Liberal Arts, Science, Technology ‘Work Together,’ Says UST Houston President

Students interested in deepening their understanding of the Catholic intellectual tradition while also embracing developments in the sciences will find a beautiful harmony of both at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Tex. Dr. Richard Ludwick, president of The Newman Guide-recommended University, explains that Catholic universities have the “responsibility to search for meaning in these developing fields.”

The Newman Society recently asked Dr. Ludwick to discuss the University of St. Thomas’s majors and initiatives in the sciences and how the University is a leader in uniting faith and science.

Dr. Richard Ludwick

Newman Society: The University of St. Thomas is unique among colleges in The Newman Guide with its variety of majors and initiatives in science and technology, while also embracing the liberal arts and the Catholic intellectual tradition. Can you tell us how the University balances this approach? 

Dr. Ludwick: It’s not so much of a balance as it is a beautiful symbiosis. The liberal arts can actually work together with science and technology for the benefit of both and for all humanity. That is an essential part of the Catholic intellectual tradition and the part that will continue to lead us forward. For 75 years, the University of St. Thomas has been bringing together the greatest minds of our time to study and teach philosophy and theology and the many other disciplines that we treasure in an education grounded in the liberal arts, but the most essential question is how do we use that expertise not just to study the past but to win the future? How can we call upon the 2,000-year repository of great Catholic thought to help us understand and leverage these unprecedented breakthroughs in science and technology for the benefit of the human person? Ex corde Ecclesiae doesn’t just tell us we should do this, it tells us that we must. For the authentic good of all humanity, it is our responsibility to search for meaning in these developing fields. It’s also a lot of fun, and it continues to demonstrate daily to students the importance and relevance of our faith in the modern world.

Newman Society: What are some of the University’s new digital ventures, and how are you drawing inspiration from St. Maximilian Kolbe for them? 

Dr. Ludwick: In his time, St. Maximilian Kolbe built the largest media apostolate in human history by leveraging radio and print. Not many people know that he even had plans to start a movie studio! Those were the platforms that he had available to him at the time. Just imagine what he would have done today using YouTube, social media, Virtual and Augmented Reality, learning management platforms and a host of other spaces across the digital landscape. Just as with science and technology, we are called to use these tools for the authentic good, to advance society. Guided and inspired by St. Maximilian Kolbe, we have opened the USTMAX Center, a micro-campus concept; the St. Maximilian Kolbe Innovation Network for integration of technology and innovation, focused on the dignity of the human person; and MAX Studios, a new digital apostolate at the University of St. Thomas that seeks to encounter the culture with a missionary spirit. We create podcasts and shows with a focus on intentional dialogue that help us understand our faith and role in this world. We are also forming partnerships with other apostolates for innovation and technology, as well as businesses, including e-sports, for pathways of evangelization.

Newman Society: What do you think makes the University attractive to Catholic students in the 21st century?

Dr. Ludwick: Catholics come to St. Thomas now in growing, record numbers! They want and need more in their formation and they get it: Jesus Christ, the living love of the Father. They tell us they need a coherent core curriculum, not a buffet of unrelated classes, so they can answer timeless questions and make sense of the world. They want the best faculty and relevant majors, all in an authentically Catholic culture that is vibrantly alive. That’s what attracts them to UST. The special bonus is that they get to do all that in one of the world’s top cities, Houston. Our town is the biggest little town ever. It is a community that best reflects the entirety of our human family, and students get the chance to come together with Catholics from all across the globe. We also enjoy the food that such a mix of cultures brings. With the nation’s largest medical center just down the street, amazing museums and unparalleled career opportunities, it’s no wonder that Houston is one of the fastest growing cities. Students get access to all of that from our serene, leafy campus in the middle of the arts district. Once prospective students visit our campus, they almost always make the decision to stay.

Newman Society: Looking forward to the future, how can the University of St. Thomas be a leader in uniting faith and science? 

