All-Night Dorm Visits at Notre Dame?

A group of students at the University of Notre Dame recently staged a sit-in to protest “parietals”: rules prohibiting students of the opposite sex from spending the night in each other’s dorm rooms. But ending one of the few remaining protections for chastity on a college campus is a terrible idea.

For years, Notre Dame students have made arguments against parietals, but this new effort is driven by students who claim that the University is too “heteronormative” and promotes “sexism and queerphobia” by limiting visitation from opposite-sex students.

Whatever the motivation, doing away with parietals would be a disaster. It would invite higher rates of sexual activity, sexual assault, contraception, STDs, pregnancy and abortion. It would invite mortal sin—a concern that many today think old-fashioned, but hopefully the priests and leaders at Notre Dame care deeply about such things.

Ironically, the protesters seem not to be targeting Notre Dame’s single-sex dorms. The university’s steadfast commitment to men’s and women’s dorms is admirable, given that most American colleges—including most Catholic ones—switched long ago to coed residences. Studies find that coed dorms have higher rates of drinking and sexual activity.

But still, loose rules allowing opposite-sex visitors to stay in bedrooms until late-night hours can quickly undermine the benefits of single-sex dorms, especially with regard to sexual activity. At Notre Dame, opposite-sex visitors can be in student bedrooms until midnight on weeknights and 2 a.m. on weekends. These are hours when students are more likely to be sexually active and under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

The protesters are right, then, to target parietals if they want to dramatically change campus culture. Notre Dame should reject their pleas.

Even more, Notre Dame should consider further limiting nighttime visitation and insisting on open doors when someone of the opposite sex is present. Even better, the university would provide sufficient meeting spaces for students in other buildings and end opposite-sex visitation to dorm rooms altogether.

What if Notre Dame’s politically correct leaders feel compelled to appease the misguided students who find parietals to be too “heteronormative?” There’s a simple answer: end all visitation to dorm rooms, by any student who does not live in the room, throughout the day. This has the added advantage of promoting chastity among even the homosexual students at Notre Dame.

Reducing Sexual Assault

College-aged females have the highest rates of sexual assault, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and Notre Dame has its share of such crimes.

Although studies show that most sexual assaults against college students take place off campus, about a third occur within student dorms. Reducing off-campus assaults is necessary but very difficult; reducing on-campus assaults could begin with simply reforming dorm visitation policies.

Studies show that two key factors are associated with sexual assault on campus: drinking and casual sex. When looking at the sexual assaults of college-aged females, one study found that 47% of victims perceived their attacker was drinking or using drugs. Additionally, the facts show that 78% of on-campus sexual assaults took place during what started as casual sexual encounters.

Also, a third factor seems to be the time of day. A study found that 52% of forced sexual assaults and 90% of assaults on incapacitated victims took place between midnight and 6 a.m. Most of the others occurred between 6 p.m. and midnight.

A survey of students at Notre Dame bears similar results to the national studies. In 2018, 7% of female students said they had experienced “non-consensual sexual intercourse” while studying at Notre Dame. Of the assaults that occurred during the last year, 58% were committed within residences on Notre Dame’s campus. And in nearly two-thirds of the incidents, the victim was familiar with the attacker prior to the day of the assault.

Is any of this surprising? Put unsupervised young adults in bedrooms, behind closed doors, in the evening or late at night, when they are more likely to be impaired by alcohol or drugs, and serious problems will result.

A Catholic college should be greatly concerned about the spiritual health of its students, as well as the epidemic of STDs and high rates of abortion among college-age Americans. But even a secular college that has no problem with premarital sex and abortion should see the obvious implications for sexual assault.

Not Just Notre Dame

When The Cardinal Newman Society looked at dorm visitation policies at Catholic colleges across the country, we were shocked to find that more than a quarter of residential Catholic colleges have no restriction on all-night opposite-sex visits. Most others are like Notre Dame, with weeknight visitation until midnight or later, and weekend visitation until 2 a.m. or later. Doors may remain closed.

This indicates that Catholic college leaders across the country are turning a blind eye to what is going on in dorms late at night. This needs to change, and Notre Dame could set a powerful example if it reformed its policies appropriately.

No policy change will completely change a campus culture, but stronger visitation policies could help prevent many sexual assaults and send a clear message about the college’s expectation of chastity among its students. Catholic college leaders should do all within their power to create safe and healthy environments on campus.

This is a golden opportunity for Notre Dame to stand up for Catholic values, and implementing a few common-sense measures could go a long way to help keep students safe.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

St. John Henry Newman’s Battle for the Church Continues

Three weeks ago, my family and a group of Cardinal Newman Society pilgrims were newly arrived in Rome — and what a contradiction we seemed!

The whole world was watching the Vatican, anxious to know whether the Amazon Synod would preserve or rupture Catholic tradition.

And yet there we were at the center of it all, full of joy and excitement, eager to celebrate the canonization of the great educator and convert, Cardinal John Henry Newman — much like the Americans who, 140 years earlier, had come to Rome to celebrate Newman’s elevation to cardinal and represent the jubilant Catholics back home.

Now we prepare for the Feast of All Saints, celebrating the greatest of all promises given by Jesus to believers, amid so much unbelief across the West.

