Newman Guide Education Is So Much More

Today in secular public education, there is a “back to basics” movement among exacerbated parents seeking to protect their children from harmful ideological cultural forces in education. But the answer is not as simple as “just” teaching reading, writing, and math. There is ultimately no “neutral education.” There is only education in the truth or its opposite; and there is much more to learn than phonics and sums.

Meanwhile in higher education, critics increasingly doubt the value of liberal arts programs, corrupted by political and ideological bias. The solution, however, is not to jettison valuable disciplines for simple career preparation. Again, education either teaches truth or opposes it.

Schools and colleges recognized in The Newman Guide know this. Not a single one was established to “just” teach kids how to read, write, and cipher or train for a job. None of them would sell their students that short, for they know that the young people in their care are of infinite value. They are sons and daughters of Christ the King, with eternal destinies.

A Newman Guide school or college does not just have a better academic curriculum. It also has a better understanding of the human person and is guided by faith and reason. It is thus itself a better guide on the path to complete human flourishing.

A Newman Guide institution is also upfront in acknowledging that a fundamental purpose of education is the generational transmission of culture—understood as the values, traditions, and mores of a community, including the Catholic faith and community. All schools, public and private, perpetuate and form culture; they should be upfront about their intentions and influences. But Newman Guide schools understand the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education’s warning that:

It is becoming increasingly clear that we are now facing with what might accurately be called an educational crisis, especially in the field of affectivity and in many places, curricula are being planned and implemented which “allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason.” The disorientation regarding anthropology which is a widespread feature of our cultural landscape has undoubtedly helped to destabilize the family as an institution, bringing with it a tendency to cancel out the differences between men and women, presenting them instead as merely the product of historical and cultural conditioning. (Male and Female He Created Them, 2019)

Forming the whole person

Additionally, because faithful Catholic schools and colleges understand that their students are a unity of mind, body, and spirit with an eternal destiny, they know that there is no effective and compelling way to reach and teach young people other than as they come before them every moment: as complex, unified unrepeatable body/mind/spirit miracles. They are never just teaching a mind. A consequence of this unity it that there simply is no way to remove culture, valuing, complex human relationships, God, and notions of good and evil from a child’s development and schooling. Catholic educators occasionally focus their formational efforts on one part of the triad more than the other, but they never fail to consider the totality of unified young person before them.

This is why, for example, schools in The Newman Guide know that they are not “just” teaching writing. Sure, for younger kids much time is spent on grammar, spelling, and punctuation. What we are really teaching through writing is thinking and eloquence. Good writing is good thinking. It is “showing your work” and allowing and inviting others to probe and correct assumptions and conceptions. It is demonstrating powers of reasoning, personal insight, and creativity. It is difficult and demanding to do well, but as in many human activities, the question is not about how well you wield a tool but the end toward which you wield it. That students can write is useful; what they think and write about is what matters.

Similarly, the best Catholic schools don’t have older students read books “just” because they need more practice in the mechanics of reading (vocabulary, phonics etc.). They have students read books, because books carry culture. They teach students how to “read” not only the words in the text but also the world of the text and ultimately the world around them. They teach how to value and ascribe meaning to things. The suspect and corrupt books pushed on many kids by public schools today are also being used toward this end—just with a different effect.

Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes puts it this way:

Literature and the arts are also, in their own way, of great importance to the life of the Church. They strive to make known the proper nature of man, his problems and his experiences in trying to know and perfect both himself and the world. They have much to do with revealing man’s place in history and in the world; with illustrating the miseries and joys, the needs and strengths of man and with foreshadowing a better life for him. Thus, they are able to elevate human life, expressed in multifold forms according to various times and regions. (#62)

This is why Catholic educators and parents must ensure that students are surrounded by good books when young and “the great books” when older. The Cardinal Newman Society has produced its Guide for the Catholic Reader: Selected Reading List, Rubric, and Rationale for Catholic Education to help parents and educators toward this end.

Fighting for humanity

Newman Guide-recognized schools and colleges are focused on a broader array of goods than just the traditional “3 R’s” of reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. Both inside and outside of the classroom, in academics and athletics and the arts, Catholic educators follow the Congregation for Catholic Education’s vision that Catholic education is a tour de force of complete Christian human formation:

Students should be helped to see the human person as a living creature having both a physical and a spiritual nature; each of us has an immortal soul, and we are in need of redemption. The older students can gradually come to a more mature understanding of all that is implied in the concept of “person”: intelligence and will, freedom and feelings, the capacity to be an active and creative agent; a being endowed with both rights and duties, capable of interpersonal relationships, called to a specific mission in the world. (The Religious Dimension of Education in the Catholic School, 55)

And to put a finer point on it: The central challenge before us now is that man has forgotten who he is; or, more sinisterly, man is up to his old tricks of making himself God and worshipping his own will and pleasures. This has dramatically impacted how schools today are conducting themselves and what they are teaching. Again, Newman Guide institutions recall what the Congregation for Catholic Education has told us:

Each type of education, moreover, is influenced by a particular concept of what it means to be a human person. 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. It is a concept which includes a defense of human rights, but also attributes to the human person the dignity of a child of God; it attributes the fullest liberty, freed from sin itself by Christ, the most exalted destiny, which is the definitive and total possession of God Himself, through love. It establishes the strictest possible relationship of solidarity among all persons; through mutual love and an ecclesial community. It calls for the fullest development of all that is human, because we have been made masters of the world by its Creator. Finally, it proposes Christ, Incarnate Son of God, and perfect Man, as both model and means; to imitate Him, is, for all men and women, the inexhaustible source of personal and communal perfection. Thus, Catholic educators can be certain that they make human beings more human. (Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, 18)

Years ago, perhaps public schools were safe enough for Catholic families, but there has been a seismic shift. Cultural revolutionists have subverted traditional American values and, more importantly, Christ and His Church. Religion, morality, and faith are not extras added to a curriculum but rather core elements that public schools have attempted to remove. In actuality, they have just supplanted what is important. The worldview of Western Christendom has been chewed up and ripped out of our children’s formation and replaced by another worldview/religion that is materialist, Marxist, and relativistic. An orthodoxy is being presented, but it’s now an un-Christian orthodoxy.

It’s not that “Hannibal is at the gates,” the warning used by ancient Romans to instill anxiety at the prospect of losing their once great culture. Hannibal has now long been in control of our common culture.

In a noble but doomed-to-fail effort, some classical charter schools are trying to revive a sense of Western culture, and they fan some Christian fumes towards the kids. But even if their secular classical view achieves its goals of cultivating virtue and patriotism, in the end it will not solve the problems facing our kids or our culture.

All the problems in our current culture are the results and fruits of Western culture without Christ. We have sickened ourselves by abandoning God. As Chesterton understood so well, removing the supernatural from man has made him unnatural. Personal and cultural problems will not be fixed by a secular Western classical program or curriculum, but by Christ Himself. We cannot successfully raise our children or maintain a flourishing culture without He who is the source and summit of all that is true, good, and beautiful.

The battle for humanity cannot be sidelined, and public or public charter schools cannot be rendered safe. Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, and career preparation are not sufficient for the battle. These are tools both side use to advance their worldviews. The survivors will be those most rooted in truth, whose minds are most aligned with reality and who are the most generous in life. There is nowhere to hide or shield our children from the fundamental questions each must answer for himself: Who am I? What was I made to do? And ultimately Christ’s questions to each of us: “Who do you say that I am?” One benefit of this current chaos is that the stakes are clearer and more explicit. Our choices are stark. And the value of an authentic Catholic education stands out even greater. The Newman Guide’s schools and colleges are rising to the opportunity.

The Cardinal Newman Society Through the Years

Since 1993, The Cardinal Newman Society has led the growing movement for renewal of faithful Catholic education. These are just some of the highlights of the last 30 years.



Founding of CNS
Inspired by Saint John Paul II’s apostolic constitution, Ex corde Ecclesiae, Patrick Reilly and fellow alumni of Catholic colleges meet in Washington, D.C., in 1993 to launch The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS).



National Conference

CNS brings national attention to the need for a renewal of Catholic education with a series of annual conferences featuring leading Catholics, including Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J., Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J., Peter Kreeft, Tom Monaghan, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, Justice Antonin Scalia,
George Weigel, and more.



Ex corde Ecclesiae
CNS is invited to advise the U.S. bishops’ committee implementing Ex corde Ecclesiae. Despite strong opposition from many college leaders and theologians, the final rule for colleges (1999) and mandatum guidelines for theologians (2001) follow CNS recommendations.



The Newman Guide

With the aid of Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., CNS releases the first edition of The Newman Guide in 2007 to celebrate faithful Catholic colleges and help families in the college search. The guide is instrumental to the survival and growth of many Newman Guide colleges. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI receives The Newman Guide on the steps of Saint Peter’s Basilica.



Eucharistic Miracles

For several years, CNS coordinates U.S. school and college exhibits of the “Eucharistic Miracles of the World,” developed by Blessed Carlo Acutis. Our “Adoration U” video, encouraging students’ devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, is featured on EWTN.



Higher Education Center

For several years starting in 2008, CNS sponsors the Center for the Advancement of Catholic Higher Education, promoting best practices to strengthen Catholic identity and hosting gatherings of Catholic college leaders. Today CNS continues many of the Center’s initiatives and educator working groups.