Photo via University of St. Thomas – Houston

Dr. Ludwick: There is a void to be filled in society, as science and technology continue to rocket forward at accelerating speed. We must keep pace. Armed with our values and a core curriculum that sets students up to ask the big questions, we will make sure that the human person remains at the heart of research and innovation. Whether our graduates go on to be priests, nurses, theologians, engineers or philosophers, they will be a force for good in the world. Ex corde Ecclesiae calls us to a continuous renewal as both “universities” and “Catholic.” As we navigate this bold new world, guided by that apostolic constitution, we will continue to engage the unknown without fear, but instead knowing that our questions will always lead to the Truth. It is that spirit, which we often refer to as the Spirit of St. Thomas, that will lead us into the future for centuries more to come.

Faithful Catholic College Prepared Nurse to Make Daily ‘Gift of Self’

Scott and Clare Held

When Clare Held (née Stiennon) graduated from St. Ambrose Academy in 2012, she knew she wanted to be a nurse—but what she didn’t know was what that path would look like.

She chose to attend the University of Mary in Bismark, N.D., one of the faithful Catholic colleges recommended in The Newman Guide, because of its highly rated nursing program. She was blessed to receive scholarship money to attend the University because she attended Catholic school, and the University was looking to increase the number of Catholic students on campus. “I got out of it what I intended to get: a bachelor’s degree in four years, the ability to work, affordability (I have no debt between my scholarships and the help from my parents) and development as an individual person.”

“I really valued the community. I was on the campus ministry; I have a lot of friendships that have lasted. I felt very well formed with very good friendships with other people who care about Catholicism.” She even met her future husband there, but they didn’t marry until July of this year—after they re-met years later!

She majored in nursing with a minor in theology. She worked as a certified nurse assistant (CNA) all throughout college, and perhaps unexpectedly, she hated her work. She worked in a nursing home at the time, and while she enjoyed ministering to the elderly, the environment was a challenge. She tried a psychology degree, but when that didn’t feel quite right either, she started working in the insurance business.

“I was an insurance claim examiner and producer for a while. I just didn’t enjoy it much. I did enjoy reviewing medical notes to preauthorize treatments and medications. So, I decided to switch back to medicine.” Now, she works as a CNA on the cancer floor in her hospital, which also receive a lot of medical patients. She ministers to the dying through doing a lot of the practical tasks such as flipping patients, giving them comfort baths, changing them and helping them use the restroom.

“I don’t find it to be emotionally challenging, because I think it’s meaningful to help care for those patients. I like my work better now, because I believe we offer better care to our patients, and my co-workers are good people.”

She likes the fact that she’s come full circle. “I am doing a corporal work of mercy every time I go to work.”

From her time at the University of Mary, she distinctly remembers the opening talk that President, Monsignor James Shea, gave to freshmen. He talked about how students must find a way to give theirselves away, and that’s how they find fulfillment, both in a career and in their personal lives.

“That’s always stuck with me,” Held says. “When I switched from insurance back to nursing, I felt that extra-strong feminine desire of giving myself in a meaningful way. How do I make a sincere gift of self? That was an influencing topic when I was at the University, in the culture, friendships and theology. I’ve come to see that nursing is a really wonderful way to give yourself away: I can give myself to the sick and dying.”

Clare has truly come full-circle. After being in an unfulfilling career, one in which she struggled to see how she could give herself away—a strong theme from her time at the University—she has discovered that caring for the sick and dying is how she can truly “make a sincere gift of self,” as Pope St. John Paul II encouraged. Thanks to her time at the University of Mary, she is able to pursue her vocation in nursing in a profoundly radical way and give herself in a Christ-like manner.

Q&A: What is ‘Franciscan’ about Franciscan University of Steubenville?

Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, is widely known as one of the most faithful institutions of Catholic higher education. But among those institutions recommended in The Newman Guide, it is the only one that maintains a “Franciscan” identity. The Cardinal Newman Society recently caught up with Father Jonathan St. André, a Franciscan friar of the Third Order Regular who works and ministers at Franciscan University, about what makes this Catholic university so unique.

Newman Society: When someone says they are “going to Steubenville,” most Catholics today immediately recognize that they are headed to that vibrant Catholic university in Ohio. We almost forget to say, “Franciscan University,” and yet the Franciscan charism is essential to the education you provide. What is it about Franciscan University’s charism that makes it so special? 