While in Rome, I reflected on this irony with our pilgrims. I realized something very important: the timing of Newman’s canonization amid the ugly synod was just right, because Newman is just right for these times.

Specifically, it seems to me that Saint John Henry’s devotion to both teaching and defending truth, together with his beloved manner of “heart speaking to heart,” provide a powerful response to those who imagine that tending to the practicalities and particularities of pastoral care must be somehow opposed to upholding the timeless truths and traditions of our faith.

Some have even warned of schism over this error, but Newman’s example could help heal the rift — or if not, then at least the unassailable reason and precision of his many writings provide a mighty defense of doctrine. In this sense, our newly declared saint promises to be more a “doctor” of the Church than we might have anticipated.

Pope Francis has called the Church a “field hospital,” and today indeed there are many wounded — in part because of the Holy Father’s own inexplicable harshness toward those who would preserve ritual and reverence while embracing the reason that is married to faith. Today’s wounded also include young people — to whom Saint John Henry devoted his educational efforts — who have been greatly harmed by the lack of a strong Christian formation and by dissent, abuse and betrayal from within and without the Church.

After his conversion, Newman saw no conflict between his popularity as a pastor and his battle for truth. Despite being one of the Church’s greatest intellectuals and theologians, the Saint’s focus was always on the immediate concerns and controversies of the people under his care. His primary interest was the authentic formation of the souls right in front of him, always speaking heart to heart, always speaking truth. He was both a loving pastor and a champion of orthodoxy.

His life’s work, Newman said, was the fight against relativism — what he called “liberalism in religion.” He insisted on the unity of faith and reason, the intellect and morality, subjective and objective reality. He proposed faithful Catholic education, precisely because he wished to “reunite” the faculties of conscience and intellect that “man had put asunder” by original sin.

With this heart of an educator, Saint John Henry Newman was devoted to truth and to bringing others to the truth. That is what the word today so greatly needs!

Newman was also, at times, prophetic about the challenges we face today. Already in 19th century Europe, Newman saw the makings of what would be the “age of infidelity,” when the Church would be confronted by a culture unlike anything it had ever seen before: a culture that simply does not tolerate religious belief, except as a private matter. Newman also predicted increased scrutiny of Catholics by secularists, who eagerly seek evidence of hypocrisy. The sins of our priests, he predicted, would become a spectacle to the news media and disbelievers.

That’s surely where we are today — and yet, truly, Newman’s canonization was also a happy moment! One of the Church’s greatest intellectuals and a beloved convert is certainly in heaven. Saint John Henry Newman encourages and inspires the Church at a time when it is under sustained assault.

Sainthood itself refreshes our hope in the mercy of God and the promise of heaven. It is a great blessing to know that a dutiful and faithful man has received God’s great mercy and the reward of heaven.

By his canonization, Newman has become even more capable, by his example and because of our prayers for intercession, to help us once again follow the Kindly Light of Christ. Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

(This article is adapted from comments delivered in Rome on the day of Saint John Henry Newman’s canonization, Oct. 13, 2019.)

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.


We Are Losing Young Catholics

A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that less than half of American millennials—those young adults from age 23 to 38—call themselves Christians. This is the second recent study that should wake up Catholics to the very serious dangers of our secular culture and the urgent need to renew faithful Catholic education.

The other recent Pew study found that only 26% of self-professed Catholics under the age of 40 believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

These results are devastating! But sadly, they are not shocking. Our culture has rapidly fallen into that “age of infidelity” that Saint John Henry Newman predicted, and too may Catholic institutions have been complicit in the slide from faith and tradition.

It’s a clear generational decline. The Pew study shows that the Silent Generation currently identifies as 84% Christian; the Baby Boomers, 76%; and Generation X, 67%.

Now we find ourselves with young adults who are only 49% Christian, which raises the question: Where do we go from here? If the trend continues, the current youth of our country will be less than 36% Christian as adults.

Catholic parents, educators, and bishops must together renew our commitment to the Catholic formation of young people. The statistics are clear: if you go with the flow of secular society, there is a good chance that your child will lose his faith.

Public schools are controlled by governments that are no longer neutral to the faith, and they certainly do not provide formation in the most important things a child must learn and do. Lukewarm Catholic schools are a scandal, doing more harm by their example than they do by teaching some degree of values that are acceptable to the non-Catholics they strive to recruit. The Catholic faith simply cannot be taught as an add-on to life — not believably, anyhow — or it will quickly be discarded by students when confronted by reality.

The same goes for secular colleges — and the large number of secularized Catholic colleges. They actively push progressive agendas that are anti-Christian, chipping away at the faith and hope of young people.

Perhaps even worse than what students are learning in the classroom may be the hedonistic lifestyle on many Catholic college campuses. The drinking and hook-up culture is well-documented and well-ignored by many Catholic leaders and parents alike.

On the other hand, the best Catholic education shows students the unison of faith and reason, not only in studies but in life. It forms young people in mind, body and soul. They receive a solid grounding in Catholic thought, prayer, sacrament and morality. A faithful education includes participation in beautiful and reverent liturgy and authentic Christian community.

