alone, and 17% say it was mainly their parents’ decision.

  All Catholic While in College Sacramentally Active in College
Important NOT Important Important NOT Important Important NOT Important
Importance of Catholic identity to choice of college or university 55% 44% 75% 25% 84% 15%
  All Catholic While in College Sacramentally Active in College
Yours Parents Both Yours Parents Both Yours Parents Both
Whose idea was it, mainly, for you to attend Catholic college or university? 30% 17% 47% 28% 15% 54% 23% 20% 54%

Why respondents chose to attend Catholic colleges and universities has a strong relationship with subsequent behavior and Catholicity while students at those institutions.  Those who say that Catholic identity was very important to their choice of a Catholic institution were, while attending a Catholic college or university:

  • much more likely to attend Mass at least once a week during their last year at a Catholic college or university (89%, compared to 7% of those who were not at all attracted by an institution’s Catholic identity);
  • much more likely to pray at least daily during their last year (87% versus 25%);
  • much more likely to participate in community service (74% versus 37%), Catholic spiritual programs (77% versus 11%) and pro-life activity (60% versus 4%);
  • more likely to have high grades (76% had a G.P.A. of 3.5 or more, compared to 45% of respondents who said Catholic identity was not at all a factor in choosing a Catholic college or university); and
  • less likely to engage in premarital sex during their last year (39% versus 53%).

Desired Directions in Catholic Identity

Among all respondents, 28% say their Catholic college or university would be a better place if it had a stronger Catholic identity, 43% say it is already Catholic enough, and just 12% say they want their school to be less Catholic (17% rendered no opinion).

Respondents’ own Catholic identity is strongly related to how they respond to this question.  Among those who want their college or university to have a weaker Catholic identity, most (62%) are not currently Catholic.  By contrast, 40% of respondents who were Catholic during college and remain Catholic want their school to have a stronger Catholic identity.  Forty-seven percent (47%) of respondents who were sacramentally-active Catholics during their last year agree, as do nearly three-quarters (71%) of respondents who say Catholic identity was very important to their college selection.

We asked those who desire improvement to identify one or more measures that would significantly strengthen a college’s or university’s Catholic identity.  The measures most often identified are encouraging Mass attendance and Reconciliation (74%), encouraging community service and social justice activities (63%), requiring more Catholic theology courses (58%), encouraging sexual abstinence (56%) and providing guest speakers supportive of Catholic doctrine (55%).

  All Currently Catholic and Catholic While in College Sacramentally Active in College
More Enough Less More Enough Less More Enough Less
Would Catholic college or university be a better place if more or less Catholic, or is it Catholic enough? 28% 43% 12% 40% 41% 7% 47% 35% 8%

Male-Female Distinctions

In many of the areas discussed above—including Catholic practice, devotion to Catholic Church teachings, and behavior—this survey indicates some interesting differences between male and female respondents.

When comparing the sexes it should be noted that in this survey, the margin of sampling error for men is ±6.6 percent and ±5.8 percent for women.  This means that the difference between the sexes needs to be 13 percent in order to be statistically significant.  Many of the results highlighted here are within the margin of sampling error, several are not.  However, readers are reminded that the most likely result, were it possible to interview every eligible male or female, would be the result we report here.

Men are more likely than women to currently consider themselves to be Catholic, 65% versus 55%.  However, men are also more likely to report they were Catholic in college, 68% to 61%.  So men and women have left the Church since college at nearly the same rate, 5% of men and 7% of women.

But by the measure of participating in the Sacraments, men report being significantly more Catholic than do women.  Weekly Mass attendance during the last year at a Catholic college or university was more prevalent among men (62% to 46%), as was the incidence of annual Reconciliation during the last year at a Catholic college or university (69% to 56%), meaning the percentage of sacramentally-active Catholic men is 58% versus 41% for women.  And men were a bit more likely to pray daily, 57% to 48%.

Women who currently or recently attended Catholic colleges and universities are also likely to endorse public policies at odds with Catholic Church teachings.  Women say that a woman should have a legal right to have an abortion at a greater rate than men, 65% to 53%.  Women are more likely than men to say that sex before marriage not a sin, 66% to 53%.  And women are more likely than men to endorse the legalization of same-sex marriage, 65% to 46%.  Interestingly, there is less difference on questions regarding the morality of the underlying acts for these policy positions.  For example, on the morality of abortion, 65% of men say that the act of an abortion is always or usually morally wrong, and 62% of women concur.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, men were not found to be more likely than women to have friends who engaged in undesirable behaviors, while attending Catholic colleges and universities:

  • Half or more of my friends (in college) were regular drinkers of alcohol:  56% of men, 71% of women;
  • Half or more of my friends used illegal drugs:  22% of men, 24% of women;
  • Half or more of my friends had sex outside of marriage:  50% of men, 64% of women;
  • I know another student who had an abortion or paid for one:  17% of men, 21% of women.

On questions related to personal behavior, men were more likely to view pornography during their last year at a Catholic college or university:  45%, versus 14% for women.  But women were more likely to engage in sex outside of marriage, 50% to 41% for men.

The experience of attending a Catholic institution appears to have had a positive impact on more men than women, in terms of appreciation of the faith.  Attending a Catholic college increased participation in Sacraments for 41% of men, versus 23% of women.  The experience increased support for the teachings of the Church for 40% of men, and 23% of women.  The experience increased respect for the Pope and Bishops for 37% of men, 21% of women.  While attending a Catholic college or university, men were more likely than women to have participated in an organization focused on community service (54% to 46% for women), defense of life (32% to 18%), or prayer and spiritual development (54% to 37%).

Finally, women were found to be less likely to want their schools to have stronger Catholic identities: 22% of women but 36% of men.  Thirty percent (30%) of females did not graduate from the Catholic school they attended, versus 23% of men.

Recommended Further Study

This survey presents many findings that are worthy of further exploration to assess why students at Catholic colleges and universities behave and believe as they do, and the extent to which students’ experiences at Catholic colleges and universities have a positive or negative impact on students’ affinity for the Catholic Church.

Areas that might be explored—and this is by no means an exhaustive list—include:

  • Obtaining more detailed information on students’ sexual behaviors, their frequency, students’ distinction between morality and legal or other restrictions on sexual practice, etc.  This is especially interesting given the Catholic Church’s clear opposition to extramarital sexual activity.  The Catholic Church has the genius of Theology of the Body to offer these students, with its profound implications for their wellbeing.  How might Catholic colleges and universities best present this Theology so as to impact students’ sexual behavior?
  • Similarly, further analysis of students’ religious beliefs and appreciation for the Catholic Church, including its beliefs and practices, would be of interest for students at Catholic colleges and universities.  The results of this survey encourage analysis of how colleges and universities impact, or fail to impact, students’ affinity for the Catholic Church and Catholic students’ participation in the Sacraments.
  • The male-female differences are interesting and sometimes counter-intuitive.  Further analysis might point to new emphases and approaches that may be appropriate for Catholic educators.
  • For each of the areas studied in this survey, comparison to students at non-Catholic colleges and universities would be interesting.  It might also be useful to pointedly acknowledge the variety among Catholic colleges and universities by comparing subsets identified by size, location, and some measure of Catholic identity.
  • The portion of respondents (6%) who were Catholic in college but now identify as non-Catholic is too small in this study to analyze with an acceptable level of statistical certainty.  Nevertheless, the survey responses from these former Catholics would be very interesting if they were upheld by a larger sample.  For instance, nearly twice the portion of former Catholics (31%) than other respondents (17%) said that they know another student who had or paid for an abortion.  The former Catholics also are more likely to have engaged in undesirable behavior, much more likely to have attended a Catholic college or university primarily based on their parents’ decision, and much more likely to say their college experience decreased their Catholic practice and beliefs.  Again, these results are far from conclusive given their small numbers in this survey, but educators concerned about students leaving the Catholic faith could benefit from further analysis with a much larger sample.

 

Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI’s Address to Catholic Educators

This special publication of The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education is issued in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States.  It is designed
to provide reflections on his historic April 17, 2008 meeting with Catholic college presidents and diocesan education officials.

