Pope Francis

Did Pope Francis Say ‘Don’t Proselytize’?

Catholic education, done rightly, is a special and important means of evangelization, the mission of the Church. It brings young people to Christ and provides for the integral formation of mind, body and soul.

And so, judging from the reaction that I have been hearing from some parents and educators, there is a bit of consternation over Pope Francis’ strong words last week against “proselytism” in Catholic schools. My colleagues from The Cardinal Newman Society who were present for the Holy Father’s conversation with educators—part of the World Congress on Education, a Vatican conference to address the “educational emergency” that leaves young people ignorant of Christ—also noted the Holy Father’s words with some concern.

The fear is that the Pope’s words could be misused, as his words have been abused in the past, to take Catholic education in a more secular direction. That would be a tragic reversal of the renewal of Catholic identity that is taking hold at all levels of Catholic education, and it would be contrary to the Vatican’s stated goals for Catholic school and colleges.

So what did the Holy Father actually say?

Speaking at the Congress, Pope Francis urged educators “to lead young people, children, in human values in the whole of reality, and one of these realities is transcendence.” What is authentic in this world can increase our awareness of God, His creation and His presence, but Pope Francis lamented that education today is exclusively focused on “immanent things” without introducing students to “the total reality.”

So far, so good. But this statement raised eyebrows:

One cannot speak of Catholic education without speaking of humanity, because, precisely, the Catholic identity is God who became man. To go forward in attitudes, in full human values, opens the door to the Christian seed. Then faith comes. To educate in a Christian way is not only to engage in catechesis: this is one part. It is not only engaging in proselytism—never proselytize in schools! Never!

A couple years ago in an interview, Pope Francis also said that “proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense.” And in an address to catechists, he cited Pope Benedict’s own concerns about proselytism in a 2007 address to the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean:

The Church does not engage in proselytism. Instead, she grows by “attraction“—just as Christ “draws all to himself” by the power of his love, culminating in the sacrifice of the Cross, so the Church fulfills her mission to the extent that, in union with Christ, she accomplishes every one of her works in spiritual and practical imitation of the love of her Lord.

These admonitions against proselytizing can seem confusing for American Catholics, who are beneficiaries of the great missionary work of the Church in the New World. The zeal and courage of the early Catholics in America were recently celebrated by the Pope’s nuncio in his address to the U.S. bishops this month—especially in the context of their contributions to Catholic education—and they were celebrated by the Holy Father himself with the canonization of Father Junípero Serra, O.F.M.

Certainly, therefore, Pope Francis could not be condemning catechesis (which he takes care to explicitly reaffirm) or strong Catholic identity in schools—yet even so, problems arise with the term “proselytism,” which can be ambiguous. There’s a negative connotation to proselytizing that’s difficult to pin down, which allows it to be confused with healthy forms of evangelization. As Lawrence Uzzell wrote a decade ago in First Things, “Today’s Christian missionaries often contrast ‘proselytism’ with ‘evangelism’; the former is what they accuse rival denominations of doing, while the latter is what they claim to do themselves.”

In a footnote to its 2007 statement on evangelization, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith acknowledged the term’s ambiguity but settled on the most negative connotation:

The term proselytism originated in the context of Judaism, in which the term proselyte referred to someone who, coming from the gentiles, had passed into the Chosen People. So too, in the Christian context, the term proselytism was often used as a synonym for missionary activity. More recently, however, the term has taken on a negative connotation, to mean the promotion of a religion by using means, and for motives, contrary to the spirit of the Gospel; that is, which do not safeguard the freedom and dignity of the human person.

So proselytism is seen today by the Church as an abuse of religious freedom, and in the context of education, it is a means of teaching the faith that denies the free use of reason and appeal to conscience. It is nothing that a good catechist or evangelist would do.

Very well. But then we have to ask the questions that my colleague Dr. Dan Guernsey asked, soon after hearing Pope Francis condemn proselytism, “How significantly is this a source of the educational emergency facing Catholic schools? How many universities and high schools seem to be coercing their students with unworthy Catholic propaganda?” It would seem that fidelity and Catholic identity should be greater concerns today.