If this sounds out of reach, take a look at the Catholic schools and colleges that are getting it right. Take a look at Catholic homeschoolers, who give their children so much that is lacking from our schools, without any benefit of the resources that are wasted on poor schooling. The stakes are too great to not provide our children with a faithful Catholic education!

Of course, there is no guarantee that any student will keep the faith after graduation, especially in this toxic culture. But we must give them the very best chance of keeping it, and they cannot keep what we fail to teach them. With the souls of our young people at stake, it is essential to do everything that we can, and pray for God to lead them on the path to heaven.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Where is Newman’s University?

John Henry Cardinal Newman’s vision of higher education has been celebrated for more than 160 years, and it will hopefully get renewed attention after he is canonized this Sunday, Oct. 13.

Still, few colleges today closely resemble his Idea of a University.

If anything comes close to Newman’s vision today, it would have to be those faithful Catholic colleges recognized in The Newman Guide and the National Catholic Register’s College Guide. These are models for the renewal of Catholic education—largely according to Newman’s vision—and their continued efforts toward bringing his “idea” to fruition are a blessing to the entire Church.

I look forward to seeing many representatives of these colleges in Rome this week. Celebrating together with The Cardinal Newman Society’s supporters and friends will be leaders of Christendom College, Thomas Aquinas College and University of Mary, and key faculty members from Thomas More College of Liberal Arts and University of Dallas. We will gather also with friends from the faithful Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and Pontifical North American College.

The students and faculty of Belmont Abbey College got a head start on celebrating last week, with a lecture by Dr. Paul Griffiths. They gathered to rejoice in Newman’s sainthood, but also to embrace his vision for an academic and residential community shared by both students and mentors.

“Newman was deeply formed by his own experience as a student and as a professor,” Griffiths said. Newman expected tutors to be involved in students’ “moral and spiritual” formation and intellectual growth, in addition to students’ engagement with university lecturers and preachers.

On the same Thursday evening as the Abbey lecture, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., held a conference on “Newman’s Idea of a University—What It Is and Why It Matters.” The event included a panel discussion with President John Garvey and professors from a variety of disciplines, highlighting Newman’s concern for dialogue and integration across a wide variety of studies.

A Catholic college unites “intellect and virtue, which man’s fallen nature has allowed to drift apart,” Garvey wrote in a 2010 article in First Things. He cited one of Newman’s university sermons:

It will not satisfy me, what satisfies so many, to have two independent systems, intellectual and religious, going at once side by side, by a sort of division of labour, and only accidentally brought together. …I want the same roof to contain both the intellectual and moral discipline. Devotion is not a sort of finish given to the sciences; nor is science a sort of feather in the cap… an ornament and set-off to devotion. I want the intellectual layman to be religious, and the devout ecclesiastic to be intellectual.

Although Newman is often associated with Catholic centers on secular campuses, he was primarily an advocate for Catholic, liberal arts education. The first “Newman Society” was established at Oxford University for Catholics seeking a higher education, only after the Irish bishops thwarted Newman’s plans for a truly Catholic Dublin university and the English bishops rejected his designs for an Oxford Oratory.

For Newman, only a Catholic college has full claim to authentic higher education, because a commitment to truth means that no branch of knowledge can be excluded, including the truths of our Catholic faith. To “withdraw Theology” from colleges is to “impair the completeness and to invalidate the trustworthiness of all that is actually taught in them,” Newman wrote in his Idea of a University.

Higher learning “educates the intellect to reason well in all matters, to reach out towards truth, and to grasp it,” Newman wrote. The “cultivation of the intellect” is “an end which may reasonably be pursued for its own sake.” It helps form a “habit of mind” which “lasts through life” and brings “freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom.”

This type of education ends up being practical, too, although that is not its first objective. Cardinal Avery Dulles explained Newman’s thought during a 2001 address to The Cardinal Newman Society: “Whether one becomes a soldier, a statesman, a lawyer, or a physician, one will need the ability to think clearly, to organize one’s knowledge, and to articulate one’s ideas so as to deal effectively with the questions at hand.”

Newman saw in Catholic education “the incomparable advantage” over secular education of “being able to integrate all truth in relation to Christ, the incarnate Logos,” Dulles said.

At Newman Guide colleges, the difference is striking—and encouraging for a Catholic who is yearning for renewal in the Church and culture. At Christendom College, the entire community has been invited to join in a novena praying for “an outpouring of grace in the world” through Newman’s canonization, several faculty lectures on Newman’s conversion and Idea of a University, and a “watch party” on Oct. 13 to celebrate the canonization from afar. It is this integration of spirituality, academics and joy in God and his creation that marks a true Catholic education.

Faithful Catholic colleges that strive for intellectual and spiritual formation and not simply career preparation are the true heirs of Newman’s vision for higher education. May his vision continue to take hold worldwide, and may Catholic educators everywhere pray for his intercession in asking God’s favor upon the renewal of faithful Catholic education.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Oath of Fidelity

A New Year’s Resolution for Catholic Colleges

As the new academic year begins for students around the country, a video on Twitter caught my eye: tutors at the new East Coast campus of Thomas Aquinas College recited the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity at Convocation in front of the College’s students.