Pope Benedict in U.S.

CNS sparks a national conversation about the need for faithful Catholic education in advance of Pope Benedict XVI’s powerful address to educators at The Catholic University of America in 2008. Two years later, CNS members pledge more than 1,000,000 prayers and Masses for
the Holy Father.



Obama at Notre Dame

Over the years, CNS opposes numerous scandals in Catholic colleges, including theological dissent, abortion and same-sex marriage advocacy, The Vagina Monologues performances, honors for vocal opponents of Catholic teaching, and more. In 2009, CNS gathers 367,000 signatures and the support of 83 bishops urging the University of Notre Dame not to honor pro-abortion President Barack Obama.



Obamacare Mandate

In 2011, the Obama administration’s federal contraceptive mandate sparks more than a decade of legal threats to Catholic education related to contraception, abortion, same-sex marriage, and gender ideology. CNS publicly advocates the rights of Catholic educators, files amicus briefs in key federal court cases, and helps educators defend against threats from the Obama and Biden administrations, an EEOC ruling demanding contraception coverage at Belmont Abbey College, a lawsuit fighting single-sex dorms at The Catholic University of America, the National Labor Relations Board’s violations of religious freedom, and more.



Catholic Education Honor Roll

CNS recognizes faithful Catholic schools on its Catholic Education Honor Roll and expands our mission to include Catholic education at all levels.



My Future, My Faith

CNS launches My Future, My Faith publication to help Catholic families navigate the path from high school to college and learn about Newman Guide institutions. More than 200,000 copies have been distributed to date.



Catholic Is Our Core

In 2013, CNS launches the Catholic Is Our Core initiative to explain why the Common Core State Standards are incompatible with faithful Catholic education. CNS meets with 30 bishops and diocesan school leaders and exposes a $100,000 grant from the Bill Gates Foundation to promote the Common Core in Catholic schools.



Recruit Me

With its online program “Recruit Me,” CNS links high school students with Newman Guide colleges. A $5,000 essay scholarship program is later added to help expose more students to faithful education.



Vatican World Congress

On the 50th anniversary of Gravissimum Educationis and
25th anniversary of Ex corde Ecclesiae in 2015, CNS participates
in the Vatican World Congress on Education.


Teacher Witness

In 2015, CNS comes to the defense of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and his robust morality expectations for school teachers. CNS publishes recommended employment guidelines, leading to the Catholic Identity Standards Project to promote clear standards for all aspects of Catholic education.



Catholic Curriculum standards

CNS develops and publishes Catholic Curriculum Standards to guide K-12 education and help dioceses shift away from secular state standards. By 2023, our Standards are used by at least 36 dioceses and 1,189 Catholic K-12 schools.



Principles of
Catholic Identity


In 2017, after a thorough review of Vatican documents on Catholic education, CNS publishes its Principles of Catholic Identity in Education to guide all work of The Cardinal Newman Society.

Building upon this foundation, The Cardinal Newman Society has accomplished nearly as much in the last few years as in the last few decades. This includes:

  • Building upon this foundation, The Cardinal Newman Society has accomplished nearly as much in the last few years as in the last few decades. This includes:
  • Catholic families nationwide rely on The Newman Guide for guidance in choosing faithful colleges, and we are reaching thousands more families with our videos, social media outreach, and college fairs. This year, the guide will expand to recognize schools and graduate programs.
  • We are defending against threats to faithful Catholic education, including scandal and infidelity but also government attacks on religious freedom. And we are helping educators better protect their own institutions with well-constructed policies and faithful practices.
  • Our standards and other guidance for Catholic educators have expanded greatly. We often pivot quickly to address immediate challenges, like critical race theory and gender ideology.
  • Our Eucharistic Education Task Force is helping renew devotion to the Eucharist by the most effective means of evangelization: Catholic education.

God has truly blessed this work of promoting and defending faithful Catholic education. We ask His blessings on our continued work this year and for the next many decades—as long as it takes to ensure that every Catholic family has access to faithful education.

Justin Mcclain,
marketing coordinator for
educator resources.



CNS Launches Newman Guide Recognition for Schools, Graduate Programs

What could be more exciting than The Newman Guide? More Newman Guide!

The first edition of The Newman Guide was published in 2007, and I used it to find a faithful Catholic college where I had an amazing experience and even met my future husband. By helping Catholic families find good Catholic colleges amid widespread secularization and infidelity, the guide has become a hopeful sign of the renewal of faithful Catholic education.

As that renewal continues with the revitalization of faithful Catholic schools and the availability of faithful graduate programs, the time is right for The Cardinal Newman Society to take its Newman Guide to the next level. In this special anniversary year, we are expanding our highly successful Newman Guide to include faithful Catholic elementary, secondary, and graduate school options in addition to Catholic colleges.

The Newman Guide recognizes model institutions that refuse to compromise their Catholic mission. Too many of America’s schools and colleges—including much of Catholic education—have become battlegrounds for today’s culture wars, causing as many as 85 percent of Catholic youth to lose their faith by adulthood.

By extending the Newman Guide into K-12 schools and graduate programs, we are providing Catholic parents and students with a pathway to a seamless, faithful Catholic education.

Over the years, The Newman Guide has earned a strong reputation for rigorously vetting Catholic colleges, ensuring they have strong policies and standards that uphold Catholic identity from academics and athletics to faculty hiring and campus life. This has resonated with Catholic families, as more than 75,000 families refer to the Newman Guide online every year to help find a faithful Catholic college.

Newman Guide schools

Have you heard about Catholic schools providing daily Mass for students? Forming them with timeless works of literature? Ensuring a Catholic worldview in all subjects? Focusing on virtue development in their athletic programs?

There is so much to celebrate at Catholic schools recognized in The Newman Guide! While some Catholic schools have gone “woke” by embracing gender ideology and mirroring public schools in their curriculum, personnel, and educational philosophy, the Newman Guide schools remain strong in the faith.

We already have a lot of experience evaluating and recognizing schools since 2011 with our Catholic Education Honor Roll. The Honor Roll will continue a while longer as currently recognized schools complete their five-year terms, but new recognition will be under The Newman Guide.

“We are thrilled that The Cardinal Newman Society is expanding The Newman Guide to include primary and secondary Catholic schools,” said Derek Tremblay, headmaster of Mount Royal Academy in Sunapee, N.H. “The Cardinal Newman Society remains a critical and trusted partner in Catholic education. The policies and curriculum standards drafted and recommended by CNS reflect the fullness of the Catholic faith. There is simply no other institution that compares to what the Cardinal Newman Society has done to keep Catholic education faithful to Jesus Christ.”

Graduate programs

At the graduate school level, the expanded Newman Guide is also responding to a pressing need from Catholic families. For years, families have asked for our guidance in choosing a Catholic graduate program. And the number of U.S. students seeking a graduate degree has doubled in the last 20 years.

Some of the graduate programs working through the application process include the Augustine Institute, Ave Maria School of Law, Divine Mercy University, and Pontifex University. Newman Guide colleges that offer graduate programs have also expressed interest.

In the right program, students can pursue an advanced education while being immersed in a truly Catholic environment. This is great news for Catholic families and for the future of the Church!

Formation for a lifetime

There’s no greater gift parents can provide young people than a faithful Catholic education.

“We have told our kids they can choose from the list of faithful colleges for undergraduate studies,” said Elisa Del Curto, a Catholic mother of 10 in California, whose children have, so far, all attended a Newman Guide college at the undergraduate level. “We have never expected these faithful colleges on the list to be perfect; nothing can be. But what we have found in the guide has been beyond helpful in aiding our children in their quest for truth.”

We hope that families will find the same value in our recommendations of faithful schools and graduate programs. And we pray that the expanded Newman Guide will allow more students to enjoy better lives because of experiencing faithful Catholic education. The expanded Newman Guide is good news for Catholic families, Catholic educators, and the future of the Catholic Church!

Kelly Salomon
vice president for Newman
guide programs at The Cardinal Newman Society.

The Future of Faithful Catholic Education

Not long before the launch of The Cardinal Newman Society in 1993, an elderly priest advised me to stop trying to rescue Catholic education. “You’re chasing the horses 20 years after the barn doors were opened,” he said.

I suppose he had reason for doubt. In the span of just two decades, his generation witnessed the tragic secularization of many Catholic colleges, the abdication of nuns from Catholic schools, and the rapid decline of parish school enrollment. Now, three decades later, many more Catholic schools have closed their doors, and enrollment has dropped steadily—at least until the recent post-pandemic bump.

Despite all this, never has The Cardinal Newman Society wavered from our mission to promote and defend faithful Catholic education. And while the tide of secularism in America is still very strong, never have I been more certain of the reform and renewal of Catholic education and of God’s blessings upon it!

Today we rejoice in a new generation of fruitful, authentic Catholic educators who are determined to build up faithful Catholic education. Colleges established and reformed in recent decades have become top choices for families seeking truly faithful Catholic education, thanks in part to the success of our Newman Guide programs. There is a growing number of exemplary Catholic schools and graduate programs, now also invited to enjoy Newman Guide recognition and promotion. And we celebrate the growth and maturation of Catholic homeschool and hybrid programs, forming outstanding scholars, leaders, priests, and sisters.