I suspect the answer is that abusive proselytism is not, in fact, a priority concern for the Holy Father. The point about proselytizing was made off the cuff and was not central to his comments to the Congress.

Taken as a whole, his statements centered on rebuilding a more “human” education—relax the “rigidity” of schools, reach out to the margins of society, decrease the emphasis on intellectual “selectivity” that tends to exclude rather than invite participation, and open young hearts and minds to God:

For me, the greatest crisis of education, in the Christian perspective, is being closed to transcendence. We are closed to transcendence. It is necessary to prepare hearts for the Lord to manifest Himself, but totally, namely, in the totality of humanity, which also has this dimension of transcendence. To educate humanly but with open horizons. Any sort of closure is no good for education.

This closure to transcendence is precisely the educational emergency that has befallen secular education and even many Catholic schools and colleges. The focus on “immanent things” and worldly gain is what concerns so many American Catholics about the Common Core in Catholic schools.

Taken as a whole, the comments by Pope Francis to the Vatican Congress should not be construed as pulling the reins on evangelization in schools. Instead, we should celebrate Catholic education as the Church’s key means of evangelization, in human formation that invites the student to know, love and serve God.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

St. Peters Square

Vatican Envoy to Jesuits and Bishops: Reform Education

The Vatican ambassador’s message, delivered during Monday’s gathering of U.S. bishops in Baltimore, was crystal clear: place priority on the renewal of Catholic identity in Catholic education and restore the great legacy of Jesuit institutions.

It’s an appeal that should make every Catholic parent stand up and cheer!

When Pope Francis was elected, I openly wondered whether our Jesuit pope would acknowledge the elephant in the room: the crisis of Catholic identity at many of America’s Jesuit colleges, especially the disregard for papal authority and doctrinal fidelity by some professors.

We now seem to have an answer.  While it’s not clear to what extent, if at all, Pope Francis contributed to his envoy’s message to the U.S. bishops, it’s hard to imagine that the apostolic nuncio would make such a forceful and direct appeal without the Holy Father’s consent.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò delivered an address to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that was at times both personal and emotionally stirring.  He urged attention to two concerns:

One – the need to give particular attention and care to our Catholic educational institutions so that they would regain the luster of their true identity that has shown forth from them in the past.

Two – that Catholic colleges and universities, renowned for the professional formation of their students, should be encouraged to be faithful to the title of “Catholic” that they bear. …While each college or university has its own particular mission, together they ultimately have the solemn obligation to teach the same doctrine of the universal Church and to define the moral obligations that mark us all as Catholic Christians.

This is as close as the Vatican has come to publicly confronting the crisis of Catholic identity at many American Catholic colleges. Even in elementary and secondary education, Archbishop Viganò indicated that the “true identity” of Catholic schools is not so clear today, as it once was.

Lamenting today’s “secularized and increasingly pagan civilization,” Viganò appealed for “renewed strength” in the New Evangelization—a strength that is “solid and unwavering in its commitment to Truth.”  And this strength, “which should be found in the family and in the schools, will exist only in proportion to its Catholic identity.”

He challenged the bishops to “watch over and protect families, and parishes and schools,” citing Pope St. Gregory the Great: “Imprudent silence may leave in error those who could have been taught. Pastors who lack foresight hesitate to say openly what is right because they fear losing the favor of men.”

But the most striking portion of Cardinal Viganò’s address was his reminiscence about his own years in a Jesuit secondary school and at the Gregorian University in Rome, and the heroic role of the Jesuits in bringing the Faith to the New World. It was a detour that imparted a special challenge:

No doubt that this Order has been the leader of evangelization in North America. …The Society of Jesus has had a long and proud tradition of imparting a rich Catholic faith and a deep love for Christ, which in great part is carried on through their mission of education. It is my hope that, with respect to their great tradition, after the example of our Holy Father, they would take again the lead in re-affirming the Catholic identity of their educational institutions.

