Newman Society Urges Ministerial Exception for Archdiocese of Chicago

In a federal lawsuit that has potential consequences for Catholic education and all religious employers, The Cardinal Newman Society filed an amicus brief Tuesday urging the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the ministerial exception and protect the First Amendment rights of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

The brief is authored by the expert attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a leading defender of religious freedom.

The plaintiff—a former parish music director who was fired after entering into a same-sex marriage—has argued that his claim of a “hostile work environment” is not prohibited by the ministerial exception. This would limit the ministerial exception to hiring and firing decisions, while allowing employees to sue employers for teaching religious views and upholding moral principles that are deemed offensive.

A panel of 7th Circuit judges has agreed, allowing the suit against the Archdiocese of Chicago to proceed. But the Archdiocese has appealed for a ruling by the full court, and the Newman Society brief supports that request.

In the brief, ADF attorneys cite the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling this summer in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morissey-Berru, which prohibits courts from interfering in all “employment disputes” with employees who have “substantial religious duties.” This includes hostile environment claims.

“The panel majority’s ruling is unprecedented,” the brief warns. “No federal appellate court has allowed a minister’s hostile-environment claims to proceed once a church alleges a religious reason for the disputed conduct.”

“Churches’ autonomy depends on their ability to control the ministerial employment relationship, free from government ‘influence,’” argues the brief, citing Our Lady of Guadalupe. “Whether the government’s orders relate to a church’s obvious or indirect employment actions makes no difference. The First Amendment guarantees churches’ religious and ecclesiastical autonomy.”

But the 7th Circuit panel decision puts Catholic education in an “untenable position,” the Newman Society warns.

“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. 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, the school can now be forced to endure a secular trial.”

The Newman Society seeks the renewal of faithful Catholic education and is concerned with protecting the rights of Catholic schools and colleges to teach truth in accord with the Catholic faith.

The 7th Circuit panel’s ruling is “an unconstitutional intrusion on ecclesiastical authority, subjecting religious bodies to hostile environment claims that the courts have no authority to adjudicate,” insists the Newman Society.

Catholic Colleges Should Fight Pornography

To combat pornography, Catholics should take the lead in the home and in our institutions. It should be a high priority for Catholic colleges.

Recent controversy over the Netflix movie “Cuties,” now the target of a Texas indictment for “lewd visual material,” helped bring renewed attention to the devastating impact of pornography. Society is taking a new, hard look at this moral pandemic that is corrupting souls as well as the mind and body — but shouldn’t Catholics be in the lead?

Dr. Chad Pecknold, theologian at The Catholic University of America, responded to “Cuties” by  warning families, “We must guard our senses. We must guard our children.”

He’s absolutely right. Parents need to be vigilant, and our pastors need to preach openly about it. But what about Catholic educators who are committed to forming students in moral conduct and authentic love for Christ and others?

Pornography not only harms the user. It makes people commodities for fleeting pleasure, even to the point of violence and human trafficking. While Catholic colleges strive to form students to be more fully human, the most inhuman activity is prevalent — as best we know by anecdote and studies of college-age behavior — in the dorm rooms.

Studies indicate that upwards of two-thirds of high school and college-aged Americans view pornography at least weekly. These rates may be higher amid the coronavirus pandemic, with students spending more time alone and in their residences.

Social distancing limitations are difficult for college students, who are asked to avoid gatherings and campus events. Students are spending even longer hours in front of computers and cell phones, because of schoolwork or as an escape from boredom, isolation and loneliness.

For young people at home and in campus residences, the temptation and opportunity to view online pornography has probably never been higher.

Jason Evert of the Chastity Project warns of “a pandemic of porn addiction for men as well as women.” He told the Newman Society that the challenge of pornography, “perhaps more than any other, is in need of a thorough, pastoral and effective response.”

Experts have identified serious mental and social health problems related to pornography consumption. Catholics know it to be a grave and often mortal sin.

For the user, pornography erodes the Christian response to others and even the desire for authentic human relationships, especially in dating and marriage. It is highly addictive. There is every moral reason to tackle this terrible activity, but Catholic colleges also have a clear practical concern: pornography addiction can be a serious impediment to an academic life.

Without question, the battle against pornography begins in the home, through the witness, formation and rules set by Catholic parents. But once students go off to college, they face a whole new set of challenges that Catholic colleges should help students overcome. They are on their own, often for the first time, away from parent supervision. They have a lot of free time.

Catholic colleges should set the example on fighting pornography. It really ought to be a concern for secular colleges as well, given the clear warnings of mental health experts and the impact on a student’s studies and participation in campus life. But with the added concern for students’ moral formation and the danger of grave sin, Catholic colleges should take the lead in mitigating pornography use on campus, helping students avoid the temptation, and counseling students with addiction.