Fr. Jonathan St. André, TOR: The primary charism of Franciscan University of Steubenville is ongoing conversion, since that charism is the foundation of the TOR friars who serve at the University (the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular of Penance—penance being another word for ongoing conversion). The University’s charism is to offer in everything it does the opportunity for people to become disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ! People can tell there is something special here, and what they sense is a vibrant faith rooted in an openness to the Holy Spirit and the joy that comes from following the Lord.

Newman Society: As a Franciscan friar yourself, you have studied the lives of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Clare. What about their lives translates into a Franciscan University education?

Fr. Jonathan St. André, TOR: Contrary to popular opinion, Saint Francis and Saint Clare were not against education, rather, they were wary of the pride that can puff up one who has been educated, and they warned that studies were to be promoted as long as they did not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion. A Franciscan University education is Franciscan in that it promotes humility through study, always recognizing that one is called to further learning and to be generous in sharing what one has learned. A Franciscan education aims to direct all disciplines to charity, the love of God and love of neighbor. Saint Francis and Saint Clare exemplified this love of God and love of neighbor in the way in which they encountered all created things. They saw the hand of God in creation, and they shared this vision of God’s presence in the material world with their followers so that through the created world every person could make their way toward the eternal life for which they were made. At Franciscan University, we seek to adopt the same understanding of Saint Francis and Saint Clare—that the created world leads us back to God.

Newman Society: How do students experience this Franciscan charism on campus and in the classroom?

Fr. Jonathan St. André, TOR: Whether it is in the classroom, on the sports field, participating in our households (faith-based communities) or going on a mission, there are multiple invitations to grow in holiness every day and throughout one’s time at Franciscan University. Saints Francis and Clare were in love with Jesus and the mysteries of his life, particularly the Incarnation and the Passion. Students experience the Franciscan charism in the University’s devotion to the Lord in the Eucharist (daily Mass, perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament) and in the call to ongoing conversion (sacrament of reconciliation). We cultivate the Franciscan charism on campus by celebrating Franciscan feast days and teaching our community about the holy men and women of the Franciscan tradition. The friars in their witness and preaching seek to show our University community the many ways that they can live the Gospel in fulfilling their personal vocation to holiness. In the classroom, students are taught the connection between the Franciscan charism and the discipline they are studying. Students can also enroll in classes that focus on Franciscan spirituality and gain a Franciscan Studies minor.

Newman Society: What do you hope Franciscan University students carry forward into their lives after graduation?

Fr. Jonathan St. André, TOR: I hope our students who graduate bring with them a deep, vibrant, personal relationship with the Lord grounded in a sacramental life in the Church. I hope they have a sense of their personal vocation to holiness and a sense that their discipline of study can be carried out to the glory of God. I hope they continue the deep relationships they have formed and always foster a sense of Christian community in their lives.

Time for an Exodus from Public Schools?

Editor’s Note: The article below is included in the forthcoming fall 2021 edition of the Newman Society’s Our Catholic Mission magazine. Mary Rice Hasson, JD, and Theresa Farnan, PhD, are authors of Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child from Public School Before It’s Too Late. Hasson is the Kate O’Beirne Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and director of the Catholic Women’s Forum. Farnan is a founding member of the Person and Identity Project and has taught at Franciscan University of Steubenville and two seminaries. Both have been leading Catholic voices on education, gender ideology and other issues. 

Laura Morris, a public-school teacher in Loudoun County, Va., was excited about returning to a classroom of “amazing” 5th grade students this fall. Instead, in August she quit her job.

In a short, heart-wrenching speech before the county school board that was shared on social media, Morris explained why: the school district’s “transgender” policies and “equity” trainings promote “political ideologies that do not square with who I am as a believer in Christ.” Her final words—before the school board silenced her microphone—urged “all parents and staff in this county to flood the private schools.”

In other words, leave public schools. Catholics should listen well.

A good education forms the whole person: intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual. But today’s public schools promote a curriculum that is radically antagonistic to Judeo-Christian morality and anthropology. Public schools of past generations were not perfect, but they incorporated an implicitly Judeo-Christian moral viewpoint and vision of the person (anthropology). No more.