After 30 years of grateful toil in this work of fighting off secularism—the same work that our patron, Saint John Henry Newman, said was his primary mission more than a century ago—I have no more wisdom to offer than what Newman preached: education begins and ends in God. And as for the future of Catholic education and the success of our mission, we follow the example of Newman who asked only for the light of the Holy Spirit to see his next step. We, too, have only to seek and trust in the goodness of each step that we take. That blind trust served CNS well these last three decades.

Therefore, I won’t even try to predict the future of Catholic education—but we can pray for its revival, by God’s grace. And with each step forward, it helps to keep in mind the five broad objectives below, toward which there is much to be accomplished. The Cardinal Newman Society strives for advancement in each of these areas, and we are grateful to be accompanied by an ever-growing number of educators and partner organizations making important contributions toward faithful education.


The mission of Catholic education and the vision articulated by the Church must be renewed in the hearts, minds, and wills of Catholic education leaders and teachers.

In too many schools and colleges, the very foundation of Catholic education has been forgotten or willfully neglected. The differences between secular and Catholic education are not minor—they are fundamental and are of great consequence to students. A secular education focuses on empowerment, helping students accumulate information and develop skills in order to achieve their intellectual and physical potential. But Catholic education has a higher priority: to know and love God in pursuit of communion with Him, which is the final and proper end of a fully human life. More than the accumulation of knowledge, the student discerns some portion of the wisdom of God, and this requires His grace bestowed through prayer and sacrament with Jesus Christ as the perfect teacher.

If Catholic education is to be revived—if Catholic parents are to once again choose education that helps fulfill their sacred responsibility to form their children in faith, virtue, and wisdom—then it begins with a renewed awareness and appreciation for the vision articulated in Vatican documents. After several months of studying magisterial guidance from the last century, The Cardinal Newman Society distilled the key points into our five Principles of Catholic Identity in Education. These can be viewed as a further development of the five “marks” of Catholic education proposed by Archbishop Michael Miller, CSB, which rely on the same Vatican sources.

Every Catholic educator should be familiar with the distinctive and superior elements of Catholic education, especially given the widespread secularism and confusion in society and even within the Church today.


The integrity of Catholic education needs to be restored, beginning with an understanding of the integrity of the human person. As St. John Henry Newman explains, students come to class with all their emotions, appetites, will, and reason “warring” inside of them, because of the Fall. But it is the task of Catholic education “to reunite what has been put asunder.” Catholic education forms the intellect, but it does so in harmony with the rest of the soul and body—a truly integral formation of the person, ordered toward communion with God.

Within academics, there is also an integration that is necessary to Catholic education. If all knowledge and wisdom come from the mind of God, the one source of all, then the various disciplines have one foundation and should share insights, values, and methods across the curriculum. This is especially true of the Catholic faith, which is not simply infused into the classroom but provides the foundation and principles for every study.

In other activities, there can be no contradiction between learning and behavior, especially by the witness of teachers and other staff. Upholding moral expectations across all employees is increasingly difficult as even Catholics embrace ideologies and cultural norms that oppose Catholic teaching. But the integrity of Catholic education demands such integrity of every adult whose witness is seen by students.


To ensure the integrity of Catholic education, it must be defended. The threats to faithful Catholic education are numerous, beginning with the lack of awareness among many educators of the distinct mission of Catholic education. Especially in colleges, students are sometimes misled by dissent and even scandal while living in an often toxic campus culture. Also, as noted above, false ideologies and cultural norms in American society today—most notably gender ideology and distortions of marriage and sexuality—have great influence over students, parents, and Catholic school and college employees. Activists, legislators, courts, athletic associations, accreditors, and others are trying to force these new norms on Catholic educators, disregarding their religious beliefs and obligations.

At CNS, we are working hard to help Catholic educators secure the greatest protection under the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious freedom. In addition to filing amicus briefs and communicating with government officials on behalf of Catholic families and educators, we provide standards and sample policies to help schools and colleges institute policies that are explicitly rooted in Catholic teaching, clear to all students and employees, and consistently upheld. The more forthright educators are about their Catholic mission and what is expected of all students and employees, the more likely an institution’s religious freedom is respected by the courts.


It may be that many Catholic schools and especially colleges have been too far afield, for too long a time, to expect a complete return to faithful Catholic education. But still there is a need for continued efforts at reform, if only to declare the principle that falsehood, dissent, and scandal have no place in authentic Catholic education.

Here we see the importance of developing a truly Catholic understanding of academic freedom. The Church does not accept the liberal view of human dignity as rooted in man’s reason and free will alone, thus recommending the widest possible freedom without regard for truth. Human dignity is bestowed by our Creator in His gracious desire that we be in communion with Him, and our reason and free will are ordered toward that purpose. Catholic education should allow students and teachers great freedom in exploring and contemplating reality, because reason requires a certain freedom to work on knowledge. But Catholic education must reject notions of absolute freedom, embrace truth, and avoid leading students into falsehood or sin.


Finally, the reform and renewal of faithful Catholic education require a recommitment by the Church to the project of education. In my conversations with bishops and priests, I often hear a tone of resignation, as if the days of Catholic education are behind us and can never be recovered. Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict paced a very high priority on faithful Catholic education, and that sense of urgency and commitment needs to persist in American dioceses and homes.

Millions of dollars and work hours have been put into the “New Evangelization’ with mixed results, but always falling short of true formation of young people. Catholic formation requires time and the integration described above, and this simply cannot be done well in the context of scattered events built around a public education. Today public schools and universities often strive to form students in ways that are contradictory to a Catholic morality and worldview. We must again appreciate Catholic education as the Church’s primary and most effective means of evangelization, while being frank about the great dangers in public education.

This recommitment needs to happen, most importantly, among parents. They are the primary educators who choose the education for their children, and they witness to Catholic education by their own lifelong pursuit of Catholic formation and growing in knowledge and wisdom. At baptism, parents vow to raise their children in the Catholic faith. As St. John Henry Newman declared often, a private religion without relevance to activities outside of church is dead; and an education disregarding the fundamental insights of the Catholic faith is a poor education.

Is it too tall an order to ask for reform and renewal, integration and protection, with the full commitment of the Church? Can we recover the urgency of Archbishop John Hughes of New York, who insisted on building schools before completing parish church buildings?

With God’s grace, I do believe all this can come to pass—and we are seeing many exciting signs and examples of it all around the U.S. We go forward into the next decade, taking each step with bold confidence that God will do what He wills with our work. I look back on The Cardinal Newman Society’s 30 years with amazement and praise for what has been wrought from our faulty efforts, and that gives me the greatest hope for the future of Catholic education.

Patrick Reilly
president and founder of
The Cardinal Newman Society


Virgin and Child with Saints Dominic and Thomas Aquinas

Resolved for New Year 2020: Teach the Faith

I love the six days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Son of God is with us! Now we get a short time to rev up our engines for the new year’s work of evangelization, as Christ commanded.

I propose three resolutions for the Year 2020, under a single theme of education. Why education? The confusion, irreverence, dissent, scandal and blasphemy that we find within the Church today—and the extraordinary challenges of secularism and sexual perversion in our culture—exhibit widespread embrace of falsehood. More than 2,000 years since Christ was born, too few people know the truth of God and his creation.

To help remedy this appalling situation, I pray that in 2020 the Church might finally break free of the dangerously limited notion of Catholic education as a particular system of schools accessed by a dwindling portion of young Catholics. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of truly Catholic schools! But they are one means of Catholic education—a favored means during the last two centuries, yet never the only means. The need for educating Catholics in truth and devotion is what takes precedence. Some schools, sadly, have even forgotten essential aspects of their mission, while increasingly Catholics are turning to print, broadcast and online resources as well as lay-run schools, homeschooling and innovative hybrid school-and-home options.

Catholic education is the task of formation in faith, truth and reason, and it is the Church’s primary method of evangelization. It is for all of us! Learning is growth, and teaching is key to three of the Spiritual Works of Mercy: instructing the ignorant, counseling the sorrowful and admonishing the sinner. All three works are desperately needed today.

Every Catholic adult is called to self-educate. Today we have many outstanding publishers of books, videos, software, websites and more. We have faithful Catholic media like EWTN and the Register. We have new and renewed colleges that provide faithful online and in-person instruction grounded in authentic theology.

For children, Catholic education is a solemn duty of every Catholic parent. If a child cannot be taught in a faithful Catholic school or homeschool, then the parent must find other ways of forming the child in the truths of the faith—not only doctrine, but reverent prayer and sacrament. And not only religion, but the great insights of our faith into every other branch of knowledge, including history, science and literature. And not only knowledge, but the skills of reasoning and communication—those uniquely human abilities that resemble God’s wisdom and loving Word.

If a school or CCD program fails to do the job adequately or a secular school is the only option, then a parent must find or create other means of Catholic education. It is as essential as providing food and shelter.

So for 2020, let us resolve to teach the truth of God and his creation to a world suffering from ignorance.

Resolution 1: Teach the Holy Eucharist

The Pew Research study released in 2019 found that only 31% of self-professed U.S. Catholics—26% under the age of 40—believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. A more recent EWTN-RealClear poll found that 49% of Catholics who are registered to vote believe in the Real Presence. Both results are devastating!