This article first appeared at the National Catholic Register.

John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman, a Saint for Students

Here is an important saint for our times — and with a special love for students! Any student or parent seeking intercession would do well to pray to St. John Henry Newman (1801-1890), who was canonized last year and is celebrated on his feast day, Oct. 9.

Newman has had such a big impact on my life, and so I speak about him from the heart. I discovered him only after graduating from college and wish I had his example much earlier. Across nearly 30 years of promoting faithful Catholic education, I have looked to Newman as a patron because of his lifelong devotion to teaching and his important writings on education. Newman has also been important to my family; my wife and children joined me at both his beatification in England and his canonization in Rome.

Newman’s writings are voluminous, and the average Catholic will probably find his theological and philosophical works abstract and difficult to comprehend. But his prayers, sermons and poetry are eloquent and inspirational. They invite the reader to share in his passion and fervent devotion to Jesus Christ, especially in the Eucharist, and to Mary. Students will also find abundant hope in Newman’s unwavering trust in Providence.

St. John Henry can be a valuable spiritual guide to students determined to deepen their relationship with God despite the toxic campus environment at most colleges. At faithful Catholic colleges, Newman’s vision for Catholic education will resonate across the curriculum and campus life. The wisdom of his sermons can help set young adults on the narrow path to heaven.

Newman is perhaps best known in the United States as patron of the “Newman Centers” at secular colleges, which are patterned after the student organization at Oxford University, England, that was founded in Newman’s honor. Today, campus ministries across the U.S. often pray to Newman, although Americans often confuse him with St. John Neumann of Philadelphia, also a champion of education and founder of Catholic parochial schools.

Both saints, in fact, were critical of secular education, and after his conversion from Anglicanism in 1845, St. John Henry focused his efforts on Catholic formation. He was founding rector of a Catholic university in Dublin, where he delivered the lectures that were later compiled into his Idea of a University — one of the most important and influential works on higher education ever written. He spent the remainder of his life as founding leader of the Oratory School, a reputable boarding school for Catholic students who were barred from attending England’s other top schools.

Every high-school senior and college freshman should read Idea of a University, a persuasive defense of liberal education for its own sake — not simply for the utilitarian objective of securing a first job. Some have tried to box Newman into the liberal arts, which he wholly embraced, but Newman was less concerned about which academic disciplines a student pursued and more interested in cultivating “philosophical” thinking across education. By this, he meant the skills and experience of “ascending” above knowledge, contemplating how it relates to other knowledge and coming to a larger view of reality — ultimately rising all the way to the Creator, if not for the imperfections of human reasoning and virtue.

In its essence, Newman argued, education is about cultivating the mind — not moral or religious formation. But herein lies the great danger of secular education, as we see so often in today’s universities: The scholar becomes prideful, enamored by the accomplishments of science and creativity, making a “religion” of human reason and ignoring the truth of God. A student comes to school or college with the intellect, conscience and appetites all “warring in his breast,” warns Newman; likewise, education quickly falls prey to the disintegration of reality that began with the first sin. Without the Church to provide true moral formation, and without the grace of God found in the sacraments and in prayer, secular education loses its “integrity” and becomes distorted and even dangerous.

Moreover, Newman famously argued, the knowledge of God is the most important discipline of study, because it is foundational to every other art and science. A secular education is incomplete because it rejects theology. It can distort rather than form the student to be fully human.

St. John Henry would then advise Catholic high-school students today to seek a truly Catholic education that is focused not purely on job training but on cultivating the mind. But Newman’s insights are valuable even for a student who attends a secular college. Every student needs sound moral formation, frequent prayer and the sacraments. If a student lacks teaching that integrates the Catholic faith into every course of study, then additional reading and lectures that supplement regular coursework are necessary to gain some portion of the authentic education that Newman proposed.

Newman was a great intellect, and his greatness was rooted in fervent prayer and meditation. Students would flock to hear his sermons at Oxford, in Dublin and at his oratory in Birmingham. He loved his books but was also known as a loving pastor, as indicated by his episcopal motto, “Heart speaks to heart.”

Newman’s personality and devotion come through clearly in his many prayers, sermons, poetry and even his letters, which he carefully preserved by handwriting a copy before sending them off.

Students will benefit from a few minutes or a few hours of reading Newman, perhaps in the evening or at Eucharistic adoration. (Newman himself wrote many of his works in front of the Eucharist.) The National Institute for Newman Studies in Pittsburgh, in partnership with the Birmingham Oratory in England, has generously provided many of Newman’s key writings free of charge at You might begin with selections from Sermons Preached on Various OccasionsMeditations and Devotions and Verses on Various Occasions — but every Newman-phile has a different recommendation.