The call to “take again the lead” was an acknowledgement that the Jesuits have lost their place of honor at the forefront of Catholic education. Restoring the Jesuits’ “great tradition” of education means reaffirming Catholic identity.

Cardinal Viganò’s recounting of the Church’s history in the United States, which he did at much greater length, was inspiring. He reminded the bishops that their predecessors in the early American Church had also gathered in Baltimore to decide “upon a strategy that would shape the growth and development of the Catholic Church.”

The main tool of this strategy was education, which was accomplished through the building of parishes with their own schools, together with the dedicated support of women religious. A prime example of this is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the great pioneer of American Catholic schools.

In the Cardinal’s prepared text, the only words underlined are these: “Education was primary in the Bishops’ minds; it was an essential means for the Gospel message to be woven into the very fabric of our people’s existence. In so doing, they were following the consistent path of evangelization traced centuries before by the monastic orders” and “the Holy See.”

Today, faithful Catholic education remains essential—Pope Francis said it is “key, key, key”—to the New Evangelization. Not only our bishops, but all of our clergy, religious, educators and especially parents need to believe that. Taking up Archbishop Viganò’s timely challenge, we must make it a priority to build and support authentic, formational Catholic education that brings young people to Christ.

Our Church and society depend on it.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

newspapers

Fire Theologians, Not Columnists

There is more than irony in the recent attempt by several theologians to discredit New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, because he dared to write about the tragic confusion surrounding the Synod on the Family without having a theologian’s “professional qualifications.”

There is great desperation in the move — and hypocrisy.

The hypocrisy lies in the demand for credentials, when the field of theology is itself seriously lacking in that regard.

About half of Douthat’s critics are professors of theology at Catholic colleges and universities. Under canon law, they must have the mandatum, a recognition from their local bishop that they pledge to teach in fidelity to Catholic doctrine. But do they? At least a few seem to be headed in the opposite direction.

Under current policy in the United States, it’s difficult to know whether a theology professor has the mandatum, because most theologians won’t say — and neither will their college employers or their bishops. The mandatum is deemed a private matter between the theologian and the bishop, and even many Catholic colleges do not require the mandatum for employment. Students who need to know whether or not a professor has complied with canon law are in the dark.

In James Caridi’s 2011 survey of U.S. Catholic college and university leaders, 36 percent said they did not know whether their theology professors have received the mandatum, 10 percent said some but not all of their theologians have received it, and another 6 percent said no professors have it. When The Cardinal Newman Society followed in 2012 with a request to America’s 10 largest Catholic universities to disclose which of their theology professors have the mandatum, the few that responded admitted that they do not collect such information.

Pope Benedict XVI pressed the issue in May 2012 during the ad limina visit of several American bishops. Urging “compliance” with Canon 812, which requires the mandatum for teachers of theology, the Holy Father said:

The importance of this canonical norm as a tangible expression of ecclesial communion and solidarity in the Church’s educational apostolate becomes all the more evident when we consider the confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership: such discord harms the Church’s witness and, as experience has shown, can easily be exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, when he was prefect of the Apostolic Signatura and Rome’s chief expert on canon law, told the Newman Society that “tangible” means the mandatum should be publicly acknowledged:

It’s tangible in the sense that it’s a public declaration, in writing, on the part of the ecclesiastical authority that a theologian is teaching in communion with the Church, and people have a right to know that so that if you, for instance, are at a Catholic university or parents are sending their children to the Catholic university, they know that the professors who are teaching theological disciplines at the university are teaching in communion with the Church.

There is, of course, no similar requirement in canon law that a New York Times columnist be properly credentialed by the Church to opine on Church matters. So it is preposterous that theologians would demand “professional qualifications” from a journalist, while their own profession apparently lacks compliance with the Church’s canon law.