“In fulfilling the charge entrusted to me in the name of the Church, I shall hold fast to the deposit of the faith in its entirety,” the tutors proclaimed before Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of the Diocese of Springfield on Aug. 24. “I shall faithfully hand it on and explain it, and I shall avoid any teachings contrary to it.”

What a hopeful and profound way to begin the year!

Thomas Aquinas College, known for its academic rigor and orthodox Catholicism, is now educating students in Northfield, Massachusetts, as well as Santa Paula, California. It joins other faithful New England colleges, including Holy Apostles in Cromwell, Connecticut, Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire, and the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire, in bringing a renewal of Catholic faith and culture to an area of the country that is sorely in need of it.

At Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, on Aug. 25, professors also made their annual Profession of Faith, and new professors made the Oath of Fidelity. The College has told The Cardinal Newman Society: “While we know that this is not strictly required, we wish to go beyond the minimum and demonstrate that all our Catholic faculty are committed to teaching all disciplines ad mentem ecclesiae.”

The profession and oath were made at a Mass celebrated by Bishop Steven Biegler of the Diocese of Cheyenne. He told faculty and students, “The formation of the whole person that Catholic education seeks—body and mind, heart and soul, faith and reason, seeks to form disciples who think and speak and act like Christ.”

Later that afternoon, freshman students also signaled their commitment to faithful Catholic education by signing their names in the official Student Register. “In signing this book,” Acting Dean Kyle Washut told the students, “you are making a public act of trust. You are announcing your intention to trust the Wyoming Catholic College community with your formation over the next four years. We are aware of the solemn duty imposed on us when you give us that trust, and we will honor it.”

The same day, the entire faculty of Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, made the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity at a Mass of the Holy Spirit celebrated by Bishop Michael Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington.

“I want to begin by thanking you and your gifted and talented administration and faculty for providing our students with such a sacred place to continue their education, to deepen their relationship with the Lord, and to grow in Truth and be prepared to articulate that Truth wherever the Lord sends them,” Bishop Burbidge said.

Catholic college presidents, too, are expected to recite the Oath of Fidelity according to canon law. Dr. Timothy Collins, the new president of Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, recited the oath during the University’s Mass of the Holy Spirit on Aug. 28. Impressively, he was surrounded by members of Walsh’s founding order, the Brothers of Christian Instruction, and University Chaplain Father Thomas Cebula.

“When you think about the Oath of Fidelity, we think about it in terms of a covenant,” said Monsignor John Zuraw, the Mass celebrant and chancellor of the Diocese of Youngstown. “God has established a covenant with each and every one of us. And with any covenant, there are responsibilities. There are values that we hold deep within our very being.”

“As President Collins takes this Oath of Fidelity,” Msgr. Zuraw continued, “he takes it first and foremost to be faithful to God and all that he does and all that he will be. But this Oath of Fidelity also implies a relationship with each and every one of you… that he will do his best to lead this University with values and principles based on the Gospel.”

A public profession of our Catholic faith is an important witness to students and a comforting assurance about the type of education students will be receiving. While the Church does not require it of every professor at a Catholic college, canon law does require that every Catholic theology professor receive the mandatum from the local bishop, by which theologians promise that they will teach in accord with the Church. Often this is accomplished by a Profession of Faith or other similar measure.

Among the faithful colleges recommended in The Newman Guide, all theology professors have the required mandatum, and most take the Oath of Fidelity. Sadly we don’t see this everywhere, but there is an exciting renewal today at a growing number of Catholic colleges. Families seeking assurance of a faithful education have many good options.

Starting out this new academic year on the right foot is a very hopeful sign. Please keep Catholic educators in your prayers, that they will faithfully teach and witness to our students, preparing them to walk with Christ throughout their adult lives.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul

Yet Another Lawsuit Against the Church

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is the target of yet another lawsuit — this one from a guidance counselor whose contract to help form students at Roncalli High School was not renewed for the coming school year, because she entered into a same-sex marriage.

With this and other similar disputes in Catholic schools, Archbishop Charles Thompson is clearly under assault. And the same fight is coming to every bishop and every Catholic school and college that courageously upholds the mission of Catholic education — as well as those schools and colleges that carelessly go forward without clear and consistent Catholic policies, thereby opening the doors wide to ideological activists and legal trouble.

Just last month, the Indianapolis archdiocese settled a lawsuit by a teacher who was dismissed from Cathedral High School for his same-sex marriage.

That teacher is legally married to a man who still teaches at Brebeuf Jesuit College Preparatory School, where leaders refuse to comply with archdiocesan policy requiring Catholic school teachers to avoid scandal. Now the school’s leaders have filed a canon law suit with the Vatican, challenging Archbishop Thompson’s episcopal right and duty to determine whether the school may be called Catholic.

In the latest lawsuit filed in federal court last week, plaintiff Lynn Starkey accuses Roncalli High School of discriminating against her because of same-sex attraction. But Starkey was employed at Roncalli for 39 years, and even after she violated her contract by entering into a scandalous, permanent, same-sex commitment, Roncalli did not fire her. Instead, it chose not to renew her contract.

Another counselor at Roncalli, Shelli Fitzgerald, is expected to sue in the next month or two. Fitzgerald was placed on administrative leave last fall, following (you guessed it) her same-sex marriage.