If the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, then clearly a top priority must be Catholic education for both young people and adults, by teaching sound doctrine and forming Catholics in reverent liturgy and adoration.

This begins with parents and educators. Catholic homeschoolers have demonstrated a notable commitment to both daily and Sunday Mass, preparation for Mass through frequent confession, and Eucharistic adoration. But this should not set them apart—surely Catholic schools and colleges could be encouraging the same, yet most regard the sacraments as personal obligations that are extraneous to the job of education. Catholic schools and colleges should consider adding more frequent Masses, including at least some in the Extraordinary Form, with sacred music. They should provide opportunities for Eucharistic adoration and confession. They should teach students about the Eucharistic miracles.

Parents with children in secular schools need to make an extra effort to work liturgy and prayer into their daily schedule, as well as instruction in Catholic doctrine. But if these are high priorities, then they can be done.

Adults, too, need to be able to explain the Church’s authentic theology of the Eucharist and share the truth with each other. We can no longer assume that even our fellow Catholics know the truth. We must find ways to integrate contemplation of the Eucharist into our daily lives and into group activities.

Through catechesis and exposing fellow Catholics to beautiful and reverent liturgy, we can return Catholic education to its roots and renew faith. We have seen the tragic results of watered-down instruction and lackluster worship. Now we must aim for something better.

Resolution 2: Teach chastity

As our culture keeps going further off the rails, it is all the more important that Catholics uphold virtue and teach and practice chastity. Our witness to chastity can, I hope, bring about a renewal of the culture. It will certainly help preserve us and our young Catholics from grave sin.

Even in Catholic high schools and colleges, the hook-up culture is well-documented and the rates of sexual activity and assault are alarming. These are associated with the mortal sins of contraception, sterilization and abortion, as well as an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases. Even before high school and throughout adolescence and adulthood, Catholics are faced with the temptation of online pornography and explicit sexuality and violence in movies and television shows.

Teaching chastity in a culture that is downstream from the Sexual Revolution is not easy, but it begins with simple practices and precautions within our Catholic homes, schools and colleges. Make an effort in 2020 to frequently speak the words “near occasion of sin,” an essential point of Christian ethics that seems to have been forgotten or even rejected by many Catholics today. Avoidance of temptation is the reason Catholics once chaperoned activities, dressed modestly, and associated dating with the seriousness of marriage—let’s do it again.

Some practical steps can be taken to build a home or school culture that projects an assumption of chastity. Members of the opposite sex should not be entertained in bedrooms or in any room with a closed door, and Catholic colleges could help set the example by restoring appropriate campus dorm policies. Monitor internet usage and filter pornography from Wi-Fi networks; again, some Catholic colleges are already leading the way.

Resolution 3: Put truth back into education

One factor in the decline of faith over recent decades is the declining respect for truth. When was the last time you heard someone state a proposition—an opinion or claim of some sort—and back it up with sound evidence and reasoning? It is rare, and I suspect that most people today are afraid to try.

Developing strong reasoning skills used to be central to a Catholic education, probably because we expected young people to cogently analyze great literature, explain history and learn difficult theological concepts as taught by Augustine and Aquinas. Today, schools tend to emphasize facts and figures, but young people often lack the wit and wisdom of their grandparents.

Moreover, most Catholics have had a secular education—many never setting foot in a Catholic school or college, others attending Catholic institutions that provided a rather secular program. Not only were they not well-formed in doctrine, prayer and sacrament, but they never gained the insights of our faith into every other study.

If a young Catholic is not formed in truth, then we have failed to educate. Providing a truly Catholic education and fostering skills of reasoning are difficult outside of a Catholic program, but they can be done with great effort by the parents. Immediately, however, we need lukewarm Catholic schools and colleges to step up and show the way—to present the ideal so others can follow. Everything that a Catholic school or college does should reflect its Catholic identity, from its hiring practices and human sexuality policies to its curriculum and library book choices.

In 2020, Catholics should resolve to no longer accept mediocre education. Together we should demand truly faithful education with classical approaches to learning and formation. Simply resolving to make truthful education a top priority, whatever our state in life, would help turn our gaze to God and his magnificent creation. It would refocus our lives to the perfection that God wills for us, by his grace and mercy.

Please pray throughout the next year for the intercession of St. John Henry Newman, himself a great educator and advocate for faithful Catholic education. His desire was that the Catholic laity would seek truth with vigor and hold to truth with devotion. May God grant such wisdom in us, and bless us all throughout the year.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Archbishop Sheen

Archbishop Sheen’s Idea of Education

This article by Patrick Reilly, President and Founder of The Cardinal Newman Society, was published at The National Catholic Register prior to the unexpected delay of Venerable Fulton Sheen’s beatification (originally planned for Dec. 21). Please continue to pray for his Cause for sainthood.

Education should teach us the “truth about man,” said Archbishop Fulton Sheen. A graduate of and longtime professor at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., before he was a television celebrity, Sheen should inspire Catholics to seek out authentic education.

For 23 years, Sheen taught courses such as “Philosophy of Religion” and “God and Society” at Catholic University, making frequent use of Caldwell Chapel on campus. After teaching, he moved into television and radio programs, reaching greater numbers—even until today—with his wisdom, wit and unparalleled teaching ability.

One of his former students, Father William Amann, said that Sheen’s strong faith was obvious in the classroom. “He was a very holy man and it came out certainly in the presentation of his class. His holiness was evident in his demeanor and the classes he gave, his belief in God, and his trust in the Lord.”

For Sheen, education was about training the “whole man—the intellect and will, not just the mind alone.” Related to the intellect, he described the educated person as one who will do three things: “seek truth,” have a “correlation of studies” and have “depth, particularly the deepening of mystery.”

For the first, Sheen urged that the “one basic truth we have to learn is the truth of our own existence.” He lamented that people live years of their lives without learning “why they are here, and where they are going.”

“When life is meaningless, it is very dull,” Sheen continued. “When you know the truth of life, then you are most free.”

On the second point, the correlation of studies refers to the idea that “there are certain subjects that ought to be regarded as essential, so that a man will be truly educated.” The tendency in education, Sheen explained, was to use the “shelf theory” and “take any course that you please.” This leads to a “disconnected and disjointed” understanding.

The “really educated man sees a relationship between various branches of knowledge,” said Sheen, urging against “overspecification” in universities. A well-rounded curriculum “will teach a man how to… know himself, know society, know his relationship to the universe, and above all, he will understand his relationship to God.”

Finally, a truly educated person will have a “philosophy of life that is solid” and will “deepen the mystery of things” rather than centering studies around various fads that come and go.

Sheen’s thoughts on education may sound lofty in our nation today, where many colleges, even Catholic ones, have become focused solely on job training. They lack the formation that Sheen insisted upon. Many colleges promote relativism, fail to provide a meaningful foundation in the liberal arts, and leave students empty and unprepared for life.

Sheen explains how a strong Catholic education can make life worth living. If families look carefully, they can find strong Catholic schools and colleges that are worthy of a saint.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Catholics Should Be Wary of ‘Elite’ Colleges

Lately we’ve been hearing about a college admissions scandal and FBI raids of parents’ homes. But Catholic families may be being cheated by an even bigger fraud.

The news is abuzz about indicted celebrities who abused the power of their wealth to get children into prestigious colleges, ahead of deserving students. It’s a classic American scandal, pitting the wealthy against the little guy.

But there’s more to it than that. “If education is what the beast says it is, a mere means to the end of greater wealth and prestige, then what these parents did makes perfect sense,” writes scholar Benjamin Myers at First Things. “…Many of those outraged by the behavior of these celebrity parents share the foundational assumptions that make sense of such actions—that the point of education is not to ‘get wisdom,’ in the words of Proverbs, but to gain prestige. The parents who bribed their kids’ way into college were just feeding the beast, the same as everybody else.”

In other words, Catholic families who aspire for their children to attend college to obtain a ticket to success instead of forming their minds, hearts and spirits are missing the point of college—at least what the Church deems worthy of young Catholic students.

More than the bribery scandal, the greater fraud in American academia is the pretense that “elite” colleges still have the value they had just a lifetime ago, let alone the value that the great universities had centuries ago. For many big-name universities today, their reputations were built in another time and on another sort of education.

Modern secular education

To be sure, elite universities offer many advantages to their students. They are able to hire brilliant professors, sometimes including prominent Catholics like Robert George at Princeton and Mary Ann Glendon at Harvard. They often have vast resources for research, facilities, libraries, etc. And a diploma from an elite institution can be a ticket to wealth, success and distinction.

These are valuable in their own right, and there are many factors in choosing a college that may lead a student to attend a secular institution—or worse, a corrupted and highly secularized Catholic institution. But Catholics need to be aware and highly cautious about the rest of the baggage that comes with most of modern higher education—especially our “prestigious” universities.

Today many are dominated by identity politics and political correctness, instead of rational dialogue and reasoned argument. Studies tend to be either career-centered, with an emphasis on practical training, or narrow and biased distortions of the liberal arts. The campus life is morally toxic and frequently corrupts the souls of students.

Most important, they lack Christianity. In our secular age, it’s understandable that most students don’t value the insights of Christianity on science, history, the arts and humanity. But Catholic families should value them above all.