Students will be moved by Newman’s tender love for the Holy Mother and his sense of divine Providence working throughout his life. Newman was certain that “God has created me to do Him some definite service,” and that if he would only commit to do good, God would make him “a preacher of truth in my own place.” (Those lines are from a Newman meditation that I prayed with my children when they were younger; it’s probably even more appropriate for a teenager or young adult looking to the future.)

Another of Newman’s works — his most famous poem, Lead, Kindly Light — should resonate with students who are striving for God’s wisdom and calling amid the fog of contemporary American life. Do a student a favor: Share just a few lines and bring him or her into a lifelong friendship with one of the Church’s greatest inspirations.

Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,

Lead Thou me on;

The night is dark, and I am far from home, Lead Thou me on.

Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene;

one step enough for me.

… O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till

The night is gone;

And with the morn those angel faces smile,

Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.


This article first appeared at the National Catholic Register.

Today’s Youth Need Veritatis Splendor

Many Catholics have abandoned the faith—as many as 13 percent of American adults. Without a concerted effort toward renewed orthodoxy, we stand to lose many more.

The road map for renewal, we believe, is found in St. John Paul II’s Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth). Catholic educators and youth ministers, and indeed all Catholics, should take a new look at this 1993 encyclical that summarizes Christian morality: follow the Gospel, abide in Jesus Christ, and be renewed in orthodoxy and transformed by grace.

Continue reading at Catholic Stand…

Employers Value the Liberal Arts

Faithful Catholic colleges offer a wide variety of majors, each beginning with an inspiring core curriculum focused on the liberal arts. You’ll study the great works of mankind and come to a fuller understanding of God, creation, philosophy, history and science.

You’ll learn the facts and the reasons behind the facts. You’ll learn skills and how to serve humanity in your career. You’ll learn how to think clearly and rationally in any situation.

Studies find that 93% of employers value critical thinking skills more than a person’s college major. And consider these recent headlines:

us supreme court

Supreme Court Rulings Already Impacting Catholic Schools

This month, even before the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the Court’s importance to Catholics was made apparent — and Catholic educators especially should take notice.

The Supreme Court’s summer rulings are now being tested in Indianapolis, where a teacher who was rightly dismissed from Cathedral High School because he entered into a same-sex civil marriage has filed a federal discrimination complaint. His case will likely rest upon the Court’s Bostock ruling in June, which forbids employers from considering homosexuality or transgender identity in employment decisions.

The same teacher has also sued the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, claiming that Archbishop Charles Thompson improperly interfered with Cathedral’s personnel decisions by requiring Catholic schools to uphold moral standards for teachers. The policy complies with the Church’s Canon 806:

“The diocesan bishop has the right to watch over and visit the Catholic schools in his territory, even those which members of religious institutes have founded or direct. He also issues prescripts which pertain to the general regulation of Catholic schools….”

Thankfully, Archbishop Thompson has an ally in the Trump administration. On September 8, the U.S. Justice Department filed a brief in Indiana court supporting dismissal of the lawsuit by Cathedral’s former employee. The brief relies in part on the Supreme Court’s July ruling in Our Lady of Guadalupe School, which upheld the “ministerial exception” for Catholic schools. The exception prevents discrimination lawsuits against Catholic schools, when they are brought by employees who teach the Catholic faith.

Moreover, the Justice Department’s brief makes a First Amendment case for the right of Catholic schools to choose employees according to their Catholic mission. This effectively calls for a religious exemption to the Supreme Court’s Bostock ruling.

“Our ancestors arrived on our shores to establish a country where the people would be secure to practice their faiths and to gather freely with their religious communities,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division when filing the Indiana brief. “To that end, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of religious institutions and people to decide what their beliefs are, to associate with others who share their beliefs, and to determine who will teach the faithful in their religious schools.”

Also this month, the U.S. Education Department issued a final rule to protect religious freedom in higher education. In addition to enforcing free speech and the rights of religious groups at public universities, the rule clarifies that a college with a clear religious mission is exempt from Title IX, the federal law banning sex discrimination in education. This is especially important in helping protect Catholic schools and colleges from the Bostock ruling, which directly concerns only Title VII regarding employment discrimination, but is expected quickly to impact interpretations of Title IX.

“Federal law provides that Title IX ‘shall not apply’ to educational institutions that are ‘controlled by a religious organization,’ to the extent that application of Title IX would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization,” the Education Department explained. But it has never been clear how courts should determine whether a school is “controlled by a religious organization.”