Current public-school curricula and programs view the person through the lenses of atheism and materialism, often distorted even further by gender ideology. As a result, Catholic children in public school must navigate a school culture hostile to “ foundational Catholic beliefs. They face pressure from peers, teachers and administrators to use wrong sex pronouns that affirm a classmate’s “gender identity” and to pretend “everything’s normal” when a male student who identifies as a “girl,” for example, undresses in the female locker room. LGBTQ-inclusive sex education programs break down modesty and function as “how to” instructions for children too young to understand or even legally consent to sexual activity.

At the same time, the militantly secular atmosphere within public schools sends the message to Catholic students that their religion has no place in the public square and that they should be ashamed of Catholic moral teachings, which are painted as intolerant and hateful. The Church’s beliefs about marriage and gender are described as bigoted, “transphobic,” and a form of “cis-heteronormative” oppression. The schools exalt the individual as “self-creator” and define fulfillment in terms of pleasure and self-gratification.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reported in 2015 that weekly Mass attendance was only five percent among millennials who attended non-Catholic schools (photo via adobe stock).

The impact is predictable. The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reported in 2015 that weekly Mass attendance was only five percent among millennials who attended non-Catholic schools.

Unless we take seriously, right now, the need to give every Catholic child a Catholic education, our churches will be nearly empty of young people before the decade is over. And our nation will suffer as well. Eight years ago, only about one in 10 Catholic children attended Catholic schools. Today Hispanic families account for the majority of Catholic children, yet more than 95 percent of them enroll in public schools.

This really is a watershed moment. Public school parents are shocked at the prospect of daughters changing for gym in the presence of male (“transgender”) students, angered by the erosion of athletic opportunities for their daughters, and troubled that teachers encourage impressionable kindergarteners and vulnerable teens to “explore” alternative “gender identities.” They are alarmed over school policies that intentionally keep them in the dark about their own child’s “gender” confusion and frustrated that they are unable to shield their children from school curricula or programs that will undermine their child’s faith. Remote learning during the COVID lockdowns gave many parents an unvarnished look at their children’s daily lessons and the “woke” indoctrination embedded within.

Many parents today are rightly questioning whether public schools are the right choice for their children. There is no better time for Catholic dioceses to explain why a Catholic education—whether at home or in hybrid, classical, or parish schools—is not only a good option but the best option. The Church must do three things at once:

  1. educate parents about the ideological capture of public education and the very real threats that gender ideology and “wokeness” pose to their children’s faith and psychological stability;
  2. convey the vision of Catholic education (broadly speaking), which offers unparalleled benefits for faith, character-building and educational excellence; and
  3. work alongside parents and the larger Catholic community to ensure that financial costs will never prevent a Catholic child from receiving a Catholic education, not only by reducing costs in parochial schools but also by promoting less costly options.

These steps require a radical shift in mindset not only among parents but also among priests and diocesan personnel, who have long regarded public education as a lesser but benign alternative. Perhaps that was true in the past; it is not true today.

It is critical for diocesan bishops to assess each pastor’s commitment to Catholic education, in all forms. A priest who thinks Catholic education is unimportant, or who discounts homeschooling as a means of Catholic education, would seem to be a poor fit for a parish with many young families or a parish school. On the other hand, a bishop or pastor who is committed to ensuring a strong Catholic identity in diocesan schools, willing to listen to parents’ insights and be open to new educational models, and motivated to reach out to Catholic Hispanic families, whose children represent the future of the Church, will see the Church flourish in spite of the challenging culture.

Now, more than ever, Catholic parents, clergy, parishes and philanthropists need to prioritize Catholic education. Like Laura Morris, we must be unafraid to say that today’s public schools promote “political ideologies do not square with who [we are] as believer[s] in Christ.” Our children deserve better, and there are no do-overs on childhood. Let’s give our kids the education they need not only for the here and now, but for eternal life.

