The Enduring Nature of the Catholic University

Commemorating the Anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s Address to Catholic Educators on April 17, 2008

A collection of essays on the renewal of Catholic higher education by Most Rev. David Ricken, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, Rev. J. Augustine DiNoia, Rev. Joseph Koterski, Rev. David O’Connell, and Dr. John Hittinger with a foreword by The Hon. Kenneth Whitehead

Dedicated to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI with gratitude for his vision for Catholic higher education

Table of Contents


by The Honorable Kenneth D. Whitehead
Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Postsecondary Education

Catholic Higher Education in the United States: A Modern Retrospective
by Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M.
President of The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

The Restoration of a Catholic ‘Idea of a University’
by Most Rev. David L. Ricken
Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin

Vatican II, Evangelization and Catholic Higher Education
by Dr. John P. Hittinger
Professor of Philosophy at University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas

Taking a Catholic View on Academic Freedom
by Rev. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J.
Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University, New York

Communion and the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian in Catholic Higher Education
by Very Rev. J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P.
Undersecretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Catholic Campus Ministry: Christocentric Accompaniment
by Rev. Msgr. Stuart Swetland
Vice President for Catholic Identity at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Emmitsburg, Maryland

Address to Catholic Educators at The Catholic University of America
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI


One year ago, Pope Benedict XVI invited the presidents of U.S. Catholic colleges and universities, as well as diocesan education leaders, to an address at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.  This book commemorates that momentous event on April 17, 2008.  Consistent with Pope Benedict’s key themes, our distinguished authors share insights and recommendations to advance the renewal of Catholic higher education in fidelity to the Holy Father’s vision.

But in considering the future of Catholic higher education, it is impossible to ignore the past.  “How did we get here?” is a question essential to determining how most American Catholic colleges and universities overcome their bland conformity to secular norms for curriculum, campus life, governance, and academic freedom.

Our authors embrace the shared vision of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II in stark contrast to the manifesto that American Catholic university leaders embraced more than forty years earlier.  The 1967 Land O’Lakes Statement, “The Nature of the Contemporary University,” sought to redefine Catholic higher education while weakening its association with the Catholic Church.  The Church’s response to the Land O’Lakes Statement has become increasingly clear: a Catholic university necessarily recognizes the doctrinal and pastoral authority of the bishops, it affirms faculty responsibilities as well as rights connected to academic freedom, and it concerns itself with the whole development of the student both inside and outside the classroom.

Father David O’Connell, president of The Catholic University of America, hosted Pope Benedict for his address last year.  Father O’Connell himself has contributed substantially to the American understanding of authentic Catholic higher education and has presided over welcome improvements at his institution, often called “the bishops’ university.”  He offers much insight as he looks back upon the modern history of Catholic academia, all with an appreciation for “how far Catholic higher education has come in this country” and confidence in the future guided by Pope Benedict’s vision.

Bishop David Ricken, on whose initiative one of the newest and most intriguing Catholic institutions—Wyoming Catholic College—was established, looks to the future.  He has little regard for the recent past of Catholic higher education; the Land O’Lakes Statement, he writes, “precipitated a revolution in Catholic higher education that amounted to heresy and schism.”  But he does have a clear idea of what Catholic colleges and universities should do to help develop “the whole person—mind, body, heart, and soul,” with compliments to Pope Benedict and his statements in April 2008.

John Hittinger turns the “spirit of Vatican II” mentality on its head—and does so with a thorough, literal reading of the documents of the Second Vatican Council as they apply to the nature of Catholic higher education.  Fundamental to Catholic education, writes Dr. Hittinger, is evangelization.  It’s a lesson that challenges the basic assumptions of many Catholic educators today and goes to the heart of secularization.

The near-limitless boundaries of “academic freedom” in American academia are sacrosanct, even among Catholic educators who should know better.  Certainly aware of the transgression, Pope John Paul II responsibly defined academic freedom in Ex corde Ecclesiae, the 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, and Pope Benedict XVI pointedly explained that “any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission.”  With the wisdom of an accomplished philosopher and the clarity of a teacher, Father Joseph Koterski helps us navigate the “dialectical relation between truth and freedom.”

Father Augustine DiNoia is one of America’s leading doctrinal authorities, and his discussion of the theology of “communion” in Catholic higher education is essential to moving beyond the errors of the Land O’Lakes period.  Father DiNoia considers communion with relation to the essential role of the Catholic theologian at a Catholic college or university—making the  point that dissent prevents the possibility of genuine theology.  He also addresses the mandatum for theologians, a requirement of Canon Law that remains a point of contention in the United States.

Monsignor Stuart Swetland earned a national reputation for his outstanding work as a campus minister at large secular universities, and now he oversees the Catholic identity of Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland.  Not only does he make a convincing argument for the approach that pastoral ministers should apply to their work with contemporary students, but even Father Swetland’s writing style conveys his commitment to “accompanying” the reader or the student on their journey to the truth—nothing that can be learned in the classroom alone, but by developing a genuine love for Jesus Christ and His Church.

The key to understanding Catholic higher education, then, is found in Pope Benedict’s call to center all activities on Christ.