These suits join a growing number of attacks against Catholic schools and colleges across the country, because the Church prescribes morality standards in Catholic education. Why are so many Catholic school and college employees eager to challenge such standards? It may be that the standards are not stated clearly enough, or that they are not consistently applied, so that employees are genuinely surprised to lose their jobs. Surely there is also the hope that courts today are willing to support discrimination claims instead of upholding religious freedom. In Starkey’s case, it is especially astounding that a guidance counselor at a Catholic school could fail to appreciate that teaching and witnessing to Catholic moral principles are essential to her job.

Catholics should not be naïve in thinking that there is anything substantially unique about Indianapolis. Catholic education nationwide faces serious threats from within and without, and too many schools and colleges are insufficiently prepared for the legal battles.

The best thing that school and college leaders can do — immediately, without hesitation — is to ensure that every internal policy and practice is consistent with the formation of students in complete fidelity to Catholic teaching, and that employees embrace this mission without compromise. That makes lawsuits unlikely, resists the corruption of Catholic identity, and allows for a vigorous defense of religious freedom in court.

In the weeks and months ahead, there will be more lawsuits. We must pray for our bishops and school leaders to have the fortitude to make a strong stand for faithful Catholic education. Only if Catholic educators get back to their roots and defend their foundations, will they preserve their most important mission of forming students in the faith.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Who Will Defend Catholic Education?

Recent lawsuits by teachers fired from Catholic schools are part of a growing threat to Catholic education. Our schools and colleges increasingly face harmful lawsuits, legislation, the loss of accreditation, and social rejection if they do not fall in line with ideologies that deny the nature of marriage, sexuality, even human life itself.

Catholic education is the Church’s most important means of evangelization. Is every Catholic educator and bishop prepared to defend it?

America once had arguably the world’s strongest network of Catholic education, but enrollment and Catholic identity suffered greatly in recent decades. Many Catholic schools today are easy prey for those who would hollow out Catholic education altogether. In many cases, the danger comes from within the Church.

It was four years ago, when a firestorm erupted in San Francisco, California, as Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone insisted that Catholic school teachers in the Archdiocese publicly uphold the faith, inside and outside of the classroom. He updated teacher contracts and faculty handbooks and created a new Office of Catholic Identity Assessment. Morality language in teacher contracts came as a shock and disappointment to some teachers, but it was applauded by Catholics who value the unique mission of Catholic education.

Now more dioceses are coming under fire from their own school leaders and teachers. A teacher fired from Bishop England High School in Charleston, South Carolina, for publicly defending abortion is suing the school, which is recognized by The Cardinal Newman Society for faithful Catholic education. The leaders of Brebeuf Jesuit College Preparatory School have filed a canon law complaint against Indianapolis Archbishop Charles Thompson, appealing his declaration that the school cannot call itself Catholic. Brebeuf refused to dismiss a teacher in a same-sex marriage; but nearby Cathedral High School, which properly removed a teacher for the same scandal, is now being sued by the teacher.

The Lyceum, a faithful Catholic school also recognized by the Newman Society, successfully fought back a local government threat that could have severely compromised its Catholic identity, based on false claims that Catholic teaching discriminates against people who claim same-sex attraction.

Even the federal Education Department and accrediting agencies pose dangers to Catholic colleges — especially those that are committed to orthodoxy — because of poorly devised diversity and nondiscrimination requirements.

In faithful Catholic education, there can be no compromise on the role of Catholic teachers as witnesses to the faith and the key elements that are expected in Catholic schools. Catholic schools are about the integral formation of students, and teachers play a key role in witnessing and providing a faithful example. Catholic teachers are called to prepare students for sainthood.

According to the bishops’ National Directory for Catechesis (pp. 231, 233), Catholic schools are required to “recruit teachers who are practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals.”

If the role of the Catholic teacher is so essential, then it must be protected — not only by fighting lawsuits and legislation, but by doing everything possible internally to ensure that a school or college always acts consistent with Catholic values, which is essential to asserting protection for religious freedom under the First Amendment and various federal and state laws.

A good starting place is for Catholic school leaders to review model language for “morality clauses” in teacher contracts. The Newman Society compiled examples after reviewing the policies of more than 125 dioceses.

Much can be done by lay Catholics also, to help defend and renew faithful Catholic education. When Archbishop Cordileone made strong efforts to change the direction of the schools in his diocese, he faced significant backlash but also had strong and valuable support. When a secular San Francisco newspaper put up an online poll asking if Archbishop Cordileone should be removed from his position — no doubt expecting the majority of respondents to display outrage toward the Archbishop — Catholics turned the poll overwhelmingly in favor of his efforts.

The road ahead for Catholic educators will not be easy, but Catholics everywhere should rally behind and pray for these faithful school leaders. Pray that our bishops and Catholic educators will have the fortitude to insist upon faithful Catholic education, which, when done well, is a great blessing for young people and for our Church.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Educators Need More than ‘Male and Female He Created Them’

The Vatican has reasserted one of the most basic facts of Christian anthropology: “Male and Female He created them,” which is good as far as it goes. The question for Catholic educators is, ”Now what?” They are being challenged by the relentless march of “gender theory” or “gender ideology”—a deception that claims that sexual orientation and gender are fluid and self-determined—and they desperately need a path forward.

Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, has described Male and Female He Created Them as a “practical” document, in contrast to the deeper theological reflection expected soon from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. But the education document does not give practical guidance to educators on the thorny particulars of admissions, personnel and student policies.

And educators urgently need such guidance, because every week brings another activist, lawmaker or attorney accusing Catholic educators of discrimination for refusing to comply with the dictates of the new gender ideology and a parade of related causes that are wholly contrary to the traditional Catholic understanding of human nature. This is a grave threat to faithful Catholic education.

Consider cases similar to the one in Kansas City, where the Archdiocese turned away a kindergarten student because of same-sex parents. What are the principles that guide Catholic school and college admissions policies? Can Catholic educators and administrators articulate them? Is a student always admitted out of concern for the child, regardless of the parents’ actions and ideology, or should educators consider the influence that adults can have on other children and protect against scandal? Does a school or college accept a child struggling with gender confusion? If so, what message does this send to other students and what pronouns are used, and when? Answer these questions the wrong way, and a school could compromise its Catholic mission or be the target of a lawsuit.

With regard to personnel policies, how does a Catholic school or college respond when a teacher or professor announces a same-sex marriage, declares a new gender identity, or simply insists on embracing aspects of gender ideology? At the Cardinal Newman Society, we have heard from well-intentioned academic leaders who refuse to spell out their policies, instead leaving each situation to their own discretion. That is a recipe for disaster.

In all of these examples, clear standards consistent with traditional Catholic moral and theological norms are key and will help ensure fidelity, compassion and justice.

But there’s another sense in which the truths taught in Male and Female He Made Them need to be developed further to address the practical needs of educators. As noted above, the document’s teaching addresses one of the most basic aspects of human anthropology, the fact that we are created male and female.

Following from that truth and over the centuries, Catholics had developed tried-and-true lessons and habits that helped young people preserve chastity, respect marriage and celebrate children. But in many ways, our culture has forced us to start again from scratch, re-learning simple habits and patterns of male-female relationships.

That means that Catholic educators need to recover and teach to young people these habits and patterns.

For example, not a single faithful Catholic from any generation prior to the 1960s would have doubted that coed dormitories and closed-door visits by the opposite sex in student bedrooms would result in premarital sex, mortal sin, STDs and even sexual assault. Yet most Catholic colleges, with notable exceptions at a few Newman Guide colleges, allow a student to have their boyfriend or girlfriend in their bedroom with the door closed, often after engaging in binge drinking that lowers inhibitions. How many souls have been damaged by these visitation policies that clearly invite near occasions of sin?

Yet when I and my Newman Society colleagues raise the concern of Catholic college dorm policies and near occasions of sin, we are looked upon as relics of a bygone age. I am entirely certain that near occasions of sin are still quite real. What has been lost is our sensitivity to man’s fallen nature and the grave importance of preserving chastity for the good of families and for the good of our souls.

Yes, God created us male and female. It is very good that the Vatican has reasserted this basic truth.

But like mathematicians reasserting fundamental arithmetic, we ought to also understand much more about the natural and moral implications of our sexuality and human nature—and Catholic educators especially need to teach these to the young.

Our problem, of course, is that we Catholics got comfortable compromising on little things when the culture was still reliably Christian. In today’s militantly secular culture, we had better get serious about consistently teaching the truth and remembering fundamentals like 2+2=4, that God created us male and female, and that concupiscence is real. And we had better be able to articulate the principles behind the policies we develop, to uphold Catholic identity before it is too late.

This article was first published at The National Catholic Register.

Lockers in hallway

Fake News About Brebeuf Jesuit School

According to secular news reports about Brebeuf Jesuit High School in Indianapolis, which Archbishop Charles Thompson declared to be no longer Catholic, you’d think the decision was all about the Church’s eagerness to fire a “gay” teacher.

Likewise, articles about Cathedral High School in northeast Indianapolis, which upheld its Catholic identity by dismissing one of its teachers, also emphasize the teacher’s sexuality.

Such is “fake news”—it’s rooted in some fact, but not in truth. In fact, the Indianapolis situation is primarily about a Catholic school’s obligations to teach the faith clearly and without contradiction.

The Indianapolis Star proclaimed, “Indianapolis Archdiocese Cuts Ties with Jesuit School Over Refusal to Fire Gay Teacher.” FOX News claimed Brebeuf was “Stripped of ‘Catholic’ Label Over Gay Teacher.” Newsweek announced that Cathedral “Fires Gay Teacher,” and the USA Today headline likewise reported that Cathedral “Is Firing a Gay Teacher.”

And now, a New York Times contributor has lectured the bishops on the need to defend our “L.G.B.T.Q. brothers and sisters.” The article is titled, “How to Defy the Catholic Church.”

To be sure, at both Brebeuf and Cathedral the teachers under scrutiny are identified as “gay”—but what caused the controversy is not that directly, but instead their public actions contradicting what they are supposed to be teaching in a Catholic school. Both entered into civilly approved same-sex marriages. Such public scandal makes someone ineligible to teach in a genuinely Catholic school, and this would be true of scandal leading children into any type of grave sin, whether homosexual or otherwise.