Contents:

Truth and Freedom in the Catholic University
By Dr. Brennan Pursell

A Mission of Hope
By Reverend Charles Sikorsky, LC

Small Is Still Beautiful—And the Font of Hope
By Jeffrey O. Nelson

“Were Not Our Hearts Burning As He Spoke?”
By Jeffrey J. Karls

Thoughts From the President of a New College
By Father Robert W. Cook

Text of the Address to Catholic Educators
By His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Truth and Freedom in the Catholic University

By Dr. Brennan Pursell

No one should be surprised that Pope Benedict XVI, during his meeting with Catholic educators, did not utter the words “Ex corde Ecclesiae” and “mandatum.”  The Holy Father, himself a former professor, came as a leader, a guide and a shepherd, not as a controlling, bureaucratic administrator.  His speech at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was vintage Ratzinger: clear and concise, yet dense and thought provoking.

The text stands firmly in line with scripture, tradition, the works of his predecessor and his own corpus.  He complimented his audience members where praise was due, but laid out in no uncertain terms what the challenges are and the main ideas behind them.  The Holy Father’s view of the situation is as realistic as it is inspiring.  I expect he hopes that faculties and administrators across the country will use his speech as the departure point for numerous, substantive discussions about their university’s identity and mission.

In brief, he exhorted the assembled presidents of American Catholic colleges and universities to make sure that their institutions are today akin to what universities were when they first appeared in the High Middle Ages: communities of scholars and students in search of truth, through reasoned dialogue and analysis of evidence.  Everything else about them–student life, sports, administration, et al–is merely supportive or peripheral.

From a faculty perspective, the most problematic word in the definition above is also the most vital, but truth should make no one nervous.  It is a sign of the times that faculty usually fall silent and sometimes begin to squirm at the mention of truth, goodness and beauty, especially with regards to mission statements and “learning outcomes.”  “You can’t assess those things” is the common retort, or even one hears the relativist mantra, “Everyone has their own truth.”  But while people certainly have their own minds, it cannot be that there are five or six billion truths, most of which would be in total opposition to the others.  No, we are all united in the common experience of humanity; the truth of simple reality is what undergirds our existence.

No one “has” the truth.  It is an infinite mystery, not a mere possession.  It is certainly the case that truth in its totality can never be reduced to assessable “learning outcomes,” which are a bureaucratic necessity in our day and age.  We must make do with them until they go by the wayside, but in the scholarly enterprise, we must always aspire to something greater.  The inherent limits of assessment metrics are no reason to abandon the search for truth in our university communities!  Truth is a path, a way of life, and as Catholic educators we must strive to lead our students toward it.

The other main concern some faculty members will inevitably raise against clear statements of commitment to truth in the university setting is, unfortunately, the inviolability of academic freedom.  But this is a contemporary and common misconception of the notion of liberty.  It is a truism that liberty without limits is merely license.  Every single one of us learns from our families that no freedom is totally unrestricted, except for silent thought.

Academic freedom, which is the best environment for the search for truth through dialogue, should allow for anyone, in speech or in writing, to voice any question whatsoever.  The ability to question is a quintessentially human trait, and it should be granted total freedom.  Questioners show themselves open to correction and willing to persevere in dialogue.  To make a statement, however, is another matter.

In the United States, it is not permissible in public settings to deny the Holocaust, deride another person on the basis of race or gender, make sexual innuendos that induce a “hostile” work environment or disturb the peace.  Some of the richest and most “liberal” universities in the country have offices and staff members devoted to protecting certain groups from hearing statements, and even questions, that they find objectionable.  At Catholic institutions of higher learning, aspects of the Catholic faith should receive similar protection.  Statements, declarations, exhibitions and performances that denigrate the Church and all things holy are simply unacceptable.  They stifle dialogue.  Measures to guard against them are reasonable and not intolerant.  Faith needs protection from slander, but not from questions.

Faith stimulates reason and elevates it.  Faith allows us to see the unitive nature of truth, goodness and beauty, and the mysterious person who embodies them.  Faith provokes good questions.  It demands “why,” beyond the “how much,” “what,” “where,” “when” and “how.”  All such questions are part of the great and timeless search for truth.

At the start of his pontificate, John Paul II told the faithful, “Be not afraid!”  After the great Pope’s death, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger began his homily at the funeral Mass with the words, “Follow me.”  May all faculty, students, staff and administrators at Catholic institutions of higher learning hear and heed Pope Benedict XVI.  There is no reason why we should not.  He is as qualified and brilliant as any number of us put together.  And there is nothing to fear.

Dr. Brennan Pursell is an Associate Professor of History at DeSales University and a Newman Fellow of The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education.  His new book, Benedict of Bavaria: An Intimate Portrait of the Pope and His Homeland (Circle Press), was published in March 2008.

A Mission of Hope

By Reverend Charles Sikorsky, LC

In his address to Catholic educators, Pope Benedict harmonized his thoughts on education with the general theme of his visit to the United States, “Christ our Hope.”  Specifically, he focused on the relationship between truth and hope.  He made this point near the beginning of his address when he said, “Set against personal struggles, moral confusion and fragmentation of knowledge, the noble goals of scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope.”  In order for our institutions to fulfill their calling to be instruments of hope, the Holy Father challenged us to focus on mission, conviction and love.

First, he emphasized the crucial role that Catholic education plays in the Church’s mission to evangelize.  Much more than simply developing the intellectual capacity of students, Catholic institutions are called to help their students discover and accept the truth in a way that has consequences for their lives.  Contact with the truth should move the will so that students live and experience more fully the joy and challenge of following Christ and of becoming His witnesses to the world.

Second, the Holy Father stressed that the Catholic identity of an institution is fundamentally a question of conviction and faith.  Are we really convinced by Christ?  Do we really believe that a vibrant life of faith is necessary for our institutions to flourish?  The answers to these questions define who we are and whether we offer a real alternative to non-Catholic institutions.

It must be noted that the much-awaited address was made not only to university presidents, but also to the superintendents of catholic schools at the diocesan level.   Most likely for that reason the Holy Father did not specifically mention John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, Ex corde Ecclesiae, or its General Norms.  The point of the address was broader, giving insight into Benedict’s thinking on Catholic identity for Catholic educational institutions at all levels.

Even so, the address was helpful to understand Benedict’s view of what a Catholic university should be.  His mention that Catholic identity goes beyond statistics and doctrinal orthodoxy puts the legal norms of Ex corde into their proper perspective.  Those norms, such as the need for the university president to be Catholic, the requirement that majorities of faculty and governing boards be Catholic and the necessity of the mandatum for theology professors, need to be understood as a starting point.  To be a truly Catholic university, the institution must strive for much more than this.

According to Benedict, it must be a place where conviction leads to a faith that reverberates in each and every aspect of university life.  It must be a place “to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth,” and where personal encounter with Christ, knowledge and Christian witness come together “to ensure that the power of God’s truth permeates every dimension” of the institution.  In short, the root of the crisis of truth in today’s world is a crisis of faith.  If a Catholic university seeks to be part of the solution to that crisis, it must be a place where faith is vibrant and alive.

Speaking specifically to faculty members at Catholic colleges and universities, Benedict’s treatment of academic freedom, one of the most important and tendentious issues facing many Catholic universities, was also revealing.  Like John Paul II in Ex corde Ecclesiae, Benedict recognizes the value of academic freedom and the call to “search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you.”  At the same time the Holy Father pointed out that appeal to academic freedom in order to justify positions contrary to the teachings of the Church cannot be justified.  Such a use would be antithetical to the university’s identity and mission.  While we should purposefully and joyfully pursue the truth, we are called to accept the whole and integral truth, whether we find it through reason or God’s Revelation as communicated through the Church’s Magisterium.

Finally, it struck me that the Holy Father sees the educator’s responsibility to lead others to the truth as a requirement of love.  He called it “intellectual charity.”  What a beautiful way to synthesize the mission and vocation of Catholic education!  It brings to mind St. Bernard’s famous quote:

“There are some people who want to know only so as to know.  This is misguided curiosity.  Others want to know in order to be known.  This is misguided vanity.  Others want to know in order to sell their knowledge, for example, for money or for honors.  This is misguided profit.  But there are others who want to know in order to build.  This is charity.”