So why attack Douthat? The answer may lie in the theologians’ second charge, that Douthat favors a “politically partisan narrative that has very little to do with what Catholicism really is.” This seems to be another case of the pot calling the kettle black; the driving motivation behind today’s “progressive” Catholics seems to be quite political and secular, and not rooted in faith. The loosening of Catholic mores with regard to sexuality and marriage for “pastoral” reasons has been a key objective of both political and religious progressives since the 1960s.

That’s where I see desperation in the theologians’ move against Douthat. He has challenged the apparent scheming by some parties to control the outcome of the Synod, which centered on this loosening of attitudes toward marital and sexual sin. Pope Francis had opened the doors wide to frank discussion and debate. The progressives saw the opportunity to bum-rush the Church.

But that largely failed. And now that Douthat is issuing warnings that could help thwart anything they hoped to gain, the ivory-tower theologians have lashed out in despair.

The response of many Catholic pundits has been to rush to Douthat’s defense, and rightly so. But I propose something more:

It’s time for Catholics to demand that those who teach theology in Catholic institutions commit to complete fidelity to Catholic teaching, make that commitment publicly known, and refrain from using their academic prowess to oppose those who faithfully seek the good of the Church.

And if theologians can’t abide by those expectations, they should at least find an ivory tower that doesn’t bear the label “Catholic.” Or become columnists.

This article was originally published by National Catholic Register and is reprinted with permission.

Cardinal Burke Urges Genuine Catholic Education to Renew Culture

Cardinal Raymond Burke last week gave us yet another trove of wisdom to contemplate, just as the Synod on the Family came to a close. This time, it was about Catholic education, and it came with a stern warning.

In prepared remarks last week given to representatives of Voice of the Family, Cardinal Raymond Burke, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, warned parents about the threats to their children from wayward Catholic schools while arguing that faithful Catholic education at home and in schools is needed to transform the culture. 

“Today, parents must be especially vigilant, for sadly, in some places, schools have become the tools of a secular agenda inimical to the Christian life,” he said. Corrupted Catholic institutions can lead young people “to their slavery to sin … profound unhappiness, and to the destruction of culture.” 

Cardinal Burke has received a lot of attention for his courageous opposition to those who sought to hijack the Synod in support of Communion for remarried, divorced Catholics. So it may seem odd that he chose to focus on Catholic education during the Synod’s last week. The topic of education got surprisingly little attention at the Synod, even after scholars Theresa Farnan and Mary Hasson publicly urged the Synod fathers to devote more time to it. 

But education and the good of the Catholic family are essentially linked, and Catholic education is a key solution to the challenge of secularism. In a lecture last week at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio — which is a model of faithful education — I expressed my concern that we not limit the New Evangelization to strategies that excite young people about the Faith, but also focus more attention to the renewal of Catholic education. It is in Catholic education that young people experience the deeper formation that prepares them for sainthood in a difficult and often hostile culture. 

The timing of Cardinal Burke’s comments also are relevant to today’s 50th anniversary of the Vatican II declaration on Christian education, Gravissimum Educationis. Next month, the Vatican will celebrate the documents while addressing the “crisis of education” in the modern world, meaning the modern failures to truly bring young people to know, love and serve Jesus Christ. The result is a deep despair and aimlessness in today’s societies — what Cardinal Burke calls a “profound unhappiness.” 

And ultimately, happiness in God is the promise of a genuine Catholic formation. 

It is important that “children know happiness both during the days of their earthly pilgrimage and eternally at the goal of their pilgrimage which is Heaven,” said Cardinal Burke. And it is no contradiction that such happiness means preparing for the Cross. 

“Education, if it is to be sound, that is, for the good of the individual and society, must be especially attentive to arm itself against the errors of secularism and relativism,” Cardinal Burke stated, “lest it fail to communicate to the succeeding generations the truth, beauty and goodness of our life and of our world, as they are expressed in the unchanging teaching of the faith.” 

He addressed particularly the modern confusion in sexuality, including the “so-called ‘gender education’ in some schools, which is a direct attack on marriage at its foundation and, therefore, on the family.” 