Indeed, both teachers had been employed despite apparent awareness of their sexuality, so the claim of discrimination is ludicrous. Public identification as “gay” can be scandalous, if sexuality is touted in such a way as to lead young people into sin. But this is not why the Archdiocese of Indianapolis raised concerns about the teachers at Brebeuf and Cathedral, and apparently no employee’s job was at risk because of private struggles with sexuality.

Still, the secular media and activists like Jesuit Fr. James Martin have deliberately characterized the Archdiocese as targeting people for their “sexual identity.” This falsehood stirs up the crowd to persecute the Body of Christ, with claims of discrimination and attempts to erode religious freedom.

Witnesses to the Faith

Such discrimination claims are wrong. Central to Brebeuf’s tragic loss of Catholic identity are the school’s failure to insist that teachers publicly witness to the Catholic faith, its betrayal of families who rely on Catholic education to uphold Catholic teachings, and the school’s refusal to abide by the rightful authority of Archbishop Thompson to establish expectations for Catholic schools in his diocese.

A Catholic school exists for the purpose of forming young people for the fullness of humanity, all that God intends for them. This includes formation in the Catholic faith, indeed in all truth about God, man and reality.

It is essential, then, that teachers in Catholic schools present the truth clearly in both word and deed. Their witness can powerfully reinforce Christian formation—or it can be dangerously destructive by misleading a child into falsehood.

This can be a real challenge for Catholic schools in a highly secularized and sexualized society, in which even well-intentioned Catholic teachers are confused about moral truth and may be poorly catechized.

“In today’s pluralistic world, the Catholic educator must consciously inspire his or her activity with the Christian concept of the person, in communion with the Magisterium of the Church” (Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, 1982, 18). An authentic Christian anthropology, of course, recognizes only two sexes and understands sexuality in the context of chastity and matrimony between a man and woman.

While a Catholic school is a Christian community full of mercy and compassion for its members who may struggle to live good and holy lives, it is essential to the work of the school that teachers not publicly challenge or contradict the Catholic faith in which students are being formed.

Canon law is clear: “The instruction and education in a Catholic school must be grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine; teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life” (Canon 803 §2). It is essential that Catholic schools explain to employees precisely what that means, by including “morality clauses” in teacher contracts. The Cardinal Newman Society compiled model language here that can be adopted by individual schools and dioceses.

A lesson for teachers

In his announcement that Brebeuf is no longer Catholic, Archbishop Thompson has reaffirmed what the Church has always expected from Catholic schools. And Brebeuf’s consequence was not caused by the bishop: it was the school leaders’ decision not to comply with the Archbishop’s requirements for all Catholic schools, and they chose to stand with the teacher in public contradiction to the Catholic faith. Cooperating with such public contradiction implies dissent, whether or not the school’s leaders actually agree or disagree with Church teaching.

In the past, Catholic schools were largely staffed by clergy and religious. Although there remain some priests, brothers and sisters — notably the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist and the Nashville Dominicans who set such a wonderful example — they make up less than 3 percent of America’s Catholic school teachers.

Therefore, in the last several decades it’s been up to the laity to take up evangelization by Catholic education, serving as ministers of the faith in word and deed. Archbishop Thompson recognizes the influential role that teachers play in the formation of students.

No teacher in a Catholic schools is sinless. But teachers should do everything possible to grow in virtue and avoid scandal, with special attention to persistent, public scandals that are most damaging to students. Catholic schools should ensure that they have qualified teachers who are able to fulfill the job of aiding parents in the formation of young people in the Catholic faith.

Archbishop Thompson provides a good reminder for Catholic school teachers everywhere about the importance of their vocation. Teachers have a crucial role to play in imitating Jesus Christ, the true Teacher, to communicate Truth and sanctify the world.

This article was first published at The National Catholic Register.

Fr Theodore Hesburgh

Pride on Full Display in ‘Hesburgh’ Documentary

The mere fact that the laudatory, even triumphal, documentary Hesburgh will enjoy a limited release in theaters beginning today would no doubt have been deeply satisfying to the late Holy Cross Father Theodore Hesburgh, who led the University of Notre Dame (1952-1987) to enormous growth and prestige.

From beginning to end, the film makes the obvious point that Father Hesburgh was important and accomplished much on a human scale. Notre Dame’s enrollment, public reputation, academic standing, physical campus and donor support all improved considerably under his leadership.

He was also an influential leader on some of the most important issues of his time, especially civil rights for African Americans. The film’s images include a myriad of leaders — popes, U.S. presidents, celebrities and others — with whom Father Hesburgh associated, collaborated and sometimes clashed.

But the documentary largely glosses over important questions about Father Hesburgh’s thinking and impact and his conflicts with Church leaders, doctrine and the mission of Catholic education. It simply reports — without any real analysis and in a decidedly favorable way — his leadership in crafting the Land O’ Lakes Statement that declared the independence of Catholic colleges from the bishops and magisterium of the Church, his legal separation of the university from the Holy Cross order (thus increasing his own independence from religious superiors), his embrace of a radicalized “academic freedom” in the manner of modern research universities, and his delight in Notre Dame’s 2009 commencement honors for pro-abortion President Barack Obama.