Q&A: Walking in the Footsteps of Saints at The Catholic University of America

As the only Catholic university in America founded by the U.S. bishops, The Catholic University of America boasts a rich Catholic tradition going back to the late 1800s from its campus in Washington D.C. This tradition has provided the school with one of the most unique legacies for an American Catholic institution of higher education: a legacy filled with saints. The Cardinal Newman Society recently asked Catholic University President John Garvey to discuss the many saints and holy people who have walked the halls and sidewalks of “bishop’s university.”

Newman Society: The Catholic University of America is known as the “bishops’ university,” since it is the Church’s national university in the U.S., but not many people know that canonized saints and prominent Church leaders have visited and studied there. Who are some of these saints, and what stories stand out from their time on campus?

President Garvey: For nearly 25 years beginning in 1926, Venerable Fulton Sheen (then Monsignor Sheen) taught in room 112 in McMahon Hall, prayed daily in Caldwell Chapel, and studied in Mullen Library. During those years, The Tower, Catholic University’s student newspaper, published more than 180 articles about Monsignor Sheen — his speeches, debates, books, and radio programs. Today, there is a plaque at room 112 to commemorate those years and the University hosts a website about the life of Fulton Sheen and his cause for sainthood.

Catholic University awarded Mother Teresa her first honorary degree in 1971, eight years before she would receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Thousands of papers and records related to her are housed in our University Archives. Students remember our connection to this saint every fall when we come out by the hundreds to help our surrounding communities on the University’s Annual Mother Teresa Day of Service, which is this coming Sunday.

Sister Thea Bowman, whose cause for sainthood has been endorsed by the U.S. bishops, received her master’s degree and Ph.D. at Catholic University. She was an educator, trailblazer, and advocate for the Black Catholic experience. When we formed a committee last year to explore and recommend ways in which the University can promote racial justice on campus, we naturally named it the Sister Thea Bowman Committee, and a road is named for her on our campus.

Servant of God Emil Kapaun, a priest from the Diocese of Wichita and a candidate for sainthood, received a master’s degree from Catholic University in 1948. He was captured by the North Koreans in 1950 while serving as a U.S. Army chaplain, and was killed while a prisoner of war. President Obama awarded him the Medal of Honor in 2013, and his remains have recently been identified. Later this month a Catholic University representative will be present when they bury his remains in Wichita.

The Knights of Columbus, founded by recently beatified Father Michael McGivney, is a permanent fixture here on campus. Our law school was named the Columbus School of Law after we merged our law school with Columbus University in 1954. In 2008 we named a renovated hall McGivney Hall after the Knights of Columbus generously gave $8 million for the facility’s extensive renovations. We have a statue of Blessed Michael McGivney outside of the hall’s entrance.

Cardinals and bishops frequent our campus, often interacting with students. They celebrate Mass with us and many serve on our Board of Trustees. Our chancellor, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, archbishop of Washington, became the first African American cardinal in November 2020. He is part of our community and an inspiration to many of our students.

Newman Society: Considering the honorary degrees awarded to Saint Teresa of Calcutta, Venerable Fulton Sheen, Saint Katharine Drexel and others, why is it important for the Catholic University of America to hold up exemplars of moral virtue?

President Garvey: The role of Catholic University is not simply to produce scholars, but to produce scholars steeped in the Catholic intellectual tradition. These men and women – saints, blesseds, and servants of God – inspire us to live lives of virtue, founded in our faith and in service to others.

Newman Society: Pope Francis, Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have all made historic visits to campus. How did that contribute to students’ experience and their education?

President Garvey joins Catholic University students as they prepare food for those in need at a local community center in Washington, D.C., on the University annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service hosted by campus ministry, 01/20/20 (Photo credit: Patrick G. Ryan, The Catholic University of America)

President Garvey: The Catholic University of America is the only university in the country to have been visited by three popes. Pope (now Saint) John Paul II visited our campus in 1979. We hosted Pope Benedict in 2008 when he delivered an address on Catholic education at the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center. On Sept. 23, 2015, Pope Francis came to our campus, and, for me, it was an honor to be part of the experience as University President. On that day the Holy Father celebrated the canonization Mass of Junípero Serra from the East Portico of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception overlooking our campus where more than 25,000 worshippers gathered. Among them were hundreds of our students, many of whom would later tell me it was a life-changing moment.