“Good parents and good citizens,” said Cardinal Burke, “must be attentive to the curriculum which schools are following and to the life in the schools, in order to assure that our children are being formed in the human and Christian virtues and are not being deformed by indoctrination …Today, for example, we sadly find the need to speak about ‘traditional marriage,’ as if there were another kind of marriage.” 

He referred to Gravissimum Educationis in support of parent-directed education: “As it is the parents who have given life to their children, on them lies the gravest obligation of educating their family.They must therefore be recognized as being primarily and principally responsible for their education.” 

And most profoundly, he reminded his audience of the encyclical by Pope Pius XI, Divini Illius Magistri, and the task of Catholic education to form “the supernatural man who thinks, judges and acts constantly and consistently in accordance with right reason illumined by the supernatual light of the example and teaching of Christ; in other words, to use the current term, the true and finished man of character.”

In light of the confusion surrounding the Synod and the greater confusion in the world about marriage, family and even the value of human life, we are in great need of Catholics with this sort of formation. Renewing Catholic education should be among our highest priorities. 

This article was originally published by National Catholic Register and is reprinted with permission.

Patrick Reilly’s Speech to the Catholic Citizens of Illinois

Address to the Catholic Citizens of Illinois

Patrick J. Reilly

President, The Cardinal Newman Society

Given May 9, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois

Thank you, Mary Anne, members of Catholic Citizens of Illinois, and good friends of The Cardinal Newman Society.

I am thrilled to be back in Chicago and to be with all of you, especially in what is shaping up to be an extraordinary year for American Catholics and for Catholic educators.

We started the year anticipating Pope Benedict’s visit to the United States, and the exciting news that he had summoned every Catholic college president in the U.S. to a meeting at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

The Holy Father did not disappoint. Three weeks ago on April 17, Pope Benedict delivered a challenge to the college presidents and to diocesan educators that I am certain will have a significant impact on Catholic education in this country.

The Masses, the Holy Father’s address to seminarians and young people, the meeting with the bishops, the United Nations address, the visit to Ground Zero – all of these, I am sure, were opportunities for grace and important steps toward the evangelization of the West that Pope Benedict so eagerly seeks.

But, in terms of long-term impact on the Church in the United States, I submit to you that the Holy Father accomplished two important things:

First, he brought us a long way toward what resolution is possible regarding sexual abuse by some of our Catholic priests. He set an example of genuine compassion for the victims that will, I hope, characterize the American bishops’ response as we go forward.

Second, he restored the renewal of Catholic education to the top of the agenda for the Church in America, where it was briefly prior to the sex abuse scandals.

But more on this in a moment.

There is another reason this year is so exciting for the Church and for Catholic education – and that is the likelihood that the great English convert and author of The Idea of a University, John Henry Cardinal Newman, will be beatified before the year ends.

It is Newman’s thought that underlies much of Ex corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution for Catholic higher education issued by Pope John Paul II in 1990, which lays out minimal standards for Catholic colleges.

It is also Newman’s thought which nicely coincides with the vision for Catholic education presented by our new professor-pope, Benedict XVI, in his address on April 17.

The Holy Father makes the argument that today there is a great “crisis of truth,” and it is rooted in a “crisis of faith.” As the West continues to secularize, faith is increasingly viewed as contrary to reason and truth. But Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Faith in Christ, Pope Benedict reminds us, is the only sure way to essential truths about God and His creation which cannot be attained only by observation, no matter how rigorous the method and the reasoning.

Even before April, Pope Benedict over the past year has repeatedly referred to an “educational emergency” in the West,lamenting the loss of hope among many young people because they do not know the truth about God and man as His creation.

This is more than the theme of one or more papal addresses. It appears to be the central theme of this papacy, and of Pope Benedict’s priesthood.

When Joseph Ratzinger was named Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977, he chose as his episcopal motto “Cooperators of the Truth”. He explained: “On the one hand I saw it as the relation between my previous task as professor and my new mission. In spite of different approaches, what was involved, and continued to be so, was following the truth and being at its service. On the other hand I chose that motto because in today’s world the theme of truth is omitted almost entirely, as something too great for man, and yet everything collapses if truth is missing.”