At the Institute for the Psychological Sciences we are committed to serving our students and the Church with the “intellectual charity” to which Benedict and St. Bernard referred.  Without question his address is a stimulus for us to develop and be nurtured from the heart of the Church.  As a Catholic graduate school of psychology offering master- and doctoral-level degrees, our mission is to harmonize the scientific advances of modern psychology with the Christian vision of the human person.

While our program is empirically driven by wherever the finest scholarship leads us, it is always guided by the truth about the human person and within the moral framework proposed by the Church.  As Benedict mentioned in Washington, truth should serve as the basis of praxis.  This approach enriches the discipline and practice of psychology by respecting the transcendent destiny of each person, by understanding the relationship between freedom and responsibility, and by seeing virtue, faith and moral convictions as indispensable to the healing process and true human flourishing.

For us and for all Catholic educational institutions, achieving the high goals mentioned by the Holy Father is certainly a challenge, but it is also an opportunity.  This is an opportunity to grow, to heal a hurting world and to become instruments of hope.

Father Charles Sikorsky, LC, JD, JCL, is President of the Institute for the Psychological Sciences, Arlington, Virginia.

Small is Still Beautiful—And the Font of Hope

By Jeffrey O. Nelson

As with so many of Pope Benedict’s statements and writings, his recent “Address to Catholic Educators” at The Catholic University of America is hard to paraphrase, since in itself it is so compact, dense with insight and rich with provocations for further thought. When one searches for telling quotations for inclusion in an essay, the number of phrases worth repeating and considering simply piles up—until at last you are tempted simply to reprint the entire document. Instead, I will do my best to reflect in brief on the parts of his message that seem most pertinent to my own role as the leader of a small Catholic liberal arts college.

He said, “First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4).” A central truth, and yet one that it is all too easy to forget, particularly when the daily task entails managing an institution, planning budgets, juggling numbers, raising funds and organizing all the necessary but seemingly impersonal aspects of any going concern.

Yet, this statement of Pope Benedict is so important it might be worth putting onto a plaque that sits on my desk—the reminder that amidst all the noble abstractions and the reams of information which students must master in various fields, their task is also starkly simple: Learning the Truth by meeting a Person. A person who does not just speak the truth—like many prophets and philosophers—but One Who simply, mysteriously embodies the Truth, or better, is the Truth embodied.

His actions as well as His words, the shape of Whose life and death and return to life limns out for our deepest reflection the Truth itself. Since each of us is the image of God, every encounter with a student who—however imperfectly—comes to us in search of the beautiful and the true is, conversely, helping to create another encounter with Christ. Thus, in every honest academic dialogue, in some sense, Christ speaks to Christ.

But to quote the Bible, “What is truth?” Pope Benedict answers this perhaps waggish, perhaps even sarcastic question: “Truth means more than knowledge: knowing the truth leads us to discover the good. Truth speaks to the individual in his or her entirety, inviting us to respond with our whole being…. Far from being just a communication of factual data — ‘informative’ — the loving truth of the Gospel is creative and life-changing—performative” (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). This assertion condenses in a very few words a crucial distinction upon which we as Catholic educators must insist—not only over against the technocrats in secular institutions—but also against the “inner technocrat” with which most of us must contend as moderns.

Having grown up in a civilization that has willfully turned away from ultimate questions—supposedly for the sake of peaceful coexistence—we encounter an internal resistance to such a lofty conception of our task as teachers. We grow up prematurely jaded, and must spend our maturing years recovering the innocence of youth, the phase of life that naively, but correctly, believes that ideas (wrong ones or right ones) change the world; and that mind is the master of matter. How much more true this becomes when we think with the mind of the Church, which partakes in the Logos that pervades and orders creation. By meditating on this, we can with time, become “young” enough to serve our students.

Then Pope Benedict hits us with this: “When nothing beyond the individual is recognized as definitive, the ultimate criterion of judgment becomes the self and the satisfaction of the individual’s immediate wishes.” This statement should sting, since it cuts across the grain of nearly every aspect of our contemporary culture—from the craze for self-assertion that permeates the blogosphere to the proliferation of electives in our colleges.

Our entire economy, it might be argued, rests on the “the satisfaction of the individual’s immediate wishes,” and the process of globalization consists in bringing this alternative “gospel” to the poor. Perhaps this tendency is the one we will find most challenging to our students, most of whom have grown up without any reason ever to question this premise. Only the beauty of truthful teaching, of leadership bravely exercised with respect for human dignity, can help tug at this veil that obscures the vision of Truth from the eyes of the young who hunger for it.

With his professorial clarity, Pope Benedict digs deeper than ideology or economics, to hit the nub of the modern disorder: “Yet we all know, and observe with concern, the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God. It is a complex phenomenon and one which I ponder continually. While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will.”

Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in—a participation in Being itself.” Not just the intellect, but the will—the essence of our freedom, the nexus of choice, the part of ourselves which is so mysterious that our brain scientists try to argue it away. It is in the will that the self says “I will” or “I will not.” Serviam or non serviam.

The almost mystical reality we face as educators is the fact that we must help to train our students’ wills while leaving them free. It is not for us to go further than God, Who leaves each of us with the final say—or nay-say—for our soul. But that does not mean we can simply shrug and watch our charges stumble through error into evil; that way has been tried for a generation at Catholic colleges, and we have all seen where it leads. While we might not legally stand any longer in loco parentis, and while our mission calls us to lead in the formation of the mind, we still retain moral responsibility for doing all we can to form and purify young people’s wills and to uplift their souls.

In an age of bigness, when our youth stand as isolated and seemingly insignificant individuals before the modern behemoth university, this is best done in small scale educational communities, where the individual intellect can be engaged and the individual will can be challenged with the truth. In small communities it is still possible to do this daily, with specific regard for each human person. The order of love reposes on specific knowledge of each specific person within the community. We must ask ourselves, is such knowledge, and thus such love, possible at the behemoth university?

Yet even within small communities, the world is ever with us. Wherever and whenever we engage the person, it must be done against the backdrop of a culture which discourages even self- (much less external) control and worships the colossal, the powerful and the impersonal. Truly, the only “hope” for us is the Hope that began the entire enterprise of Catholic education—which, it is worth recalling, started with a small community gathered in the upper room.

Jeffrey O. Nelson is President of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, Merrimack, New Hampshire.

“Were Not Our Hearts Burning As He Spoke?”

By Jeffrey J. Karls

I write this reflection in New Hampshire shortly after Pope Benedict XVI completed his first visit to the United States, April 15-20.  Although the Alitalia flight nicknamed “Shepherd One” returned to Rome with the Holy Father aboard, he is still very much present in America.  Many who encountered Pope Benedict through the media or directly in Washington D.C., or New York could not help but echo the beautiful sentiments of the Emmaus disciples: “Were not our hearts burning as he spoke?”

Pope Benedict’s visit to America filled me with great joy, because I am not only a lay member of the flock he shepherds, the Catholic Church, but also the president of a Catholic college born from the heart of that Church.  The Holy Father’s “Address to Catholic Educators” was especially poignant. He disappointed some media critics who were expecting to meet a vicious “German Shepherd,” the former “Panzer Cardinal,” by being the humble, intelligent and fatherly servant his associates have always known him to be.  At the end of the evening, I strolled around Washington with several Catholic college presidents who also attended the meeting and we reveled in the strength and inspiration we drew from the Holy Father’s wisdom.

The text of Pope Benedict’s address is a key point of reference for the identity of Catholic schools, colleges and universities. Three points made by the Holy Father seem particularly crucial for Catholic colleges:

First, Catholic schools are places of evangelization:

Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord’s disciples, the Church.

Catholic colleges strive to prepare students for professional, parish and family life; yet their primary reason for being is to offer students a place to grow in personal intimacy with Jesus Christ.   In these remarks Pope Benedict is echoing the Second Vatican Council teaching that “the fruitfulness of the apostolate of lay people depends on their living union with Christ.” (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, no.4)

The second point from the Holy Father closely follows the first:  Christian living is communal. The word “community,” overused these days, often denotes a group of individuals assenting to the same idea. Pope Benedict makes it clear that God is the source of unity in Catholic schools and a dynamic personal and communal relationship with him must be visible on campus:

“This unique encounter is sustained within our Christian community: the one who seeks the truth becomes the one who lives by faith (cf. Fides et Ratio, 31). It can be described as a move from “I” to “we”, leading the individual to be numbered among God’s people.