That visit to our campus was historic for many reasons. It was the first canonization to take place on U.S. soil. It was the first Mass Pope Francis celebrated in the United States, and it was in fact his first visit to the U.S. in his life. For those of us who attended the Mass, most especially our students, it was a day we will never forget.

Our involvement with the pope’s visit went beyond the Mass. During the summer before Pope Francis’s visit, the Archdiocese of Washington and Catholic Charities launched the #WalkwithFrancis campaign to encourage D.C.-area residents to follow the example of Pope Francis, pledging service and prayer in the weeks leading up to his visit. At the University we embraced the theme, which we wore on bracelets, with Campus Ministry-sponsored service events and a series of educational programs. Our goal as a University was to ensure our community had the opportunity to be part of the historic visit in meaningful and memorable ways.

For the visits by both Pope Benedict and Pope Francis, students in our School of Architecture competed to design the liturgical furniture used for papal Masses. The altars continue in use today, at the Basilica and Washington’s Saint John Paul II Seminary.

Newman Society: Catholic education should be forming every student for sainthood. How is Catholic University preparing the next generation of saints and leaders for our Church and world?

President Garvey: We encourage our students to love both God and neighbor, and to do so in that order. That’s why I tell freshmen at orientation to not forget to pray. I hope they’ll study hard at Catholic University and make good friends. These are important things. But they’re not the last things. Prayer helps our students balance all the demands of university life, and helps them keep their priorities in view. It also reminds them why they are here — not just here at The Catholic University of America, but here on earth. College can be stressful at times. God’s abiding peace is the best stress reliever. So I encourage them to take advantage of the many opportunities to pray with others at Catholic University.

We want our students to have a vibrant spiritual life, so we provide the sacraments on campus often. Every year I conclude orientation with a Public Service Announcement to the incoming class that includes all Mass and confession times, just so they know how easy it is to keep up their spiritual life.

And from our commitment to love God there naturally flows a deep commitment to serve our neighbor. We begin every fall semester with our Annual Mother Teresa Day of Service and at the start of each spring semester, our community turns out for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. On nearly every day of our academic year, students can participate in service, from our homeless food runs that take them into the city with meals to after-school reading programs to visits to senior housing facilities. Domestic and international service-learning trips are available every spring break and summer. The NCAA and the Catholic Volunteer Network have recognized Catholic University students for national leadership in giving back to the community.

John Henry Newman

Some Hard Truths About Secular Colleges

R. Reno made waves a few months ago, because of his frank rejection of “elite” secular universities. Let’s hope Catholic educators were paying attention.

Reno is editor of First Things magazine, which caters to a generally highbrow readership. Before teaching at Jesuit, but largely secularized, Creighton University, he graduated from the prestigious Haverford College and earned his Ph.D. at Yale.

Still, Reno no longer recruits Ivy League graduates for his staff.

“I don’t want to hire someone who makes inflammatory accusations at the drop of a hat,” he writes, responding to the increasingly hostile “cancel culture” at Ivy League universities and most other secular colleges. He also doesn’t want to hire graduates who have become “well-practiced in remaining silent when it costs something to speak up” against prevailing campus ideologies.

“I have no doubt that Ivy League universities attract smart, talented, and ambitious kids,” Reno acknowledges. “But do these institutions add value? My answer is increasingly negative. Dysfunctional kids are coddled and encouraged to nurture grievances, while normal kids are attacked and educationally abused.”

Most Catholic college students attend secular colleges or largely secularized Catholic colleges, where the anti-reason “cancel culture” threatens anyone who espouses Catholic teaching or celebrates Western culture. Shouldn’t the Church be doing something about these dangers?

Continue reading at The Catholic Thing…

A Pastor Saves His Flock by Catholic Education

In Northern Virginia, where critical race theory, gender ideology, and emptied classrooms because of COVID-19 have sparked protests by angry parents of public-school students, a parish priest is taking up the legendary Archbishop “Dagger John” Hughes’ mission of helping Catholic children get out of public schools by every means possible.