Newman’s vision

Blessed John Henry Newman, the 19th-century theologian and educator who will be canonized later this year, argued rightly that the only complete college is a faithfully Catholic one. That’s because higher education should be open to all truth and committed to integrating all truth—thus the word “university.”

At a faithfully Catholic college, the knowledge that is revealed to us by Christ and His Church rightly informs every other branch of study, makes it richer, and opens our eyes to greater understanding. A college that rejects and excludes Christian truth is a lesser college.

Higher education should not be focused primarily on accumulating facts and skills, although that’s the emphasis of most college learning today. Newman said he didn’t care much what subjects a student studied, as long as he learned to reason well, organized and prioritized knowledge, solved problems, and acquired wisdom.

And a higher education is not just about academics—it’s about forming young people to fulfill everything that God desires for them, to become more fully human. A faithful Catholic college like those recommended in The Newman Guide teach not only wisdom but also virtue, and they form students in the Faith and the Sacraments. They attend to campus life outside the classroom and lead students on the path to holiness. This is not contrary to learning, but central to it.

Sadly, many of the elite Catholic colleges like those involved in the admissions scandals—Georgetown University and the University of San Diego—have moved away from this sort of valuable education, even while resting their reputations on the excellent education that they once provided.

Even the Ivy League institutions once understood the value of a faithful, integrated education. Did you know that most Ivy League universities began as Christian institutions? For decades now, they have compromised their original mission, yet they retain their prestige in the eyes of the world.

A faithful Catholic college… now that’s an education worth reaching for! But don’t try bribing admissions officials to get in.

This article was originally published at the National Catholic Register.

Are Jesuits Proud of Their Pro-Abortion Alumni?

As the 116th Congress began in January, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) trumpeted the surprising fact that more than 10 percent of the U.S. Congress—55 of 535 members in the House and Senate—graduated from American Jesuit institutions.

But in their widely reported press release, the Jesuit educators also displayed a callous disregard for the moral formation of these graduates, most of whom actively work against the Church on today’s most important human rights issue: the right to life.

Upon reading news reports about the Jesuit alumni in Congress, my immediate question on Twitter (@NewmanSocPres) was almost reflexive: “Are they pro-life?”

I don’t really expect them to be, given the direction of Jesuit higher education and the many pro-abortion scandals on their campuses, including the recent lecture by an abortionist touting the Christian virtue of his practice at Georgetown University. But of what value is Catholic education if its graduates are not formed well in faith and morals, the most basic of which is respect for life? Could we at least expect that from highly secularized but officially Catholic colleges?

Moreover, it seems strange that even the most faithful Catholic news media didn’t evaluate the voting records of these alumni before touting the 10 percent-in-Congress statistic as—it probably seemed to most readers—good news for Catholics and a reason to attend Jesuit colleges.

It’s not good news! And it’s yet another piece of evidence that these colleges are having a detrimental impact on society instead of advancing Catholic thought and culture.

Pro-abortion voting records

I reviewed the voting records of the 55 Jesuit-educated senators and representatives using the pro-life scorecard published by National Right to Life (NRLC). If we combine NRLC scores for the 115th Congress (2017-2018) and the 114th Congress (2015-2016) for the 47 Jesuit college alumni who voted in one or both of those years, then we find that only eight of them voted pro-life 100 percent of the time. (God bless them!)

On the other hand, 36 of the alumni had NRLC scores of zero. That means that they voted 100 percent of the time against pro-life objectives.

Three others had mixed records:

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska managed to get a 44 percent pro-life rating, largely because she voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. But Murkowski voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (prohibiting abortions before 20 weeks of gestation) and supported funding for Planned Parenthood.

Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania scored just 18 percent. He supported the 20-week ban, but he repeatedly voted for Planned Parenthood funding.

Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas had a mixed record of 43 percent. He claims to be pro-life but opposed efforts to reduce funding to Planned Parenthood.

Seven of the alumni are new to the House of Representatives and had no voting record in the last two Congressional sessions. But according to statements made during their campaigns, it appears that five strongly support legalized abortion and only two are pro-life:

Gil Cisneros (California): As a candidate, Cisneros strongly defended “women’s right to choose” and funding for Planned Parenthood.

Greg Pence (Indiana): The Catholic brother of Vice President Mike Pence ran for Congress on a pro-life platform.

Mikie Sherrill (New Jersey): Endorsed by the abortion lobby NARAL, Sherrill said she was “proud to stand with NARAL and the work they do to protect the rights of women.”

Xochitl Torres Small (New Mexico): The former Planned Parenthood employee supports funding for abortion and even opposes limits on late-term abortions.

Greg Stanton (Arizona): While mayor of Phoenix, Stanton urged Congress to fund Planned Parenthood and co-chaired a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

Bryan Steil (Wisconsin): The pro-life candidate was endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life.

Lori Trahan (Massachusetts): Candidate Trahan vowed to fight “bans on abortion, bans on private and public insurance coverage of abortion, and the frequent attempts to regulate abortion providers out of existence.”

These campaign positions were upheld last month, when the U.S. House voted to overturn President Trump’s ban on foreign aid to pro-abortion organizations. Only Pence and Steil voted against it, while the other five Jesuit college alumni who are new to Congress voted for it.

Delegate Stacey Plaskett, another of the Jesuit college alumni, is a nonvoting House member from the Virgin Islands and has no voting record. But last year, Plaskett made a commitment to NARAL to fight to keep abortion legal across the United States.

Not ashamed?

The final tally: only 10 of the 55 Jesuit college alumni are clearly pro-life, 42 are strongly pro-abortion, and three have mixed records that are unworthy of anyone who had a Catholic education.

If the Jesuits think that their 10 percent representation in Congress is so significant as to warrant public celebration, then why are they not ashamed that 82 percent of those alumni oppose the Church on such important issues as abortion and taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood?

Or to put it another way: Why does secular prestige appear to be more important to the Jesuit colleges than the slaughter of innocent babies?

Below is the tally for the Jesuit college alumni, with details from the AJCU:

Sen. John Barrasso (WY) – NRLC rating 100
B.A. Georgetown U. (1974), M.D. Georgetown U. (1978)

Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA) – NRLC rating 18
B.A. Coll. of the Holy Cross (1982)

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (IL) – NRLC rating 0
B.S.F.S. Georgetown U. (1966), J.D. Georgetown U. (1969)

Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Georgetown U. (1978)

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (VT) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Georgetown U. (1964)

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (NV) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Gonzaga U. (1990)

Sen. Edward J. Markey (MA) – NRLC rating 0
B.A. Boston Coll. (1968), J.D. Boston Coll. (1972)

Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ) – NRLC rating 0
B.A. Saint Peter’s U. (1976)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK) – NRLC rating 44
B.A. Georgetown U. (1980)

Sen. Gary Peters (MI) – NRLC rating 0
M.B.A. U. of Detroit Mercy (1984)

Sen. Dan Sullivan (AK) – NRLC rating 100
J.D.-M.S.F.S. Georgetown U. (1993)

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Jr. (MD) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Georgetown U. (1990)

Rep. Vern Buchanan (FL) – NRLC rating 100
M.B.A. U. of Detroit Mercy (1986)

Rep. David Cicilline (RI) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Georgetown U. (1986)

Rep. Gil Cisneros (CA) – elected 2018
M.B.A. Regis U. (2002)

Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX) – NRLC rating 43
B.S.F.S. Georgetown U. (1978)

Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (CT) – NRLC rating 0
B.A. Marymount Coll. (now part of Fordham U.) (1964)

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA) – NRLC rating 0
B.A. Coll. of the Holy Cross (1974)

Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI) – NRLC rating 0
B.S.F.S. Georgetown U. (1975), M.A.L.S. Georgetown U. (1998)

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (NE) – NRLC rating 100
M.P.P. Georgetown U. (1986)

Rep. Lois Frankel (FL) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Georgetown U. (1973)

Rep. Mike Gallagher (WI) – NRLC rating 100
M.A. Georgetown U. (2012 & 2013), Ph.D. Georgetown U. (2015)

Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ) – NRLC rating 100
B.S. Creighton U. (1981), D.D.S. Creighton U. (1985)

Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (IN) – NRLC rating 100
M.P.P. Georgetown U. (2014)

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (MD) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Georgetown U. (1966)

Rep. Jared Huffman (CA) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Boston Coll. (1990)

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA) – NRLC rating 0
B.A. Georgetown U. (1986)

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY) – NRLC rating 0
M.P.P. Georgetown U. (1994)

Rep. William Keating (MA) – NRLC rating 0
B.A. Boston Coll. (1974), M.B.A. Boston Coll. (1982)

Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (NH) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Georgetown U. (1984)

Rep. Ted Lieu (CA) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Georgetown U. (1994)

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Santa Clara U. (1975)

Rep. Stephen Lynch (MA) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Boston Coll. (1991)

Rep. Gwen Moore (WI) – NRLC rating 0
B.A. Marquette U. (1978)

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (FL) – NRLC rating 0
M.S.F.S. Georgetown U. (2004)

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (NY) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Fordham U. (1978)

Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Santa Clara U. (1996)

Rep. William J. Pascrell, Jr. (NJ) – NRLC rating 0
B.A. Fordham U. (1959), M.A. Fordham U. (1961)