This same dynamic of communal identity — to whom do I belong? — vivifies the ethos of our Catholic institutions. A university or school’s Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction — do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22)? Are we ready to commit our entire self — intellect and will, mind and heart — to God? Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God’s creation? Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold.”

Not surprisingly, Pope Benedict points to the liturgy as the first place where students can discover their identity and belonging.  The liturgical life on Catholic college campuses liberates the individual by integrating him or her into the worshipping community: “a move from the ‘I’ to the ‘we.’

Finally, Pope Benedict reminds us that Catholic colleges assist young people to exercise their freedom by entrusting themselves to God.

Only through faith can we freely give our assent to God’s testimony and acknowledge him as the transcendent guarantor of the truth he reveals. Again, we see why fostering personal intimacy with Jesus Christ and communal witness to his loving truth is indispensable in Catholic institutions of learning. Yet we all know, and observe with concern, the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God. It is a complex phenomenon and one which I ponder continually. While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in — a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God. Such a choice would ultimately disregard the very truth we need in order to understand ourselves. A particular responsibility therefore for each of you, and your colleagues, is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief.

Many young people shaped by the “dictatorship of relativism” have difficulty seeing freedom as anything but a force for self-seeking. The Holy Father shows us—most especially by the way he radiates faith, hope and charity—that a Catholic college must help students to discover “the joy of entering into ‘Christ’s being for others.’”

Pope Benedict arrived in America at the time of year when the sun begins to warm the New Hampshire ground after a long winter. We rejoice that Pope Benedict has strengthened America’s Catholic colleges as they strive to hasten the new springtime for the Catholic Church.

Jeffrey J. Karls is President of Magdalen College, Warner, New Hampshire.

Thoughts From the President of a New College

By Father Robert W. Cook

As the founding President of Wyoming Catholic College, I am often asked the question: “Why another Catholic college?  Aren’t there enough?  You are so small, and it is such a difficult task.  Why are you doing it?”  In a way, the answer is simple: There are not enough boldly, radiantly Catholic schools in this country, particularly at the collegiate level.  Young men and women who are seeking a rigorous education of their minds in truth and a prayerful formation of their hearts in charity have precious few options available to them.  The cause of this paucity of options has been the turning of once-great older institutions away from and even against their heritage, ostensibly to promote intellectual inquiry and freedom.  We see this mentality embodied in the Land O’ Lakes Statement on the Nature of the Contemporary Catholic University (1967).

The world of Catholic education has had forty years in which to demonstrate the glories of autonomy, secularization and the conventional trade-oriented and cafeteria approach to coursework.  Nonetheless, in my opinion and in that of many in our Church today, this experiment has been tried and found very much wanting.  Whether you look at plummeting academic statistics and shoddy intellectual standards or at the moral aberrations of a rampant egoism, not to mention the lack of basic catechetical knowledge and an impoverished spirituality, you can see plainly how radically our mainstream institutions have failed the youths they were created to serve.

Present in the audience, I listened carefully to Pope Benedict XVI’s address to Catholic educators.  His message, couched in his customarily polished and peaceful language, conveyed a crystal-clear message: Catholic institutions, wake up and rediscover your deepest identity!  “Catholic identity,” he declared, “demands and inspires much more [than mere orthodoxy of course content]: namely, that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith.”  (An aside: “orthodoxy of course content” would already be a huge step forward for most Catholic schools in this country, but we see that the Pope has even loftier aspirations.)

The Pope’s very first words, drawn from the Letter to the Romans, set the tone for his entire address: “How beautiful are the footsteps of those who bring good news.”  The good news is not academic freedom, it is not earthly credentials and it is not worldly success.  The good news is Jesus Christ, His message, His wisdom, His salvation.  That is what the Catholic university exists to promote, to proclaim, to study, to ponder, to write and sing about, to pass on from generation to generation, enriched with new insight, thereby enriching the entire world.

Hence, the Pope went on to say: “First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.”  First and foremost, then, we are to be a place of meeting God and experiencing the power of His love and His truth—the only love that never disappoints, the only truth that can ground and guarantee every other truth we know.  Take away this love and the world is a bleak waste, a meaningless labyrinth; take away this truth and the world is a tale signifying nothing.  Young people instinctively know this, which is why they must either find some absolute cause worth living and dying for, or surrender themselves to amnesic indulgence.

Pope Benedict did not mince words.  “Each generation of Christian educators,” he reminded us, has a duty “to ensure that the power of God’s truth permeates every dimension of the institutions they serve.”  And why?  So that young people may lead a life “characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true.”  This venerable triad, which is actually the motto emblazoned on the crest of Wyoming Catholic College, expresses why we were founded: to nourish our students with the perennial and the profound, the substantial and the sacred, the things that truly satisfy the infinite hunger of the human heart.

For this reason, academic freedom is not and could never be our guiding principle; truth is.  Academic freedom is an idol that misleads its worshipers to imagine a vain thing: that reason alone can get us safely home.  As a matter of fact, reason is not only not capable of realizing our high destiny as children of God, it even collapses in upon itself in mute nihilism when no longer supported by the divine strength of faith.  “Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human,” said the Holy Father.

Academic freedom, in its usual acceptation, also completely misunderstands the very nature of freedom, as indicated by the question, Freedom for what?  To be free is only as good as what you are freed to do and to be.  As the Pope put it in his speech, “Freedom is not an opting out, it is an opting in—a participation in being itself.”  Jesus Christ affirmed to His disciples: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Nothing else can liberate us, nothing else can satisfy us and nothing else can save us from despair—or from the evasion of despair that accounts for much of the industry of modern life.

As a new school, in the face of the tyranny of relativism as well as a pervasive lack of understanding that no part of life is untouched by the mysteries of our faith, we have wanted to chart a course that makes optimal use of our freedom as a new school, unencumbered by the fruitless battles of recent generations.

It is perhaps ultimately quite ironic that the founders of this college, in a world drunk with ideas of innovation and progress, turned with one accord to the traditional practices and studies that make for true intellectual freedom—the “liberal arts” and the liberal (that is, free man’s) education they sustain.  Our students learn by a guided tour of the Great Books, supplemented by remaining in touch with God’s first book, creation.  Students who receive this kind of education, seemingly remote from the “practical,” are capacitated for a whole host of life skills and vocations that they can pursue with unique versatility and vitality.

It is an embarrassing exercise to go back and compare the rigorous classical education this country’s Founding Fathers received with the simulacrum of education their descendents are getting today.  What did those men of action study?  They studied logic, rhetoric, Latin, mathematics, physical sciences, literature, philosophy and very often theology.  Their studies were a sort of last echo of the Catholic Church’s educational heritage, which is the sole root and finest flower of all university life in the Western world.  Our college has the wonderful opportunity to grow up from this root, without compromise, and to harvest its fruits for the good of the Church and of the country.

Pope Benedict XVI concluded his address by quoting his favorite theologian, St. Augustine: “We who speak and you who listen acknowledge ourselves as fellow disciples of a single teacher.”  Christ, the Light of the World, is truly the Master at our college, the One to whom we look, the One whose wisdom we strive to embrace, both in and out of the classroom.  In this way we strive to create a culture of true freedom, born of “intellectual charity”—the freedom, that is, to know, to pursue, to discover and to cling to all that is really good, beautiful and true.

Father Robert W. Cook, LL.B., is President of Wyoming Catholic College, Lander, Wyoming.

Address to Catholic Educators

By His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

April 17, 2008, The Catholic University of America

Your Eminences,

Dear Brother Bishops,

Distinguished Professors, Teachers and Educators,

How beautiful are the footsteps of those who bring good news” (Rom 10:15-17). With these words of Isaiah quoted by Saint Paul, I warmly greet each of you—bearers of wisdom—and through you the staff, students and families of the many and varied institutions of learning that you represent. It is my great pleasure to meet you and to share with you some thoughts regarding the nature and identity of Catholic education today. I especially wish to thank Father David O’Connell, President and Rector of the Catholic University of America. Your kind words of welcome are much appreciated. Please extend my heartfelt gratitude to the entire community—faculty, staff and students—of this University.

Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord’s disciples, the Church.

The dynamic between personal encounter, knowledge and Christian witness is integral to the diakonia of truth which the Church exercises in the midst of humanity. God’s revelation offers every generation the opportunity to discover the ultimate truth about its own life and the goal of history. This task is never easy; it involves the entire Christian community and motivates each generation of Christian educators to ensure that the power of God’s truth permeates every dimension of the institutions they serve. In this way, Christ’s Good News is set to work, guiding both teacher and student towards the objective truth which, in transcending the particular and the subjective, points to the universal and absolute that enables us to proclaim with confidence the hope which does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5). Set against personal struggles, moral confusion and fragmentation of knowledge, the noble goals of scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope.

Dear friends, the history of this nation includes many examples of the Church’s commitment in this regard. The Catholic community here has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. This undertaking has not come without great sacrifice. Towering figures, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other founders and foundresses, with great tenacity and foresight, laid the foundations of what is today a remarkable network of parochial schools contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Church and the nation. Some, like Saint Katharine Drexel, devoted their lives to educating those whom others had neglected—in her case, African Americans and Native Americans. Countless dedicated Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society.

This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.

Some today question the Church’s involvement in education, wondering whether her resources might be better placed elsewhere. Certainly in a nation such as this, the State provides ample opportunities for education and attracts committed and generous men and women to this honorable profession. It is timely, then, to reflect on what is particular to our Catholic institutions. How do they contribute to the good of society through the Church’s primary mission of evangelization?

All the Church’s activities stem from her awareness that she is the bearer of a message which has its origin in God himself: in his goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal himself and to make known the hidden purpose of his will (cf. Eph 1:9; Dei Verbum, 2). God’s desire to make himself known, and the innate desire of all human beings to know the truth, provide the context for human inquiry into the meaning of life. This unique encounter is sustained within our Christian community: the one who seeks the truth becomes the one who lives by faith (cf. Fides et Ratio, 31). It can be described as a move from “I” to “we”, leading the individual to be numbered among God’s people.

This same dynamic of communal identity—to whom do I belong?—vivifies the ethos of our Catholic institutions. A university or school’s Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction—do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22)? Are we ready to commit our entire self—intellect and will, mind and heart—to God? Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God’s creation? Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold.

From this perspective one can recognize that the contemporary “crisis of truth” is rooted in a “crisis of faith”. Only through faith can we freely give our assent to God’s testimony and acknowledge him as the transcendent guarantor of the truth he reveals. Again, we see why fostering personal intimacy with Jesus Christ and communal witness to his loving truth is indispensable in Catholic institutions of learning. Yet we all know, and observe with concern, the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God. It is a complex phenomenon and one which I ponder continually. While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in—a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God. Such a choice would ultimately disregard the very truth we need in order to understand ourselves. A particular responsibility therefore for each of you, and your colleagues, is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief. It is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth. In choosing to live by that truth, we embrace the fullness of the life of faith which is given to us in the Church.

Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). In this way our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society. They become places in which God’s active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ’s “being for others” (cf. ibid., 28).

The Church’s primary mission of evangelization, in which educational institutions play a crucial role, is consonant with a nation’s fundamental aspiration to develop a society truly worthy of the human person’s dignity. At times, however, the value of the Church’s contribution to the public forum is questioned. It is important therefore to recall that the truths of faith and of reason never contradict one another (cf. First Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith Dei Filius, IV: DS 3017; St. Augustine, Contra Academicos, III, 20, 43). The Church’s mission, in fact, involves her in humanity’s struggle to arrive at truth. In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths. Drawing upon divine wisdom, she sheds light on the foundation of human morality and ethics, and reminds all groups in society that it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis. Far from undermining the tolerance of legitimate diversity, such a contribution illuminates the very truth which makes consensus attainable, and helps to keep public debate rational, honest and accountable. Similarly the Church never tires of upholding the essential moral categories of right and wrong, without which hope could only wither, giving way to cold pragmatic calculations of utility which render the person little more than a pawn on some ideological chess-board.

With regard to the educational forum, the diakonia of truth takes on a heightened significance in societies where secularist ideology drives a wedge between truth and faith. This division has led to a tendency to equate truth with knowledge and to adopt a positivistic mentality which, in rejecting metaphysics, denies the foundations of faith and rejects the need for a moral vision. Truth means more than knowledge: knowing the truth leads us to discover the good. Truth speaks to the individual in his or her the entirety, inviting us to respond with our whole being. This optimistic vision is found in our Christian faith because such faith has been granted the vision of the Logos, God’s creative Reason, which in the Incarnation, is revealed as Goodness itself. Far from being just a communication of factual data—“informative”—the loving truth of the Gospel is creative and life-changing—“performative” (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). With confidence, Christian educators can liberate the young from the limits of positivism and awaken receptivity to the truth, to God and his goodness. In this way you will also help to form their conscience which, enriched by faith, opens a sure path to inner peace and to respect for others.

It comes as no surprise, then, that not just our own ecclesial communities but society in general has high expectations of Catholic educators. This places upon you a responsibility and offers an opportunity. More and more people—parents in particular—recognize the need for excellence in the human formation of their children. As Mater et Magistra, the Church shares their concern. When nothing beyond the individual is recognized as definitive, the ultimate criterion of judgment becomes the self and the satisfaction of the individual’s immediate wishes. The objectivity and perspective, which can only come through a recognition of the essential transcendent dimension of the human person, can be lost. Within such a relativistic horizon the goals of education are inevitably curtailed. Slowly, a lowering of standards occurs. We observe today a timidity in the face of the category of the good and an aimless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. We witness an assumption that every experience is of equal worth and a reluctance to admit imperfection and mistakes. And particularly disturbing, is the reduction of the precious and delicate area of education in sexuality to management of “risk”, bereft of any reference to the beauty of conjugal love.

How might Christian educators respond? These harmful developments point to the particular urgency of what we might call “intellectual charity”. This aspect of charity calls the educator to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love. 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. Here they will experience “in what” and “in whom” it is possible to hope, and be inspired to contribute to society in a way that engenders hope in others.

Dear friends, I wish to conclude by focusing our attention specifically on the paramount importance of your own professionalism and witness within our Catholic universities and schools. First, let me thank you for your dedication and generosity. I know from my own days as a professor, and I have heard from your Bishops and officials of the Congregation for Catholic Education, that the reputation of Catholic institutes of learning in this country is largely due to yourselves and your predecessors. Your selfless contributions—from outstanding research to the dedication of those working in inner-city schools—serve both your country and the Church. For this I express my profound gratitude.

In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church’s munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.

Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual.

I wish also to express a particular word of encouragement to both lay and Religious teachers of catechesis who strive to ensure that young people become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith. Religious education is a challenging apostolate, yet there are many signs of a desire among young people to learn about the faith and practice it with vigor. If this awakening is to grow, teachers require a clear and precise understanding of the specific nature and role of Catholic education. They must also be ready to lead the commitment made by the entire school community to assist our young people, and their families, to experience the harmony between faith, life and culture.

Here I wish to make a special appeal to Religious Brothers, Sisters and Priests: do not abandon the school apostolate; indeed, renew your commitment to schools especially those in poorer areas. In places where there are many hollow promises which lure young people away from the path of truth and genuine freedom, the consecrated person’s witness to the evangelical counsels is an irreplaceable gift. I encourage the Religious present to bring renewed enthusiasm to the promotion of vocations. Know that your witness to the ideal of consecration and mission among the young is a source of great inspiration in faith for them and their families.

To all of you I say: bear witness to hope. Nourish your witness with prayer. Account for the hope that characterizes your lives (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) by living the truth which you propose to your students. Help them to know and love the One you have encountered, whose truth and goodness you have experienced with joy. With Saint Augustine, let us say: “we who speak and you who listen acknowledge ourselves as fellow disciples of a single teacher” (Sermons, 23:2). With these sentiments of communion, I gladly impart to you, your colleagues and students, and to your families, my Apostolic Blessing.