The final rule includes a “non-exhaustive list” of common factors that a school or college may rely upon for Title IX exemption. These include an “institutional mission” statement that “includes, refers to, or is predicated upon religious tenets, beliefs, or teachings,” which should cover schools and colleges that are openly faithful to the Catholic magisterium.

All of this is good news for Catholic educators, so long as the federal government remains supportive of religious freedom. We do not yet know the outcome of these interventions. But it is clear that Supreme Court rulings have serious consequences, and the direction of the Court is of great importance to Catholics.

Catholic educators need to do everything possible to protect against lawsuits, and that begins with a clear and consistent Catholic identity. The ability to maintain faithful Catholic education depends on a vigorous defense of religious freedom. Schools and colleges need to be prepared to go to court and demonstrate their uncompromised commitment to their Catholic mission.

This article first appeared at the National Catholic Register.

New Ave Maria University President Committed to ‘Solid, Orthodox Catholic Identity’

In January, President Christopher Ice began his term as the third president of Ave Maria University in Florida, which is recommended for its strong Catholic identity in The Newman Guide. The Newman Society recently asked President Ice about his vision and goals for the University in the years ahead.

Newman Society: Congratulations on your appointment as president of Ave Maria University! When Tom Monaghan founded the University 17 years ago, he presented a bold vision to answer St. John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization. What is your own vision, looking forward to the third decade of Ave Maria University?

President Ice: My vision is to maintain the solid, orthodox Catholic identity and principles upon which this University was founded. I want to strengthen the Marian identity in numerous ways, strengthen the Catholic identity in all areas of the University, expand the mission outreach efforts for our students through the Mother Teresa Project and help students discover the beauty of the truth of our Catholic faith to go forward and change the world. Our mission was founded in fidelity to Christ and His Church in response to the call of Vatican II for greater lay witness in contemporary society. This is front and center of everything we do. For example, on August 15, 2020, the 30th anniversary of Ex corde Ecclesiae, we launched a year-long study of St. John Paul II’s teaching on Catholic higher education.

Newman Society: Ave Maria University has always had a strong devotion to Our Lady. How does that impact the education and student experience on campus, and do you have any plans to build upon that devotion?

President Ice: Last March 25th, I consecrated Ave Maria University to Jesus through Mary, and a large number of students, faculty and staff joined me in their own personal consecration. We have students who are heavily involved in the Mary and Mercy Center that is spreading the message of consecration across all college campuses in the country and impacting thousands of college students. We have brought back the Angelus at noon, our students have a rosary walk every night at 9:00 p.m., we have perpetual Eucharistic adoration and our biggest celebration of the year, every year, is the Feast of Annunciation at the end of March. Recently, we added classes specifically for the study of Mariology which are taught by Dr. Mark Miravalle, one of the leading Marian scholars in the world. If it’s Marian, we are talking, teaching or celebrating in her name.

Newman Society: What most distinguishes Ave Maria from other faithful Newman Guide colleges?

President Ice: Our Marian identity and that we were founded as a lay apostolate and not affiliated with any religious order. This is unique, and this allows us to create a solid Catholic identity under the guidance of our local bishop and build a University that was founded in the spirit of St. John Paul II’s call for the new evangelization and working under the mantle of the Blessed Mother. There is no other university in the country that has a town and a university united in our Catholic faith, all founded by a similar vision.

Newman Society: In its early years, Ave Maria University had impressive markers of its Catholic identity, such as the Angelus at Noon, a dress code ensuring modesty, and dorm rules ensuring total privacy and security in bedrooms. As the student body grows, how can the University maintain a strong Catholic culture? 


President Ice: The Angelus is back at the noon hour with the bell ringing once again this fall. Our student handbook still stresses modesty in all areas of dress and we are re-emphasizing some of the major points on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body as a part of our freshman orientation, to help our students understand the importance of modesty and purity. We are a campus of many different countries and cultures and will educate them through our beautiful Catholic teachings in many areas. We need to show our students why we are doing what we are doing and the importance of the teachings of the Church. Educate and evangelize.

Newman Society: What are your top goals for Ave Maria University in the next five years?

President Ice: With the help of our board of trustees, we will develop the top five goals for the University over the course of the next year. One goal will remain consistent, and that is to create saints and help every student, staff and faculty member get to heaven. We have started a marching band that will expand our extracurricular activities. The other goals have been sidetracked with COVID-19 and getting our campus open. I will assure you they will be beautiful, bold and ambitious, and it will propel the University to become the leading orthodox Catholic university in the United States.