Archbishop Hughes founded the Catholic school system in New York City in the mid-1800s and famously declared, “We shall have to build the schoolhouse first and the church afterward. In our age, the question of education is the question of the Church.”

Faithful Catholic education is no less urgently needed today. So, when the pandemic hit last year, Fr. John De Celles of St. Raymond of Peñafort Parish in Springfield, Virginia, instituted a one-time $2,000 scholarship for each child in his parish who switched from a public elementary or secondary school to a Catholic parochial or lay-run school.

This year, Fr. De Celles has renewed that offer again, thanks to the generosity of parishioners. He also doubled the parish’s annual, renewable scholarships to $1,000 for students in Catholic grade schools and $2,000 for students in Catholic high schools. And on a case-by-case basis, St. Raymond’s offers additional financial aid to families in need and helps cover the direct educational costs of families who homeschool.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine…

Newman Society President Discusses Ministerial Exception on Drew Mariani Relevant Radio Show

Patrick Reilly, president and founder of The Cardinal Newman Society, joined the Drew Mariani Show on Relevant Radio Tuesday to discuss an appeal to the United States Supreme Court regarding the “ministerial exception” and its protection for religious colleges. A recording is available here.

The guest host Ed Morrissey noted that the Newman Society had co-filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court requesting that it block the Massachusetts Superior Court’s narrow reading of the ministerial exception, thereby allowing a professor of social work to sue Gordon College for denying her a  promotion.

The ministerial exception is a First Amendment principle that bars courts from interfering with personnel decisions concerning employees who have substantial religious duties, including religious instruction and formation. The Supreme Court upheld the exception for a school teacher in Hosanna Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC (2012) and reaffirmed the exception for religion teachers at Catholic schools in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru last summer.

“In both cases they made it very clear that teaching the faith is about as ministerial as it gets, that the institutions are protected from lawsuits based on discrimination,” Reilly explained.

The Gordon College case has special importance for the ministerial exception, Reilly said, “because it involves a college, which the Supreme Court has not yet considered, and it also involves someone who is not teaching theology, but is teaching social work,” Reilly said.  “At Gordon College they make very clear that every professor must be teaching the faith as part of their course work [and] they should be protected as part of the ministerial exception.”

The Gordon College case is yet another attempt to “rein in the ministerial exception,” Reilly said, citing a recent case in which a parish employee sued the Archdiocese of Chicago, claiming that the “ministerial exception only applies to hiring and firing decisions and not other employment decisions” including claims of a hostile work environment. The Newman Society petitioned the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to support the First Amendment rights of religious employers, which the court did in July.

Host Morrissey noted the importance of these rulings and the ministerial exception, pointing out that “the point of the church teaching function is to promote church teaching.”

“To have the state step into those decisions, certainly in Hosanna Tabor, the Supreme Court found it to be almost an explicit intrusion into religious faith and religious exercise,” he said.

Newman Society Urges Supreme Court to Apply Ministerial Exception to Religious Colleges

On Thursday, The Cardinal Newman Society, which promotes and defends faithful Catholic education, with the International Alliance for Christian Education and the Association for Biblical Higher Education, urged the United States Supreme Court to overturn a Massachusetts high court ruling that would severely restrict the ministerial exception for religious higher education.

The amicus brief was authored and filed on Sept. 2 by Sharon Rose and Samuel Diehl of the Washington, D.C.-based Cross Castle PLLC.

In March, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled in Gordon College v. DeWeese-Boyd that Gordon College is indeed a Christian college and its professors are required to teach and uphold Christian principles, but the Court nevertheless allowed a dissenting social work professor to proceed with a lawsuit against the college for refusing to promote her. Court interference in religious hiring practices is a violation of the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause and the ministerial exception, according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last year in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Beru.

“Catholic and other religious colleges deserve the same First Amendment protections that have been upheld for religious schools,” said Patrick Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society. “The Supreme Court last year clearly upheld the ministerial exception with regard to a schoolteacher hired specifically to teach religion classes. We now call on the Court to make clear that the ministerial exception applies to professors, regardless of their discipline, at institutions where religious faith informs all that is taught and employees are required to be witnesses to religious beliefs.”