Pope Benedict XVI and Catholic Higher Education

Commentaries in Advance of the Holy Father’s April 2008 Address to Catholic College Presidents

This special publication of The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education is issued in anticipation of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the United States.  It is designed to provide some context for his historic April 17, 2008 meeting with Catholic college presidents and diocesan education officials.

Contents:

The Visit of Pope Benedict XVI: Some Reflections of a College President
By Dr. Timothy O’Donnell

Ratzinger, Bavaria and Higher Education
By Dr. Brennan Pursell

Studying with the Future Pope: An Interview with Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.
By Joseph A. Esposito

Pope Benedict and St. Augustine
By Evangeline C. Jones

The Popes and Education in the 20th Century
Dr. Peter A. Kwasniewski

The Visit of Pope Benedict XVI: Some Reflections of a College President

By Dr. Timothy O’Donnell

The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States will afford a tremendous opportunity for the Roman Catholic Church here in the United States to draw ever closer to the Heart of the Church. It is highly significant to observe that one of the desires expressed by the Pontiff for his short visit to our country will be to meet with the presidents of all U.S. Catholic colleges and universities.

Our current Holy Father, like his predecessor, longs to witness an authentic Catholic renewal in Catholic higher education, knowing it to be key for the future of culture and the future of our civilization. Pope Benedict recognizes the power wielded by the academy in shaping culture. Furthermore, as a man of refined intellect who is deeply sensitive to the trends of contemporary thought, he has clearly recognized the dangers that brutal secularism, with its accompanying moral relativism, poses a grave threat to Western Civilization that could strip human life of its true meaning and dignity.

Some deny that there is a crisis or that there is a trend toward secularization in the current state of Catholic higher education. They claim that Catholic colleges have simply become increasingly pluralistic and diverse, in keeping with the rest of the nation. But as Pope John Paul II taught in Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Catholic university has a specific contribution to make in the midst of this diversity since it, in a special way, is “consecrated to the Truth.”

In our Holy Father’s recent encyclical, Spe Salvi, he makes a specific reference to the important role of Christ as the true Philosopher, who, in bringing the Gospel, brings Truth. It is Christ Himself who tells us what it means to be truly a man and what man must do in order to be fully human: “He Himself is both the Way and the Truth, and therefore He is also the Life that all of us are seeking.” Much of this encyclical can be directed to academia, particularly as the Pope targets a number of intellectual errors characteristic of the 19th century, with its naïve belief in human progress and the philosophical errors of the likes of Karl Marx. The Holy Father counters that, without God, there can be no hope and without hope, there can be no authentic human life.

Recognizing the vital role that education will play in exposing these modern errors, the Pope has already delivered a number of key addresses on the importance of Catholic higher education, indicating that he is likely to reemphasize the teaching communicated in John Paul’s masterful encyclical Fides et Ratio. In so doing, Pope Benedict will point out the crucial role that must be played by Catholic institutions of higher learning to reengage the culture and communicate effectively to the world the great synthesis of the Catholic intellectual tradition that unites both faith and reason and recognizes in each of them a common source in Almighty God. This radical transformation can be achieved only if the university maintains a strong Catholic identity with a special commitment to the Gospel as it is communicated through the Magisterium.

The Pope, as a brilliant theologian himself, will certainly take this opportunity of meeting with the presidents of Catholic colleges to help these educators, who are seeking the truth with sincerity, to recognize that there is a special ecclesial dimension to their mission; Catholic education requires fidelity to the deposit of faith as it is communicated by the Church. Thus, since the Catholic university is consecrated, as we have said, in a special way to the search for and acquisition of Truth, it must therefore be open to everything related to God, man and the created order.

Recalling the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in its document Dei Verbum, Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium are like three pillars that are so interconnected “that one really cannot stand without the other.” These pillars should be embraced by Catholic colleges and universities and should provide the foundation of their efforts to help explicate the Faith in service to the Church and a world that hungers for the saving Truth of Christ.

Pope Benedict’s visit, not only as the Holy Father but also as a man of great intellect and scholarly ability, should assure scholars and educators everywhere that they have nothing to fear from the Church. A number of individuals in Catholic higher education fear that there would be a loss of freedom if they were to embrace fully the vision set forth in Ex corde Ecclesiae, but, as Pope Benedict beautifully stated in his homily at his Installation Mass in April 2005: “this yoke of Christ does not weigh down on us, oppressing us and taking away our freedom.” Pope Benedict, like all true academicians, is totally committed to the search for and acquisition of Truth.

We must remember that Truth is the object of the intellect; once the Truth has been discovered, there follows the obligation to submit to the Truth. The human heart was made for the Truth by the God who loves us. Thus, the human mind yearns for the union with God in the Truth, and the purpose of scholarly endeavor is the comprehension and communication of the Truth.

To that end, college and university presidents and scholars who share this love for the pursuit of the Truth should rejoice that a man of such intellect, learning and deep faith has been elevated to the papal throne and has come to our fair shores to speak to us about the great mission of Catholic higher education. His presence will be a grace for our broken and suffering Church and should be received as a source of joy and hope for all those who love the Church, who love the Faith and who are committed to communicating the whole truth about man, which is revealed most fully in Jesus Christ.

Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, KGCHS, is President of Christendom College.

Ratzinger, Bavaria and Higher Education

By Dr. Brennan Pursell

Joseph Ratzinger has been a prominent name in Bavarian higher education for about four decades.  When the 42-year-old professor of theology came to Regensburg in 1969, he had behind him 17 years of teaching experience, a track record for excellence at the universities of Bonn, Münster, and Tübingen, and an international reputation due to his best-selling books and his service as an official theological expert at the Second Vatican Council.  The university at Regensburg was new, first chartered in 1962, offering courses in three faculties from 1967.  Leaving venerable Tübingen for that fledgling institution was a definite step down the ladder of academic prestige.

But Ratzinger did not care.  He wanted to return to his native Bavaria after a 10-year sojourn in other parts of Germany, and his brother was well-established as the music director of the famous Regensburg boys choir.  In a write-up for the local press, Professor Ratzinger publicly stated that his goal was to contribute to the new university’s theological department through teamwork and dialogue, both for the sake of encouraging a genuine integration of the various disciplines of Catholic theology, and for the good of the students, so that they would improve their theological knowledge, and thereby come closer to truth.

After five years, his intellectual brilliance and complete sanity propelled him to the forefront of the university’s leadership.  In 1974, he was named Dean of his department, and two years later, the Bavarian Ministry of Culture appointed him Prorektor (Vice-President) of the University.  As a result of his famous publications–dozens of his books and articles had been translated into at least a dozen languages–and his appointment to the Holy See’s International Theological Commission, he soon gathered a cohort of graduate students from all over Europe, China, Korea, Chile, Benin, Canada, and the United States–by far the most international student academic group on campus.  In contemporary lingo, we might say that he was leading the way toward globalization in academe, long before Regensburg had a program.  Pope Paul VI, however, diverted Ratzinger’s career path in 1977.  Even after he became the Archbishop of Freising and Munich, Ratzinger remained an honorary member of the university faculty.

What does this mean for us in higher education in the United States?  On the face of it, not much.  Higher education in all Germany is a branch of the state and ruled by government bureaucrats in the states’ ministries of culture.  German universities, especially in Ratzinger’s day, did no fundraising and had next to no interest in dorms, sports, student social and spiritual life, or really anything else apart from teaching and research.  The state paid for tuition and subsidized the mess halls.  Most students arranged for their own accommodations like normal adults.  On the whole, it still is that way.

Pope Benedict XVI, however, has had much to say to the higher education establishment in Bavaria, Germany, and the rest of the world.  In 2006, he exhorted the German bishops to support actively and financially the little university at Eichstätt in Bavaria, which is the only Catholic university in Germany.  Eichstätt, he said, needs to become a larger, more prominent, elite university, where generations of future leaders learn to address the issues of the day from a firm grounding in Catholic learning, tradition and truth.  Eichstätt is already one of the best rated universities in Germany, in terms of student approval of their professors and the institution’s commitment to dedicated, attentive education of the whole person.  But with 4,500 students it is quite small, relative to the weighty populations of the German state universities.  All Catholic dioceses in Germany, the Pope added, should make firm contributions to the effort.