Rep. Greg Pence (IN) – elected 2018
B.A. Loyola U. Chicago (1979), M.B.A. Loyola U. Chicago (1983)

Delegate Stacey Plaskett (VI) – nonvoting member
B.S.F.S. Georgetown U. (1988)

Rep. Michael Quigley (IL) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Loyola U. Chicago (1989)

Rep. Francis Rooney (FL) – NRLC rating 100
B.A. Georgetown U. (1975) , J.D. Georgetown U. (1978)

Rep. Robert C. Scott (VA) – NRLC rating 0
J.D. Boston Coll. (1973)

Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ) – elected 2018
J.D. Georgetown U. (2007)

Rep. Albio Sires (NJ) – NRLC rating 0
B.A. Saint Peter’s U. (1974)

Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (NM) – elected 2018
B.A. Georgetown U. (2007)

Rep. Adam Smith (WA) – NRLC rating 0
B.A. Fordham U. (1987)

Rep. Greg Stanton (AZ) – elected 2018
B.A. Marquette U. (1992)

Rep. Bryan Steil (WI) – elected 2018
B.S. Georgetown U. (2003)

Rep. Tom Suozzi (NY) – NRLC rating 0
B.S. Boston Coll. (1984), J.D. Fordham U. (1989)

Rep. Lori Trahan (MA) – elected 2018
B.A. Georgetown U. (1995)

Rep. Juan C. Vargas (CA) – NRLC rating 0
M.A. Fordham U. (1987)

Rep. Filemon Vela (TX) – NRLC rating 0
B.A. Georgetown U. (1985)

Rep. Peter J. Visclosky (IN) – NRLC rating 0
L.L.M. Georgetown U. (1982)

Rep. Peter Welch (VT) – NRLC rating 0
A.B. Coll. of the Holy Cross (1969)

This article was first published at the National Catholic Register.

rosary and books

Hope Emerges after the Devastation of Land O’Lakes

Editor’s Note: The Cardinal Newman Society is releasing several articles marking the 50th anniversary of the devastating Land O’Lakes Statement, in which several Catholic university leaders declared Catholic universities independent from “authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself”. In considering the future of Catholic education, it’s impossible to ignore the past. “How did we get here?” is a question essential to determining how many American Catholic colleges and universities can overcome their conformity to secular norms for curriculum, campus life, governance, and academic freedom. Ultimately, these articles serve as hope that the mistakes of the past can be corrected and that God will bless the renaissance of faithful Catholic education in the United States that is underway.

This article was originally published in The Enduring Nature of the Catholic University, a collection of essays released by The Cardinal Newman Society in 2009. 

On July 23, 1967, at a meeting in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin, twenty-six leaders of Catholic higher education representing some ten Catholic colleges and universities in the United States of America issued what became known as the Land O’Lakes Statement. This statement, officially titled “The Nature of the Contemporary University,” declared that:

The Catholic University today must be a university in the full modern sense of the word, with strong commitment to and concern for academic excellence. To perform its teaching and research function effectively, the Catholic University must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself. To say this is simply to assert that institutional autonomy and academic freedom are essential conditions for life and growth and indeed of survival for Catholic universities as for all universities.1

Although the few Catholic educators who signed this Land O’Lakes Statement had no mandate to speak for Catholic higher education, their Statement nevertheless turned out to be surprisingly influential, and for many years it enjoyed near “official” status as describing what many had come to think the Catholic university ought to be today. The Statement both articulated some of the reasons for and encouraged the rapid secularization that was taking place on many Catholic college and university campuses from the late 1960s on. For the next few decades, the Catholic identity of many Catholic colleges and universities was either ravaged or, in most cases, simply regarded as a very low priority.

It now appears that the long winter has given way to an emergent but reliable thaw. It began with Pope John Paul II and his 1990 apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae,2 although at the time one could hardly have expected positive results, given the immediate, out-of-hand rejection of the Vatican’s expectations by many Catholic educators. It was confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in his address to educators at The Catholic University of America on April 17, 2009, which this book commemorates.  Although the hard work of renewing authentic Catholic identity at many of America’s institutions remains undone, the Holy Father was clearly aware that the time was right to present a vision for Catholic higher education that moves far beyond the minimal expectations of Ex corde Ecclesiae.  It was a clear signal of the progress that has been made in nearly twenty years—in no small part due to the example of those colleges and universities that stayed true to the Church, as well as the attention of the Vatican and the U.S. bishops to the need for education reform.

But the times were much different in 1967, and the signers of the Land O’Lakes Statement very likely believed they had established a new, permanent direction for Catholic higher education. The Statement represented a virtual declaration of independence from the Church for those institutions that came to accept it. Unfortunately, many Catholic colleges and universities did come to accept it, especially in and through the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU). They accepted it because it justified many of the measures they were taking to secularize their institutions by modifying or dropping many features that had formerly marked an institution as “Catholic.”

The principal idea behind the Land O’Lakes Statement lay in its assertion that the Catholic university must be a university “in the full modern sense of the word.” The leaders of what amounted to an institutional revolt by them against the Catholic Church saw themselves as adopting a modern, secular “model” of a university as the only model of what it was to be a university. If an institution was not such a modern, secularized university, then the implication was that it was not a true university at all. Being relegated to this status was not a fate most Catholic educators wanted to risk.

While the Catholic Church beginning in medieval times had encouraged the founding of the first universities and, indeed, in a true sense could be said to have actually “invented” the very idea of a university, those days were long ago and no longer counted. What those who accepted the Land O’Lakes Statement apparently wanted was full acceptance by the American secular academic establishment. They wanted to be accepted as being on a par with secular institutions, without the baggage, as they considered it, of any odd or embarrassing or moralistic “Catholic” encumbrances. Certainly it was thought that there was no way any truly “modern” university could continue to be “subservient” to an authoritarian Church, for example.

From that day to this, the administrations and faculties of most Catholic institutions, hewing to the Land O’Lakes line, have consistently played down or eschewed specific Catholic  policies, practices, or commitments seen as incompatible with the modern secular institutional model. At the same time, they have continued to insist that they are still fully “Catholic.” According to them, their Catholic identity was in no way attenuated or diminished just because, for example, they dropped prayers or chapel requirements, removed crucifixes from classroom walls, abandoned the idea that a critical mass of the faculty ought to profess the Catholic faith, ceased attempting to teach academic subjects in the light of Catholic truth, and eschewed acting in loco parentis as far as their students were concerned.

What everybody had formerly understood to be Protestant “private judgment” was now suddenly taken by the Land O’Lakers to be some new kind of “Catholic” norm: they would henceforth decide, not the Church, what rightly belonged to Catholic higher education, and what could conveniently be downgraded or dropped.

They also continued to belong to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities as if nothing were amiss in the way of their Catholic identity. The ACCU leadership, meanwhile, over many years, itself followed and championed the Land O’Lakes line and steadily opposed all episcopal or Roman efforts to reinforce or restore policies or practices deemed essential by the Church to an authentic Catholic identity.

One of the principal reasons for the almost instant wide acceptance of the Land O’Lakes Statement within Catholic higher education was the idea that the Statement had ostensibly derived from secular American academic practice, namely, that to be a university in the true sense a school must enjoy “institutional autonomy” and “academic freedom.” However, the near absolutist way in which these two features had come to be understood by most Catholic educators made it difficult if not impossible for the Church to require any real Catholic discipline or to guarantee the integrity of her teachings as presented by theological and other faculties.

As for “institutional autonomy,” properly understood, it is an essential characteristic of any true institution of higher learning, and the Church strongly affirms it; she does not claim, and has never claimed, that universities must be directly operated or managed as a part of or within the Church’s own structure. But it is false that modern secular American universities enjoy the kind of total independence from any authority “external to the academic community itself” which the Land O’Lakes Statement implies they enjoy. American colleges and universities are subject to and regularly answer to a myriad of “authorities” external to themselves, whether federal, state, or local laws and ordinances pertaining to higher education, or the requirements of boards of trustees or regents, accrediting agencies, scholarly, scientific, professional, athletic, faculty, and alumni associations and societies, not to speak of the often stringent requirements imposed on them by legislatures, foundations, and other funding agencies. Secular modern American universities typically today even “answer to” outside “politically correct” pressure groups. So there was never anything inappropriate about independent Catholic institutions answering to Catholic authority insofar as the universities claim a Catholic identity and teach in accord with Catholic doctrine.

As for “academic freedom,” the Catholic Church affirms it when properly understood—although the Church does insist that academic freedom “must be preserved within the confines of truth and the common good” (Ex corde Ecclesiae, 12). Yet the signers of and adherents to the Land O’Lakes Statement appear to understand the term as the near absolute right claimed today by many secular academics. The description of it in the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences is often cited as authoritative: “Academic freedom is the freedom of the teacher or research worker in higher institutions of learning to investigate and discuss the problems of his science and to express his conclusions, whether through publication or in the instruction of students, without interference from political or ecclesiastical authority” (emphasis added).

This definition makes the freedom and rights of professors or teachers almost absolute, while the corresponding freedom of churches or other sponsoring institutions to set up, operate, and control their own colleges and universities, as well as the freedom and rights of students and their parents to be assured that the education being imparted is within an announced religious or creedal framework, is simply cancelled out by the supposed academic freedom of professors to do or say what they please. Acceptance of this definition of academic freedom quite simply abolishes the right of the Church to insist that subjects be taught in a Catholic institution in accordance with the truths of the Catholic faith.