As argued in the brief, “Gordon is entitled to define its faith and determine how that faith is carried out in matters of internal government and employment, not individual faculty members. The standard the Massachusetts Court applied fundamentally threatens Gordon’s and other religious institutions’ ability to accomplish their missions and to maintain their pervasively religious character.”

Archdiocese of Indianapolis Fights for the Right to Have Faithful Employees

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has been fighting several battles for the protection of Catholic education, and last month’s federal court victory was an especially exciting step forward.

A federal district court in Indiana ruled that the Archdiocese and its Roncalli Catholic High School have the First Amendment right to uphold moral standards — not only for religion teachers, as the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed last summer in its Our Lady of Guadalupe School ruling, but also for other employees who aid in the Christian formation of students.

“Catholic schools focus on the complete person, made in God’s image and likeness, not just on the mind or on a subject matter,” wrote my colleague Dr. Dan Guernsey last year. “Learning and formation happen concurrently. They are entwined.”

His position paper, “All Employees Matter in the Mission of Catholic Education,” made the important argument that every employee of a Catholic school is important to its mission of educating and forming young people in the Catholic faith. Although last year’s Supreme Court ruling focused on a Catholic school religion teacher, the ministerial exception — which prevents federal courts from interfering in employment decisions that substantially involve religious duties — ought to also protect a faithfully Catholic school or college with regard to teachers of all subjects as well as other employees and administrators.

The Roncalli case centers on a school guidance counselor who worked closely with students. Counseling is a duty that relates just as strongly to the Christian formation of students as teaching, and Catholic school counselors must model the moral teachings of the Church as an example to students. Sadly, the Roncalli counselor entered into a same-sex marriage and was dismissed.

Roncalli and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis did not shy away from the Church’s moral beliefs in their employee policies and in their legal defense. By establishing a clear moral expectation for employees, the school has a strong claim to First Amendment protections under the Free Exercise Clause. More important, it ensures that the good of its students is first and foremost protected.

Much More to Come

The struggle is not over for Archbishop Charles Thompson and his Indianapolis schools, but the outlook is brighter.

Although the guidance counselor is appealing the Roncalli decision to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, that is the same court that in July dismissed a lawsuit by a Chicago parish music director who also entered into a same-sex union. The court invoked the ministerial exception, rejecting the plaintiff’s argument that the exception covers only complaints about hiring and firing decisions and not claims of a hostile work environment.

“A Catholic school has freedom to hire and fire ministers based on alignment with the Catholic Church’s religious teachings about sex, sexual orientation, and marriage,” the Newman Society noted in an amicus brief in the case.

“But if a Catholic school minister engages in a course of conduct that violates the Catholic Church’s teachings, and the school persistently communicates that the minister has strayed from the school’s moral expectations and should repent,” then the school could have been forced to stand trial had the 7th Circuit agreed to narrow the scope of the ministerial exception.

Another guidance counselor from Roncalli, who was also fired for entering into a same-sex union, is pursuing a separate lawsuit. That case is before the same federal judge who dismissed the similar case last month.

Meanwhile, same-sex partners at two other Indianapolis-area Catholic schools have fought the Archdiocese and its moral standards for school employees. One of them, a teacher who was dismissed from Cathedral Catholic High School in Indianapolis, saw his lawsuit dismissed in Marion County Superior Court in May, but he is appealing the ruling.

His legally married partner still teaches at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, which refuses to abide by archdiocesan policy. Archbishop Thompson took action in 2019 to declare the school no longer Catholic and forbid Mass in its chapel, but the school appealed to the Vatican, which for two years has failed to provide any resolution.

So there is much more to come, but the rulings this summer reinforce the scope of the ministerial exception and give hope to Catholic educators. Perhaps the most important lesson that can be drawn in the meantime is that Catholic schools and colleges should continue to ensure that employees are committed wholly to the mission of the school and the Church. It’s legally protected and it’s the right thing to do for Catholic families.

Every employee in a Catholic school, from the principal to the gym teacher, is important to the mission of Catholic education. Clear and consistently enforced policies that expect employees to model moral behavior is a key part of leading young people to Christ.

This article first appeared at the National Catholic Register.