Compare that to Cardinal Newman’s dispute with what he called “physical philosophers” in 19th-century England. These secularists trusted only those truths that are discovered by observation and the scientific method, and they rejected truths that are revealed by God, and therefore the understanding of those truths that human reasoning yields through the practice of theology. They scoffed at Newman’s argument that theology is central to any legitimate university’s search for truth in all areas of knowledge.

Newman writes in The Idea of a University:

“[N]o wonder, then, that [these “physical philosophers”] should be irritated and indignant to find that a subject-matter remains still, in which their favorite instrument [observation and inductive reasoning] has no office; no wonder that they rise up against this memorial of an antiquated system, as an eyesore and an insult; and no wonder that the very force and dazzling success of their own method in its own departments [of science] should sway or bias unduly the religious sentiments of any persons who come under its influence. They assert that no new truth can be gained by deduction; Catholics assent, but add, that, as regards religious truth, they have not to seek at all, for they have it already.” (Newman,The Idea of a University, p. 223-224)

In Newman’s time 150 years ago, as Pope Benedict observes in our own day, the “crisis of truth” was rooted in a “crisis of faith.” Newman writes:

“The Rationalist makes himself his own center, not his Maker; he does not go to God, but he implies that God must come to him. And this, it is to be feared, is the spirit in which multitudes of us act at the present day. Instead of looking out of ourselves, and trying to catch glimpses of God’s workings, from any quarter—throwing ourselves forward upon Him and waiting on Him, we sit at home bringing everything to ourselves, enthroning ourselves in our own views, and refusing to believe anything that does not force itself upon us as true.” (Newman, Essays Critical and Historical, Vol. 1, p. 33-34)

Doesn’t this remind us of contemporary academia? As teaching and knowledge become increasingly fragmented… as genuine academic discourse on our college campuses gives way to advocacy and power politics and the tyranny of political correctness… as both students and professors feed on opinions and advocacy rather than exploring truth in an objective manner… the intelligentsia of America increasingly is, as Newman describes it, enthroned in their own views and refusing to believe anything that does not force itself upon them as true.

It is a “crisis of truth” rooted in a “crisis of faith.” And by confronting this fundamental problem in Western academia, Pope Benedict on April 17 moved one step beyond the Church’s minimal expectations—which are still very much disputed in the United States—and toward an agenda for the complete renewal of Catholic education.

I have heard very good people express disappointment in the Holy Father’s April 17 address. They hoped for a scolding of the presidents of wayward Catholic colleges—a scolding that all of us here know is well-deserved, but which is not the style of Pope Benedict XVI. The complaints also note that not once, in Pope Benedict’s entire address, does he mention Ex corde Ecclesiae, although he certainly echoes and endorses its key themes.

I wondered at this myself, but upon reflection I see the genius in it. After weeks of media speculation that Pope Benedict might “bring down the hammer” on the college presidents, many of them arrived at The Catholic University of America braced for it, and probably ready to once again dispute the mandatum or the appropriate number of Catholic faculty or the virtues of dissent in Catholic theology courses.

For the Vatican, though, Ex corde Ecclesiae was the final word on those issues. It is still very much the law of the Church and ought to be implemented. But rather than engage impetuous American educators on minimal standards 18 years after Ex corde Ecclesiae was issued, Pope Benedict struck at the heart of secularization, and his words must have pierced the hearts of many of the college presidents whose own personal crises of truth and faith are too often reflected in their policies and public statements.

The “crisis of truth” is rooted in a “crisis of faith”—from this key insight, Pope Benedict develops a vision for Catholic education that I can only summarize briefly today. I encourage all of you to read the complete address, which is posted at the Cardinal Newman Society’s website at www.CardinalNewmanSociety.org. If you prefer, you can write or call and we’ll be happy to send a hard copy.