Even while the film champions Father Hesburgh’s determination to engage with all viewpoints, the filmmakers shy away from any serious examination of charges that he had in some ways betrayed the Church and the mission of Catholic education. It’s not even acknowledged that 83 Catholic bishops publicly opposed the Obama honors.

The film also fails to address the morally serious concern that Father Hesburgh, through his work with the Rockefeller Foundation, and together with his Notre Dame colleagues, quietly advanced a population control and family planning agenda. Or that he relied on Father Richard McBrien to reform the Notre Dame theology department as a center of liberal theology. Or that, when Cardinal John O’Connor of New York publicly scolded New York politicians, Gov. Mario Cuomo and congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, both Catholics, for their public advocacy of abortion rights, Father Hesburgh welcomed the New York governor to Notre Dame for a landmark speech that claimed a “latitude in judgment” within Catholic teaching that permits a Catholic to privately hold that abortion is unjust killing while publicly championing laws that keep it legal, out of respect for others who disagree with our beliefs. These facts, highly relevant to Father Hesburgh’s pursuit of a “great Catholic university,” are simply ignored in more than two hours of film.

Rather, the documentary features multiple tributes from mostly “progressive Catholics” who include former students and colleagues at Notre Dame, writers from the National Catholic Reporter, and even House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. It all has the feel and the gloss of an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Viewers are invited to indulge in awe and envy.

‘A Great Catholic University’

A deeper and more honest assessment would have acknowledged that Father Hesburgh’s legacy is complicated and has in fact done significant damage to the university that he strove to build and to the Church in the United States to which he gave his life in service.

Father Hesburgh was driven to transform Notre Dame into a “great Catholic university” built on human “excellence,” as the film mentions briefly. But how that pursuit evolved over his 35 years at the helm of Notre Dame — and influenced subsequent University leaders — is far better explained in the new biography, American Priest: The Ambitious Life and Conflicted Legacy of Notre Dame’s Father Ted Hesburgh (Image, 2019) by Holy Cross Father Wilson Miscamble. Father Miscamble has taught at Notre Dame for more than 30 years and is a vocal advocate for restoring what he and many perceive as Notre Dame’s lost Catholic identity, and so he searches for clues to why that identity slipped under Father Hesburgh’s leadership. But as a serious historian, he also is careful to report facts objectively and thoroughly.

For instance, Father Miscamble provides the surprising revelation that during Father Hesburgh’s first term in the 1950s, he publicly embraced a vision of Catholic higher education that resembled Blessed John Henry Newman’s Idea of a University. Nevertheless, Father Hesburgh’s actual emphasis in building up Notre Dame was on raising funds, building Notre Dame’s reputation through association with prominent academic and public figures, and transforming the university in the image of the secular research institution.

According to Father Miscamble, Father Hesburgh gave very little attention to ensuring an integrated Catholic curriculum and a faithfully Catholic faculty — resulting in a dramatic slide toward secular education that continues today.

Father Miscamble’s biography portrays a priest who had incredible natural leadership abilities but failed to rely on God’s grace and the Church’s timeless wisdom. It would have been a truly remarkable witness for Father Hesburgh to have brought Notre Dame to greater acclaim while also amplifying the university’s Catholic identity. After all, if the Catholic faith really is transcendental — true, beautiful and good — then doesn’t it have the power to attract?

Instead, Father Hesburgh’s career as president appears to have been an exercise of misplaced pride in human achievement, especially his own capabilities, and greater faith in state and secular institutions than the goodness of the Church.

Father Hesburgh was a prayerful priest who celebrated Mass daily and had a devotion to Mary, yet in his presidency he had this air of “going it alone” and failing to appreciate Catholic education as fundamentally an encounter with Christ.

In Hesburgh, he states plainly, “There had to be a way to balance faith and academics” — as if the two are in conflict. Again, he asks: “Was it possible to be both a great university and Catholic? I believed it was as long as there was balance.”

Because of his failure to acknowledge the Catholic faith as truth that is fundamental, not opposed, to the academic enterprise, Father Hesburgh’s impressive human achievements have today resulted in the sort of unintended confusion and lack of structural integrity that befell the builders at Babel.

Perhaps without intending to, director Patrick Creadon highlights Father Hesburgh’s unsettling certainty of the wisdom of his actions and opinions — even those in opposition to the Church — by including a voice-over by actor Maurice LaMarche, who pretends to be Father Hesburgh recounting his own tale using actual quotes from Hesburgh’s writings and recordings. The device is awkward for a film that is something of a congratulatory eulogy for the priest, who died in 2015. Right or wrong, LaMarche’s tone makes Father Hesburgh seem rather smug.

I am rather sure the makers of Hesburgh would not agree with Father Miscamble’s assessment of Father Hesburgh’s legacy, but at least an assessment is made in American Priest. In the documentary, there is no movement beyond the Hesburgh “hagiography” (a term suggested by Father Miscamble) that seems to prevail within the Notre Dame community.

Clearly Father Theodore Hesburgh had enormous influence across the Church and U.S. society. His choices had real consequences for Notre Dame and Catholic education nationwide.

While Hesburgh presents an intriguing look at the many important activities of an important man, his legacy is left to more serious biographers like Father Miscamble to straighten out.

This article was first published at The National Catholic Register.