In the now famous Regensburg Address (September 12, 2006), Benedict XVI appealed to university scholars everywhere not to truncate their definition of reason by confining all knowledge to the material, the empirical, and the readily quantifiable.  Human reason, which derives from God’s, the logos, is capable of reaching toward greater heights.  He did not say that all faculties should submit to the declarations of the theologians, but he stated unequivocally that theology and philosophy should not be excluded from the essential human dialogue about truth, or be dismissed as irrelevant or merely “meta”.  Everyone with an interest in truth should read the Regensburg Address, and especially political figures, such as Barack Obama, who declared in his best-selling political biography, The Audacity of Hope, “Almost by definition, faith and reason operate in different domains and involve different paths to discerning truth” (p. 219). The Pope differs.

The Regensburg Address is already producing fruit in the United States.  At DeSales University, in an effort to bring the diverse faculties and disciplines together in dialogue, we have instituted a Dies Academicus each semester, as described by the Pope.  The Dies is an open forum of, by, and for the faculty, where the rostrum is open for any
and all to contribute to a discussion about a topic of general interest, such as the definition of globalization or the fundamental elements of a
Catholic, liberal arts education.  The response among the faculty and administration at DeSales has been extremely positive.  I cannot recommend it enough for every college or university, Catholic and otherwise, where academic specialization tends to inhibit dialogue.

On April 17, when the Holy Father speaks at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., I expect him to reiterate some of the points he made in Regensburg, but I would not be surprised if he explicitly links American Catholic universities to his predecessor’s “new evangelization,” something which is almost impossible in the German socialist system.  He will also probably cite Ex corde Ecclesiae, and might urge the American bishops to take a more active, assertive role as shepherds in the Catholic universities in their dioceses.  But this is speculation.

Whatever Benedict XVI says to us this April, it will be clear, poignant, and eminently worth listening to.  For those who do not know, the man is a bona fide genius.  He speaks in flawless paragraphs, lectures in publishable chapters off the top of his head, and writes his books in a single draft.  Is there any leader on the world stage today who is more educated and with greater raw intelligence than he?  Those who are skeptical should read his books and decide for themselves.

Dr. Brennan Pursell is an Associate Professor of History at DeSales University and a Newman Fellow of The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education.  His new book, Benedict of Bavaria: An Intimate Portrait of the Pope and His Homeland (Circle Press), was published in March 2008.

Studying with the Future Pope: An Interview with Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.

By Joseph A. Esposito

Q:Father Ratzinger’s doctoral dissertation dealt with St. Augustine. How much of the work of this Church Father influenced him as an academic?

A: Of course St. Augustine has had a strong influence on Pope Benedict XVI because he has had an influence on the entire theology of the West, including that of Thomas Aquinas. So whether or not he had done his dissertation on St. Augustine, he still would have had the influence of Augustine in his work because he is so indebted to the entire patristic contribution to faith, life and theology. He did post-doctoral work on Saint Bonaventure.

Q: Did you observe a Franciscan influence in his work [while studying under Professor Ratzinger in the 1970s]?

A: Again you can observe a Franciscan influence in the work of Joseph Ratzinger, but that is due to many factors. St. Bonaventure may be one of them. But his sense of the earth and of simplicity which he gets from being a native of rural Bavaria is certainly one, and his natural personality is one of both depth and simplicity.

Q: What was most noteworthy about him as a professor?

A: I think the most noteworthy thing about him as a professor was the way he led doctoral seminars. With several of us graduate students making presentations and discussing a theme among ourselves, he would for the most part sit and listen. From time to time he would ask someone who may not have been participating for an opinion. But at the end he would sum up what had been said. He would give emphasis to the most important points. He would synthesize the entire proceedings in an organic way that was always luminous and revealing .

Q: How do you think his career as a professor influenced his views on the role of higher education?

A: Because he was and still is a professor, he understands higher education from within. He was a highly regarded exemplar of what being a professor means and what a university education is for.

About Fr. Fessio

Father Joseph Fessio, S.J., is Theologian in Residence at Ave Maria University and founder of Ignatius Press. He completed his doctoral work under Father Joseph Ratzinger at the University of Regensburg in the 1970s.

About Mr. Esposito

Joseph A. Esposito is the Director of The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education at The Cardinal Newman Society and the Editor of The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College.

Pope Benedict and St. Augustine

By Evangeline C. Jones

“When I read St. Augustine’s writings, I do not get the impression that he is a man who died more or less 1,600 years ago; I feel he is like a man today: a friend, a contemporary who speaks to me, who speaks to us with his everlasting timeliness of his faith; of the faith that comes from Christ, the Eternal Incarnate Word, Son of God and Son of Man.”

These words of Pope Benedict from a January 2008 weekly audience are among the latest of countless indications of his lifelong “friendship” with St. Augustine.  They range from a 1953 dissertation on Augustine to his 21st-century papal encyclicals and audiences, as well as occasional autobiographical reflections. Indeed, the Holy Father closed his recent series of five audiences on “the greatest Church Father” with a personal note, “Augustine has had a profound effect on my own life and ministry.” Over the course of his talks, Pope Benedict gave catechesis based upon the life, works and inner experience (conversion) of Augustine. Far more than a mere tribute to Augustine, the Holy Father repeatedly emphasized the timeliness of Augustine’s message and example for us and our times.

He recommends the Confessions for its “unique attention to the spiritual life” focused upon interiority and psychology, making it a “unique model…to modern times.” In his audience on the subject of faith and reason, “the crucial theme for Augustine’s biography,” Pope Benedict tells us, “Augustine’s entire intellectual and spiritual development is also a valid model today in the relationship between faith and reason, a subject not only for believers but for every person who seeks the truth, a central theme for the balance and destiny of every human being.” About Augustine’s De Civitate Dei, he says, “this book is also today a source for defining clearly between true secularism and the Church’s competence,” with its insights on the relationship between the political sphere and the sphere of faith.

Those involved in academic and intellectual work today will also find much to ponder in Pope Benedict’s description of Augustine’s final and deepest conversion: “The last stage was a conversion of such profound humility that he would daily ask God for pardon. He also demonstrated this humility in his intellectual endeavors, submitting all his works to a thorough critique.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the coat of arms Pope Benedict selected incorporates two elements associated with St Augustine, and both convey a message about humility. The shell is said to represent an encounter St Augustine had with a young boy he found trying to pour sea water into a hole in the sand. Seeing the futility of the boy’s effort, Augustine also realized the futility of his own efforts to comprehend the Trinity, an unfathomable mystery.

The other symbol, the bear with a pack on its back, is drawn from a story about Munich’s own St. Korbinian. In memoirs published ten years ago, Pope Benedict also relates it to Augustine’s meditation on Psalm 73: “Augustine takes the ‘beast’ in this verse to be a draft animal. He compares his work as a bishop to that of an ox pulling a wagon. Augustine had chosen a scholar’s life—only to find that God harness him to his wagon, to pull it to the world…. As the farmer’s ox is close to him and works for him, so Augustine realized that his humdrum duties brought him close to God…. Isn’t Korbinian’s bear, compelled against his will to carry the saint’s pack, a picture of my own life?…
‘I am not better than a beast in your sight’—but a beast close to God…. I am God’s pack animal.”

The Popes and Education in the 20th Century 

Dr. Peter A. Kwasniewski

During her 2,000 years of history, the Catholic Church has been intimately involved in nearly every type of educational endeavor known to Western man, from the ancient schools of rhetoric to the great universities of the High Middle Ages, from humble rudiments taught at grammar schools to lofty flights of reason and imagination in the arts and sciences.

The Successor of St. Peter has a special reason to be attentive to the state of education in the flock he shepherds and to guide and encourage it in every way possible.  In fact, we find among the popes, particularly those of the last millennium, an impressive connection with schools at various levels—naturally, first and foremost, schools of formation for the clergy, but also, as time goes on, schools for religious and for the laity.  Pope John Paul II fittingly reminded the world in Ex corde Ecclesiae (1990) that the university was born from the heart of the Church and that the Church is still her best ally in the delicate, decisive, and inescapable work of educating the whole person, above all with respect to man’s capacity to know and love God, on which his very dignity is based.