To put it simply, Pope Benedict argues that it is the special privilege and obligation of Catholic education to unite faith and reason, and to teach both observed truth and that which is revealed by God. But faith is not just understood, it is lived. Therefore the Holy Father insists that in addition to orthodoxy—and not instead of it, as some college presidents have tried to distort the Pope’s meaning—Catholic identity of schools and colleges “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.”

Catholic academic institutions, therefore, are not focused only on the intellect, but bear responsibility for the spiritual development of their students, even and perhaps especially at the college level.

Again, Pope Benedict says:

“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.”

Faith, then, is both at the root of Catholic education and its product. A Catholic education that acknowledges the unity of faith and reason opens the student’s mind and heart to God. It invites an entirely different way of observing reality, full of hope in the promises of Christ.

Contrast this to the typical approach of many Catholic colleges today. They assert Catholic identity because they have historical ties to religious orders, they offer Catholic-oriented courses not often available elsewhere, they have a dedicated Catholic campus ministry, perhaps some Catholic artwork.

But what Pope Benedict requires is so much more: An intellectual journey into the life of faith. He says that “first and foremost” educators should provide students “a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth.”

So how does this get translated into practical change for Catholic colleges by leaders who share the Holy Father’s vision and courage? A few thoughts:

Moral relativism: Pope Benedict perceives that the “crisis of truth” is rooted in a “crisis of faith.” The solution to moral relativism in Catholic colleges begins with the conviction of faith, most importantly among Catholic theology professors.

For many colleges and universities, this calls for replacing many officials, faculty and staff with others who share Pope Benedict’s vision—starting from the top, and replacing tenured professors over the long term. It requires trustees who will support “hiring for mission” even when challenged by disgruntled professors and interfering secularists like the American Association of University Professors.

Publicly disclosing which faculty members have the mandatum—a formal recognition from the local bishop that a theologian intends to teach authentic Catholic doctrine—would help students choose genuine Catholic theology courses.

Disintegrated curriculum: Restoring rigorous core requirements that were once the hallmark of Catholic higher education would teach what Pope Benedict calls the “unity of truth.” In particular, Pope Benedict says that Catholic colleges “have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice”—which to my reading calls for Catholic theology courses for every student. The best Catholic colleges graduate students with an understanding of the Catholic intellectual tradition including theology, ethics and philosophy—and a healthy dose of the liberal arts.

Intellectual anarchy: Perhaps most important to the reform of American colleges, Pope Benedict calls on educators to reject limitless academic freedom—now sacrosanct within most of American academia—explaining 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.”

This means insisting that professors limit their teaching and public advocacy to areas of their own expertise, without wading in to moral issues that are properly reserved to the theological disciplines. It also means that academic freedom does not justify a Catholic college or university endorsing or simply providing resources and facilities to advance views contrary to Catholic teaching—with clear implications for The Vagina Monologues and political rallies for pro-abortion politicians on Catholic campuses.

Moral decline on campus: Pope Benedict calls for fidelity to Catholic teaching “both inside and outside the classroom.” He also laments the common approach to sexuality that emphasizes “management of ‘risk,’ bereft of any reference to the beauty of conjugal love.” Catholic college officials can build a Christian campus culture by reclaiming responsibility for helping students’ spiritual and personal development and consistently encouraging chastity.

I have gone too long, and yet I have only begun to consider the implications of this important vision which Pope Benedict has presented to our Catholic college presidents and diocesan officials, with an implicit challenge to restore a commitment to faith and truth in Catholic education. As you read the full address, which I hope you will do, I welcome your correspondence and your own insights.

The renewal of Catholic education is an enormous challenge, but we can hope in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in the many signs of renewal that is already underway. For me, Pope Benedict’s address at The Catholic University of America was akin to raising Moses’ staff on the mountain while the battle rages below. We have a real struggle before us, but with the assurance of our Holy Father’s leadership and God’s grace.

And more than ever, we should pray for Cardinal Newman’s intercession. I will end with a final quote from Newman relevant to the project that Newman began 150 years ago and continues today:

“…[T]his is our hour, whatever be its duration, the hour for great hopes, great schemes, great efforts, great beginnings… to recommence the age of Universities.”