The Church was initially slow in responding to the challenge posed by the Land O’Lakes Statement. In 1972 the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) adopted a document setting forth “the essential characteristics of a Catholic university,”3 which were incorporated into the revised Code of Canon Law promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983.4 The canons affirm the right of the Church to sponsor universities (Canon 807); require that no university may bear the label “Catholic” without the permission of the competent ecclesiastical authority, namely, the bishop (Canon 808); insure the autonomy of the university while upholding the integrity of Catholic doctrine (Canon 809); stipulate that scholars and teachers may be removed if they fail to meet the Church’s doctrinal and moral standards (Canon 810); and require that those who teach theology in any Catholic university must have a mandate (mandatum) from ecclesiastical authority, again the local bishop (Canon 812).

The ACCU, as well as many of the heads of Catholic colleges, vehemently opposed these canons during the drafting of the new Code. A delegation of American bishops actually went to Rome to lobby against them. Following the promulgation of the Code, the Canon Law Society of America prepared a commentary suggesting that these canons were not applicable in the United States. They were not, in fact, implemented here.

The Holy See responded on August 15, 1990, with Pope John Paul II’s apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae. Besides being a beautiful description of everything that a Catholic university should be, ECE includes some twenty-five general norms which, among other things, insist that a truly Catholic university is necessarily linked to the Church and is subject to episcopal oversight, especially in the doctrinal and moral areas. Following a period of intense opposition from many American educators, the U.S. bishops, in November 1999, approved an application of ECE which came into force in June 2001. Another document implementing the theological mandatum requirement was approved by the bishops a year later.

With the enactment of these episcopal ordinances, it could finally be said that the U.S. bishops, after more than forty years, had resumed their proper proprietorship over the definition of the term “Catholic university.” It was never anything but a huge anomaly that a group of self-appointed Catholic educators meeting in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin, should have presumed to be able to redefine this term. But for a long time, it seemed they had succeeded.

The Church has a long road to travel before Catholic higher education is fully back in the fold. The habitual opposition of scholars continues in many places and many Catholic colleges and universities are not fully in compliance with Ex corde Ecclesiae. What is clear, however, is the direction in which things are moving. The restoration of the true definition of the term “Catholic university” by Church authority marked the formal end of the Land O’Lakes era. It is the fidelity and creative leadership of a new generation of educators and leaders—including those whose valuable work is featured in this collection—that point the way forward.

The Restoration of a Catholic ‘Idea of a University’

Editor’s Note: The Cardinal Newman Society is releasing several articles marking the 50th anniversary of the devastating Land O’Lakes Statement, in which several Catholic university leaders declared Catholic universities independent from “authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself”. In considering the future of Catholic education, it’s impossible to ignore the past. “How did we get here?” is a question essential to determining how many American Catholic colleges and universities can overcome their conformity to secular norms for curriculum, campus life, governance, and academic freedom. Ultimately, these articles serve as hope that the mistakes of the past can be corrected and that God will bless the renaissance of faithful Catholic education in the United States that is underway.

This article was originally published in The Enduring Nature of the Catholic University, a collection of essays released by The Cardinal Newman Society in 2009. 

The 1967 “Land O’Lakes Statement” by leading Catholic educators precipitated a revolution in Catholic higher education that amounted to heresy and schism.1 Major Catholic universities in the United States—Notre Dame, St. Louis University, Georgetown, and Boston College, to name a few—proclaimed their independence from the Magisterium of the Church. Claiming that “the Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of every kind, lay or clerical, external to the university itself,” the Land O’Lakes Statement announced its separation from the teaching authority and hierarchy of the Church and established its own magisterium, what Monsignor George Kelly called “a two-headed church.”2 Substituting liberal modernism for Catholic orthodoxy, the Land O’Lakes Statement viewed the mission of the college as conformity to the “modern,” as an education “geared to modern society”3 that resists “theological or philosophical imperialism.”4

Naturally, because no man can serve two masters, Catholic universities that subscribed to the Land O’Lakes Statement disowned their patrimony—the university as a gift from the heart of the Church, Ex corde Ecclesiae—and embraced the model of the secular university with its alleged uninhibited academic freedom. As the Statement reads, nothing is to be “outlawed,” and academic freedom means “no boundaries and no barriers.”5 The consequences of this commitment to the modernist movement are legion: the separation of faith and reason, the loss of Catholic identity, the reign of secular ideology, the establishment of moral relativism as the touchstone of truth, and the loss of an honorable academic heritage rooted in the wisdom of the ages.

Two modern papal pronouncements, John Paul II’s Ex corde Ecclesiae (1990)6 and Benedict XVI’s “Address to Catholic Educators” (2008),7 study this crisis in Catholic higher education and seek to restore the ideals of Catholic higher education. The two popes review the venerable tradition of Catholic learning as a treasury of wisdom that spreads the riches of the Gospel, humanizes and civilizes persons, promotes the dignity and inestimable worth of all human beings, and serves the common good of all societies.

As Pope John Paul II writes, the heritage of the Catholic university cultivates “the joy of learning” and rejoicing in the truth (St. Augustine’s gaudium de veritate).8 It teaches the ability “to think rigorously… to act rightly and to serve humanity better.”9 He argues that, contrary to the opinion of the Land O’Lakes Statement, a Catholic university never stifles the life of the mind or the passion for truth, because Catholic higher learning “is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man, and God” and “is dedicated to the research of all aspects of truth in their essential connection with the supreme Truth, who is God.”10 The Catholic university does not inhibit research or censor the quest for knowledge but insists on “the moral, spiritual, and religious dimension” of research and judges the methods and discoveries of science “in the perspective of the totality of the human person.”11

Thus the Catholic Church, “expert in humanity,”12 in its teaching authority always reserves the right to determine the norms of legitimate research and judge the uses of technology and medical procedures as either moral or immoral, as humanizing or dehumanizing, as upholding the dignity of human beings or exploiting persons as objects or instruments. In other words, neither academic freedom nor human freedom are absolute. Although the birth control pill, embryonic stem-cell research, and cloning have acquired respectability in the medical and scientific professions, the Magisterium of the Church exercises a higher standard than the secular world’s criteria of utility, pragmatism, and progress.

Likewise, Pope Benedict XVI’s address warns educators that the test of truth goes beyond contemporary intellectual fashions, whether it is “the cold pragmatic calculations of utility” that determine right and wrong on the basis of self-interest or cost-effectiveness, the “positivistic mentality” that exalts the scientific method and empirical data as the ultimate test of objective truth or “secularist ideology” that divorces reason and faith and reduces truth to political opinion.13

While the Catholic university welcomes all knowledge from the many fields of learning and honors the freedom “to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you,” this human knowledge does not qualify the modern university’s pursuit of academic freedom “to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church.”14 Revealed knowledge and the divine wisdom of God from Scripture, tradition, and the teachings of the Magisterium represent eternal and ultimate truths that subordinate man’s knowledge and human wisdom. That is, if worldly wisdom in the form of legal decisions, medical ethics, and political views claims the “right” to abortion, euthanasia, or same-sex marriage, the Church judges these views in the light of revealed truth, eternal law, natural law, and the teachings of the Church’s encyclicals.

In short, contrary to the Land O’Lakes Statement, academic freedom, scholarly knowledge, and human opinion possess no independent authority or autonomy exclusive of the Church. As Cardinal Newman explains in The Idea of a University,15 when the circle of knowledge excludes theology from the body of truth, it creates a void. Because nature abhors a vacuum, other fields of knowledge then usurp the authority of theology and assume airs of their own infallibility. Newman writes, “Religious doctrine is knowledge, in as full a sense as Newton’s doctrine is knowledge. University teaching without theology is simply unphilosophical. Theology has at least as good a right to claim a place there as astronomy.”16 The modern, then, must be judged in the light of the ancient, and science must be judged in the light of theology. The question is not only “Is it possible?” but also “Is it moral?”

Given the recent crisis in Catholic higher education and its renunciation of its venerable ideals of transmitting the fullness and unity of the truth, the treasury of wisdom from great art and literature, its integration of reason and faith, and its education of the whole person, how can Catholic higher education in the modern world restore its sublime vision of “the idea of a university”? How does it once again reclaim its special identity as many small Catholic alternative colleges strive to create a living Catholic ethos on their campuses?

Fifty percent of education consists of atmosphere, G. K. Chesterton remarked, and one of the marks of authentic Catholic education is the culture or environment that it creates. In the right atmosphere or environment, natural, vigorous growth follows whether it is the life of a plant, an animal, or a human being—whether it is the life of the mind, the heart, or the soul. As Pope Benedict XVI proposed in his “Address to Catholic Educators,” the renewal of Catholic higher education requires colleges with a distinct, unmistakable Catholic identity. He asks, “Is the faith tangible in our universities and schools? Is it given fervent expression liturgically, sacramentally, through prayer, acts of charity, a concern for justice, and respect for God’s creation?”17

This aura of a genuine Catholic culture expresses itself in small things and in great matters. Do young men and young women dress in good taste and beautiful modesty and behave with gracious civility and cheerful affability? Is theology an integral part of the curriculum, and are students introduced to the riches of Scripture, the wisdom of the church fathers, and the lives and writings of the saints? Does the ordinary life of students allow for friendship, conversation, athletics, contemplation, and prayer—a balanced, rhythmic life of work and play, activity and rest? Does the curriculum instill in students a desire to discover knowledge, to love the truth, to defend the good, and even to suffer for noble ideals such as the right to life and the defense of traditional marriage? Does the college introduce students to “the best which has been thought and said”18 in the books and courses that form the course of study?