If we consider the popes of our own time, from Leo XIII (1878–1903) onwards, we see several major themes consistently present in their speeches and writings.  First and foremost, the Church belongs in higher education.  As Leo XIII wrote to the Archbishop of Baltimore, James Cardinal Gibbons, in 1887: “It has always been the glory of the Pastors of the Church, but above all, of the Supreme Pontiffs, constantly to promote the acquisition of a knowledge worthy of its name, and carefully to watch over the teaching—especially theological and philosophical—imparted, so that it may be in keeping with the principles of faith.  This union between the teaching of revelation and that of reason constitutes an indestructible bulwark of the faith.”

The Church has always inspired the best kind of education, the most well-rounded and the most profoundly searching, because, as the same Pope observed in 1897, “divine faith is not only in no way hostile to culture, but rather is the crown and climax of culture.”  Indeed, a defining characteristic of Catholic education is its drive toward synthesis, a unified vision of God and the world, with the drama of redemption at its center.

“Directly or indirectly, all studies have some connection with religion,” wrote Venerable Pius XII (1939–1958) in 1950.  “University does not mean simply an overlaying of curricula which are extraneous to one another, but indicates rather a synthesis of all the subjects of learning.… To actuate this synthesis from its center up to the main key that unlocks the whole edifice is the task of a Catholic university.”

Accordingly, the curriculum of a genuinely Catholic institution “assign[s] in its zeal for truth the correct place in its programs to natural sciences and metaphysics, to mind and heart, to past and present, to reason and revelation,” as the same pontiff explained in 1939.  On the negative side, as this Pope observed in 1952, “the university would fulfill its mission badly were it to abandon itself to pluralism or to a superficial eclecticism.”

Another important papal theme is service of the common good.  Education, at its best, forms Catholics who love the common good of their nation and their Church, are equipped with the knowledge and zeal to work towards that goal, and are willing to make sacrifices for it.  Of course, Catholic education cannot form such “apostles” unless it remains abidingly true to itself and to its own identity.

Pope Pius XII declared in 1949: “In accordance with absolute fidelity to Christian principles, which are the whole reason for existence of the Catholic University, it must, today more than ever, watch the aims for which it arose, and with persistent purpose of mind keep faith with the engagement solemnly undertaken to provide the nation’s social body with leaders and lovers of science and learning who will honor the faith and the Church.”

Almost 50 years ago, in September 1958, Pius XII observed: “The Christian school will justify its existence in so far as its teachers—clerics or laymen, religious or secular—succeed in forming staunch Christians”—words that give rise to sober reflection in view of the number of historically Catholic institutions that now justify their existence for reasons extrinsic or even contrary to the apostolic intentions of their founders and benefactors, whose great longing was that minds be illuminated with the light of Christ, souls nourished with the Bread of Life, hearts inflamed with the fire of God’s love.

To all the popes of modern times, therefore, the rapid secularization of schools at all levels, whether by government coercion or by traitorous choice, has been a cause of immense sorrow and a target of their impassioned protests.  The popes, especially Pius XI (1922–1939) in his masterful encyclical Divini Illius Magistri (1929), repeatedly and effectively refute the unnatural claims of “naturalism”—the view, now universally accepted in spite of its deplorable record of real-life failure, that children and young adults should be educated without any reference to God, their immortal souls, and the virtues necessary for salvation, and without the aid of the Church’s ministry.

Consider these forceful words of Pius XII from 1951: “Education which does not bother about being moral and religious fails in its greatest and better part, in that it neglects the noblest faculties of man, deprives itself of the most efficacious and vital energies, and ends up by ‘diseducating,’ mixing up uncertainties and errors with truth, vice with virtue, and evil with good.”  The threat of secularism is a threat not only to the Church’s own institutions of learning but also to the common good of modern nations as they slide more and more rapidly into the moral chaos of techno-barbarism.

In his well-known Apostolic Constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae, John Paul II, a university professor in his younger days, drew extensively upon an ancient and living tradition to offer the Church a compelling vision of what Catholic higher education must be in our times as well as a body of directives and provisions to which institutions must be held accountable to guarantee their fidelity.  It seems, then, beautifully providential that at the start of this new millennium the Lord has given His Church another “pope of education” in the person of Joseph Ratzinger, a scholar, theologian and author of enormous stature.

There is seldom an audience, address, or letter in which the Pope does not mention or discuss the subject of education.  The famous Regensburg lecture, the speeches given at the Lateran and Gregorian Universities, and the address intended for La Sapienza in Rome are all exemplary of Pope Benedict XVI’s intellectual penetration into the relationship of faith and reason, his sound judgment regarding the modern situation, his deep academic learning made humble by the love of God, and, in a period of doubt and confusion, the strong and steady leadership he exercises for the benefit of the People of God.  Let us hope and pray that his example and teaching—a powerful summons to sanity and sanctity—will be heard and heeded by our universities and other institutes of learning.

Dr. Peter A. Kwasniewski is Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Wyoming Catholic College and a Newman Fellow for The Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Education.

Excerpts of Recent Statements from Pope Benedict XVI on Education

Address to the Convention of the Diocese of Rome, June 11, 2007

“…[T]here is talk of a great ‘educational emergency,’…an inevitable emergency: in a society, in a culture, which all too often make relativism its creed—relativism has become a sort of dogma—in such a society the light of truth is missing; indeed, it is considered dangerous and ‘authoritarian’ to speak of truth, and the end result is doubt about the goodness of life—is it good to be a person? is it good to be alive?—and in the validity of the relationships and commitments in which it consists.

“…For this reason, education tends to be broadly reduced to the transmission of specific abilities or capacities for doing, while people endeavor to satisfy the desire for happiness of the new generations by showering them with consumer goods and transitory gratification. Thus, both parents and teachers are easily tempted to abdicate their educational duties and even no longer to understand what their role, or rather, the mission entrusted to them, is.

“Yet, in this way we are not offering to young people…what it is our duty to pass on to them. Moreover, we owe them the true values which give life a foundation.

“…[T]his situation obviously fails to satisfy; it cannot satisfy because it ignores the essential aim of education which is the formation of a person to enable him or her to live to the full and to make his or her own contribution to the common good. However, on many sides the demand for authentic education and the rediscovery of the need for educators who are truly such is increasing.

“…[I]t is education and especially Christian education which shapes life based on God who is love…and has need of that closeness which is proper to love. Especially today, when isolation and loneliness are a widespread condition to which noise and group conformity is no real remedy, personal guidance becomes essential…”

Letter to the Faithful of Rome on the Urgent Task of Education, January 21, 2008

“Educating…has never been an easy task and today seems to be becoming ever more difficult…Hence, there is talk of a great ‘educational emergency’…

“…[A]n authentic education…needs first of all that closeness and trust which are born from love:…love which children… should have, from their parents. Yet every true teacher knows that if he is to educate he must give a part of himself, and that it is only in this way that he can help his pupils overcome selfishness and become in their turn capable of authentic love.

“…[P]erhaps the most delicate point in the task of education: finding the right balance between freedom and discipline. If no standard of behavior and rule of life is applied even in small daily matters, the character is not formed and the person will not be ready to face the trials that will come in the future. The educational relationship…is first of all the encounter of two kinds of freedom, and successful education means teaching the correct use of freedom…(W)e must never…pretend we do not see the errors or worse, that we share them as if they were the new boundaries of human progress.

“Education cannot, therefore, dispense with that authoritativeness which makes the exercise of authority possible. It is the fruit of experience and competence, but is acquired above all with the coherence of one’s own life and personal involvement, an expression of true love. The educator is thus a witness of truth and goodness. He too…is fragile and can be mistaken, but he will constantly endeavor to be in tune with his mission.

“…I would like to offer you a thought which I developed in …Spe Salvi on Christian hope: the soul of education, as of the whole of life, can only be a dependable hope…I cannot finish…without a warm invitation to place our hope in God.”