REPORT CARD: Pope Francis Calls Ecclesial Universities to ‘Missionary Identity;’ Notre Dame Defends Contraception; Sisters Rescind Honorary Degree

Pope: Ecclesiastical universities must retain ‘missionary identity’

In the foreword of the new apostolic constitution Veritatis Gaudium, Pope Francis has called for “a bold cultural revolution” in pontifical universities to help form leaders to address what he calls an “epochal shift” marked by “change and degradation” in the culture.

Crux reports that Pope Francis stresses the importance of the universities’ “missionary identity.”

Pope Francis wrote that “the primary need today is for the whole People of God to be ready to embark upon a new stage of ‘Spirit-filled’ evangelization” and to “offer opportunities and processes for the suitable formation of priests, consecrated men and women, and committed lay people.”

Italian Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, said that even though the document’s reach is limited to ecclesiastical faculties, he hopes it will remind Catholic universities that their theology departments cannot “be left in a corner by themselves” and that they must dialogue with questions posed by other departments.

Notre Dame: Contraception decision ‘based on Catholic principles’

While some University of Notre Dame students, faculty, and alumni are publicly criticizing the university administration’s decision to continue insurance coverage for sterilizations, contraceptives, and abortifacients, the university is shamefully arguing that the coverage is “based on Catholic principles.” reports that Paul Brown, Notre Dame vice president for public affairs and communications, said the university originally sued the HHS in 2011 because the mandate “violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment,” thus opening the door for further government interference in Catholic institutions.

“The successful resolution of our case,” Browne said, allowed the university “to fashion policies free from government interference that are based on Catholic principles, yet which seek to respect the plurality of religious traditions and convictions of over 5,000 employees that work at the university.”

So, having our country’s best-known Catholic university offer contraceptive and abortifacient coverage to employees is “based on Catholic principles”? In short, Notre Dame fought for the religious right to do the wrong thing.

Thus far the bishops have not joined the students, faculty, and alumni speaking out against this, a marked contrast to their public opposition to Notre Dame’s decision to honor President Obama a decade ago?

Albertus Magnus rescinds degree after slurs against sisters

Albertus Magnus College recently rescinded an honorary degree it granted just last year to Gordon Edelstein, the New Haven Long Wharf Theater’s artistic director who was fired over accusations of sexual misconduct, the New York Times reports.

The college’s board of trustees decision quickly followed a report that Edelstein had joked about having had sex with the school’s sisters.

Marc Camille, president of Albertus Magnus, said “the reported allegations represent behavior that is in complete opposition to the core values that define the Catholic and Dominican, values-based education offered at Albertus Magnus College.”

Sister Patricia Twohill, prioress of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, which founded the college, said “we are deeply offended by the salacious joke about sisters made by Mr. Edelstein.”

Marquette blasted for firing conservative professor

The Federalist featured a story about the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to hear Associate Professor John McAdams’ lawsuit against Marquette University over his “suspension” for criticizing a teacher who disallowed her student from defending marriage.

After blogging about the situation, McAdams was blamed for the hate mail the graduate student/teacher received. Marquette President Michael Lovell demanded McAdams apologize or be suspended without pay indefinitely. He refused and has effectively been fired.

A trial court judge dismissed McAdams’ case, but now the state’s Supreme Court has agreed to hear his appeal.

The Federalist argues that criticism of Marquette is justified for many reasons, including that the university promised not to fire faculty members for speech, the fact that McAdams never harassed, attacked, or shamed the teacher (as was suggested by Marquette’s president), and that McAdams violated no university rules.

Jesuit institutions gather for 2018 Jesuit Mass for Life

This at least is a sign of hope in Jesuit education: Nearly 1,000 students and faculty from Jesuit high schools and universities gathered Jan. 19 at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church in Washington, D.C., for the annual Jesuit Mass for Life, which is sponsored by the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.

The Jesuits celebrate the annual Mass prior to the national March for Life.

Jesuits in the United States simultaneously released “Protecting the Least Among Us,” a statement reiterating the Jesuits’ support for the unborn, calling abortion “part of the massive injustices in our society.”

Father Sam Sawyer, S.J., urged pro-lifers in his homily to remember that “the Gospel does not call us to win. It calls us to love.”

Ignatian Solidarity reports that Fr. Sawyer challenged attendees to take up the liturgy’s Gospel call by “truly loving our enemies and walking the extra mile with them.”

Lose the faith: Catholic schools become charter schools

A group of Memphis Catholic schools which have seen declines in enrollment is looking into the possibility of becoming the city’s largest charter school network, reports

Just one issue: The schools need to drop their Catholic identity.

Jubilee Catholic Schools Network recently announced plans to close nine schools that serve mostly low-income students and another Catholic school that received funding from the organization. While the schools would likely retain the same staff and perhaps the same buildings, the formerly Catholic schools would need to shed their faith.

This disturbing trend would not be a complete anomaly, as schools in Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, and Miami erased their Catholic identity and reopened as secular charter schools. If these were authentic Catholic schools, the shift to public-school status is a great tragedy—but how Catholic were they really?

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