Bona fide Catholic colleges manifest tell-tale signs that introduce students to a world that radiates purity, charity, joy, and wonder—what the Greeks called the art of living well as opposed to merely living, surviving, or earning a livelihood. As Benedict XVI states, “Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content.”19 A day in the life of a true Catholic university reveals prayer, learning, conviviality, charity, and service—daily Mass, the study of great subjects or classics, the joy of learning for its own sake, the graces of friendship, civility, and hospitality. This atmosphere is always reflecting goodness, beauty, and truth in its myriad forms—in St. Paul’s words, “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely” (Phil 4:8). Thus, a Catholic university brooks no tolerance for the base, the ugly, the tawdry, or the banal. Rock music, prurient or lewd films, access to internet pornography, or student organizations that promote homosexuality all poison the entire ambience of a Catholic university and rob it of its identity.

An authentic Catholic college, then—like a loving home—breathes life and invites participation. It cultivates an atmosphere that makes truth good (“Taste and see the sweetness of the Lord,” declares the Psalmist in Psalms 34:8), associates the beautiful with the true (“Glory be to God for dappled things,” writes Gerard Manley Hopkins)20, and equates the good with the true (“You love us, Lord, as if we were the only one,” St. Augustine states). Whenever truth, goodness, and beauty are appreciated and cherished for their own sake—as ends in themselves—they create what Cardinal Newman calls an “overflow.” Newman explains: “Good is not only good, but reproductive of good; this is one of its attributes; nothing is excellent, beautiful, perfect, desirable for its own sake, but it overflows, and spreads the likeness of itself all around it.”21 In this atmosphere of overflowing and spreading, prayer, love of learning, and mirth happen naturally, and students acquire a sense of the excellent, the highest, and the noblest—the Christian ideals that restore man’s dignity and remind him of the meaning of being a human being created in the image of God.

As Pope Benedict remarks in his “Address to Catholic Educators,” a Catholic college that inspires the imitation of Christ moves a person “to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true.”22 This aspiration for transcendent values and eternal truths provides student with a moral vision that transcends popular culture, political ideology, and moral relativism—the mentality of “political correctness.” Benedict XVI writes, “Similarly the Church never tires of upholding the essential moral categories of right and wrong” lest man embrace the “cold pragmatic calculations of utility which render the person little more than a pawn on some ideological chess-board.”23 In the environment of a Catholic college, a student learns that truth is divine in origin, not man-made; he discovers that truth is eternal and universal, not relative or subjective; he recognizes that faith and reason complement one another and, in Benedict XVI’s words, “never contradict one another.”24 As the Pope explains, a Catholic college that informs minds with the light of divine wisdom teaches that “it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis.”25 In short, the intellectual atmosphere of a Catholic college creates an environment that exemplifies the liberating academic spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas, who frequently quoted St. Ambrose: “All truth, whoever said it, comes from the Holy Spirit.”

Rising above the platitudes of secular ideologies that profess “diversity” and “tolerance” as absolute values and that define the autonomous individual as the ultimate authority of truth (Protagoras’ “man is the measure of all things”), a Catholic intellectual culture pursues what Benedict XVI calls “the fullness and unity of truth”26—divine revelation, tradition, the wisdom of the past, the universality of great art and literature, the lessons of history, and the laws of science. In short, the intellectual culture of a Catholic college creates in the mind a sense of “enlargement” to use Cardinal Newman’s word from The Idea of a University27—the antithesis of intellectual trendiness or narrow ideology. Hence authentic Catholic colleges do not confer honorary degrees to heretical thinkers, welcome guest lecturers, or hire faculty that profess ideas that oppose the Church’s teachings on faith and morals. Like the Christian faith, a Catholic university is countercultural.

The environment of a Catholic college instills refinement in manners, morals, feeling, and thinking. In The Idea of a University, Newman argues that a liberal education forms a quality of mind that acts upon man’s moral nature and sensitizes him to practice acts of courtesy and honor in virtues such as “veracity, probity, equity, fairness, gentleness, fairness, benevolence, and amiableness”28—all qualities that elevate human life and create a civil society. This refinement of mind acquires a natural taste for the noble, the chivalrous, and the ideal—what Newman calls “a fastidiousness, analogous to the delicacy or daintiness which good nurture or a sickly habit induces in respect of food.”29

This appreciation for high standards develops a discernment about the difference between proper and improper, civilized and barbaric, and excellent and mediocre—a sense of discrimination that forms “an absolute loathing of certain offences, or a detestation and scorn of them as ungentlemanlike.”30 Thus a liberal education fosters a moral sensibility that refuses to lower itself to crude manners, coarse language, or small-minded meanness. A refined mind possesses what Newman calls “a safeguard” or sense of shame that inhibits vulgarity or boorishness unworthy of a gentleman or lady—“an irresolution and indecision in doing wrong, which will act as a remora [delay] till the danger is passed away.”31 Hence, an authentic Catholic university will never host films, plays, or musical performances that give offense and stoop to bad taste, vulgarity, and obscenity in the name of academic freedom.

Another mark of Catholic education is a commitment to universal knowledge. John Paul alludes to a Catholic university’s “free search for the whole truth about nature, man, and God,”32 and Benedict XVI refers to the university’s obligation to communicate “the objective truth which, in transcending the particular and the subjective, points to the universal and absolute….”33 This thesis of course informs Newman’s The Idea of a University: “A university, I should lay down, by its very name professes to teach universal knowledge.”34 This type of liberal or classical education, then, values the great books of the past and immerses students in the classical-Christian tradition of Western civilization that illuminates the meaning of a “perennial philosophy” or knowledge of the “permanent things” such as the human condition, the unchanging nature of the human heart, the truth about love, or the ideals of manhood and femininity.

As students discover the permanence and continuity of universal knowledge by learning of the indebtedness of Plato to Socrates, Virgil to Homer, Dante to Virgil, Chaucer to Dante, or Dante to Aquinas, their study of the classics illuminates their minds with an understanding of the nature of wisdom—what is true for all people in all times and in all places. The restoration of Catholic higher education requires courses of study inspired by these great minds and masterpieces at the heart of the curriculum. As C.S. Lewis observed, not to have read the classics is like never having drunk wine, never having swum in the ocean, and never having been in love. The modern substitution of other studies for bona fide liberal arts courses in the humanities destroys the whole idea of universal knowledge as the essence of the university and creates the problem of “fragmentation” that Benedict XVI cites as a problem of the modern university.35

Because the genius of Catholicism consists of its balanced view of all of reality and the whole nature of man—its appreciation of both scientific knowledge and divine revelation, its respect for both reason and faith, its recognition of man as both body and soul, its confidence in both nature and grace—a Catholic university nourishes the mind, body, heart, and soul of its students, aspiring for the golden mean of a sound mind in a sound body, a charitable heart and a lively intelligence, social graces and a contemplative life. A Catholic university is not a place for technical training, an athletic camp, endless political activity or a monastic life. As Benedict XVI writes, “Truth speaks to the individual in his or her entirety, inviting us to respond with our whole being.”36 A Catholic university that speaks to persons in their entirety instills a love of leisure and the enjoyment of play as the essence of human happiness and as a reminder of man’s spiritual and religious nature—man’s need to rest on the Sabbath and worship God, to restore his strength and uplift his heart.

While a Catholic university forms virtues of mind, heart, and conscience that ennoble human work and elevate human society, it also instills an appreciation for the life after work—the capacity to enjoy all of life’s simple and aesthetic pleasures from the delight in friendship and hospitality to a love of music and art. This cultivation of the whole person—the senses, the imagination, the intellect—serves a person both at work and at play for a lifetime. In short, a Catholic university that addresses “the whole being” of man awakens a love of life in all of its abundance and richness. However, when modern universities disown their obligation of authority in loco parentis, create occasions of sin and temptation with coeducational dormitories, and ignore the physical health and spiritual well-being of students with ready availability of contraceptives, they do not show care for the whole person.

“See how they love one another,” the pagans said of the early Christians. The first followers of Christ possessed an unmistakable identity. They honored their marriage vows, they did not abandon their children to die on the mountains, and they practiced charity in the way they shared their possessions. “See how they live. See how they talk and treat one another. See how they play. See how they learn. See what they study. See how they think,” observers should say of the Catholic university as they see the light in the eyes, the joy and peace in the hearts, the kindness in the actions, the mirth in the games, the wonder in the minds, and the image of God in the souls of students and teachers doing their ordinary work in their part of the vineyard living in the world but not of the world.

It is important to be reminded that Christ taught us, “By their fruits you shall know them” (Mt 7:16). Certainly that applies to Catholic education. To be faithful to the Lord’s admonition, Catholic colleges must address the whole person—mind, body, heart, and soul—and illuminate the meaning of wisdom, purity, charity, and God’s mystery.