My Future, My Faith Magazines Preparing to Ship

One of the benefits of your involvement with the Newman Society’s Catholic Education Honor Roll is that your students are provided free copies of My Future, My Faith.

This is a full-color, 8.5 x 5.5 inch, 40-page magazine that explains the advantages of faithful Catholic colleges. It also helps students transition from high school to college with advice on how to make a good campus visit, how to pay for college, and so much more!

Keep an eye out for a letter and email with more information about when your copies will arrive.

flag and Bible

Newman Society Grateful for Federal Defense of Religious Freedom

Two actions by federal agencies this week have great importance to Catholic educators seeking relief from hostility to Catholic beliefs and protection of their religious freedom.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department filed a brief at the Indiana Supreme Court, defending the Constitutional right of an Indianapolis Catholic high school to uphold moral standards. The action supports the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which is being sued by a teacher whose contract was terminated because of his public, same-sex marriage.

On Wednesday, the Education Department issued final rules to protect religious freedom in higher education. In addition to enforcing free speech and the rights of religious groups at public universities, the rule clarifies that a college with a clear religious mission is exempt from Title IX regulations, which is especially important to Catholic schools and colleges confronted by discrimination lawsuits because of the Catholic understanding of sexuality and marriage.

“The Newman Society has worked for 27 years to promote and defend faithful Catholic education,” says Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. “We are grateful to the Trump administration for its strong defense of religious freedom— a welcome relief after years of efforts by the Obama administration, many state and local governments, and activist organizations to force Catholic institutions to violate our faith and contradict our Catholic teaching.”

The mission of Catholic education requires that all Catholic school teachers are witnesses to the faith, in word and deed. Canon law requires that “teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life” (Canon 803). Catholic school teachers have an important role to play in helping prepare students not only for this life, but for the one to come.

The Justice Department rightly points out that Catholic institutions should be able to choose their own teachers, a right enshrined in the First Amendment. One part of the protection provided under the First Amendment is the “ministerial exception,” which was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court this summer. The Newman Society provided key points about the “ministerial exception,” including guidance to Catholic schools to be explicit about the religious duties and requirements for teachers.

Newman Guide Colleges Increase ‘Recruit Me’ Scholarship to $20,000

Several faithful Catholic colleges recommended by The Cardinal Newman Society have generously chosen to supplement the Society’s “Recruit Me” scholarship, potentially increasing the amount from $5,000 to $20,000 over four years.

The Newman Society’s annual Essay Scholarship Contest rewards a U.S. high school senior with a one-time $5,000 scholarship toward the cost of attending one of the colleges recommended in The Newman Guide. To be eligible, a student must sign up for Recruit Me, a program that invites Newman Guide colleges to compete for promising candidates.

High school seniors can submit their application and essay for the fifth annual Essay Scholarship Contest until February 15, 2021.

This year, the winner will have the opportunity to be awarded $20,000 over the course of four years. Several of the Newman Guide colleges have agreed to supplement the Newman Society’s scholarship with additional $5,000 grants over three additional years. In order for the scholarship to continue, the student must be enrolled full-time and maintain satisfactory academic progress. Some of the colleges have additional requirements.

The following American colleges have opted to supplement the Newman Society scholarship, should a winning student choose to attend their institution:

  • Ave Maria University (Ave Maria, Fla.)
  • Belmont Abbey College (Belmont, N.C.)
  • Benedictine College (Atchison, Kan.)
  • Christendom College (Front Royal, Va.)
  • Franciscan University of Steubenville (Steubenville, Ohio)
  • Holy Apostles (Cromwell, Conn.)
  • John Paul the Great Catholic University (Escondido, Calif.)
  • Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts (Warner, N.H.)
  • The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (Merrimack, N.H.)
  • University of Dallas (Irving, Tex.)
  • University of Mary (Bismarck, N.D.)
  • University of St. Thomas (Houston, Tex.)
  • Wyoming Catholic College (Lander, Wyo.)

In addition, three Newman Guide colleges outside the U.S. have also offered to supplement the scholarship:

  • Campion College (Toongabbie East, NSW, Australia)
  • Holy Angel University (Angeles City, Philippines)
  • Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College (Barry’s Bay, Ontario, Canada)

The Newman Society’s $5,000 scholarship is made possible by the generosity of Joseph and Ann Guiffre, supporters of the Newman Society and faithful Catholic education. Supporters of the participating Newman Guide colleges have generously provided the funds for the supplemental awards.

The Newman Society encourages Catholic families to tell family and friends about the Essay Scholarship Contest and the value of faithful Catholic education. Questions about the Essay Scholarship Contest can be directed to