“A university or school’s Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students,” Pope Benedict said.  “It is a question of conviction—do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear? Are we ready to commit our entire self—intellect and will, mind and heart—to God?”

Like Christ’s challenge to the wealthy man to give up everything and follow Him, the Holy Father’s proposal allows for two responses from Catholic educators: turn away in despair, or claim the inheritance that God has set aside for those who lead young souls to Him.  Ultimately this book gives one hope that the mistakes of the past can be washed away, and the renaissance of genuine Catholic higher education in the United States has already begun.


The Honorable Kenneth D. Whitehead

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.

Kenneth D. Whitehead, Ph.D., is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Postsecondary Education in the Reagan Administration.  Among the more than one dozen books that he has authored or co-authored is Catholic Colleges and Federal Funding (Ignatius, 1987).


Catholic Higher Education in the United States: A Modern Retrospective

Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M.

One year ago (April 17, 2008), Pope Benedict XVI arrived on the campus of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to deliver a much anticipated address to Catholic college and university presidents and diocesan education administrators. As president of The Catholic University of America, I was honored to be his host that day.

Although some observers predicted a “pontifical spanking” for those gathered, the Holy Father’s speech was anything but that. In carefully planned and beautifully delivered remarks, Pope Benedict XVI both praised and encouraged Catholic educators for their great service to the Church in our country. At the same time, he presented a vision of and for Catholic education that was clear and compelling:

Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord’s disciples, the Church.5

With respect to the meaning of Catholic identity, the pontiff observed:

Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). In this way our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society. They become places in which God’s active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ’s “being for others” (cf. ibid., 28).6

He also presented an insightful and instructive understanding of academic freedom, born from his own experience as a university professor and, now, as Chief Shepherd and Teacher in the Church:

In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges and universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church’s munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.7

His address was well-received and deeply appreciated. As I sat there, listening to Pope Benedict, I could not help but reflect how far Catholic higher education has come in this country in the past more than half-century.

Doubting the Catholic university

In 1955, Monsignor John Tracy Ellis, professor of Church history at The Catholic University of America, wrote a scathing criticism of the quality of American Catholic intellectual life in a paper that he delivered at the annual meeting of the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs in St. Louis. In his presentation, later published in the Fordham University journal Thought, Ellis gave voice to the belief noted in a popular text of his day on American institutions that

… in no western society is the intellectual prestige of Catholicism lower than in the country where, in such respects as wealth, numbers, and strength of organization, it is so powerful.8

Ellis went on to observe that:

No well-informed American Catholic in this country will attempt to challenge that statement. Admittedly, the weakest aspect of the Church in this country lies in its failure to produce national leaders and to exercise commanding influence in intellectual circles, and this at a time when the numbers of Catholics in the United States… and their material resources are incomparably superior to those of any other branch of the universal Church.9

Ellis presented these ideas over fifty years ago. If his stinging indictment were considered to be true at that time or up to that time, we should wonder why. Much of the fault, I believe, lay not so much in a fear that Catholic scholars demonstrated for Church authorities as some have argued but, rather, in a fear of the judgments of their secular academic counterparts. The lack of courage to present the teachings of the Church with conviction in their inherent truth within a broader scholarly community evidenced a not-too-subtle belief among our own Catholic scholars that religious faith and scholarly activity based upon it was an embarrassment that relegated Catholic intellectuals to a second-class status. Faith, after all, was considered in the secular arena to be the true enemy of reason in an “enlightened” intellectual world.

There was, no one can honestly doubt, an anti-Catholic prejudice at work in the United States from the time of its foundation and a genuine hostility “to all things Catholic,” as Monsignor Ellis noted.10 Even Harvard professor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr., once labeled “bias against your Church as the most persistent prejudice in the history of the American people.”11 For that reason, among others, much of the energy within the American Catholic community in general and the American Catholic professorate in particular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was devoted to “apologetics” rather than pure scholarly endeavor. The audience to which they made their appeals was largely an immigrant population that did not place primary value on Catholic intellectual advancement let alone creating great Catholic institutions of higher learning. One needs look no further than the history of The Catholic University of America to verify that assertion.12

The concept of a national Catholic research university was hotly debated within the American hierarchy itself. And, yet, although visible efforts were made by many within the Catholic academy to promote Catholic higher education as their existing colleges expanded into universities, as late as 1938 the challenge was presented to the Church and Catholic scholars that “research cannot be the primary object of a Catholic graduate school because it is at war with the whole Catholic life of the mind.”13 American Catholic “universities” were popularly viewed as concerned not so much with the penetration of truth as they were with passing on a given tradition of truth, the Catholic tradition, in which little in the way of addition, alteration, or development was deemed necessary.14 It was an unfortunate perception that higher education within the American Catholic academic community was an “either/or” proposition rather than “both/and.”

When Ellis authored his now famous essay, he had no idea that a Vatican Council would soon be convened to address the situation of the Church in the modern world. The pope who would call for that council was still the cardinal archbishop of Venice. When he assumed the papacy in the fall of 1958 and a year later announced the 21st ecumenical council, Pope John XXIII would usher in a new era in the history of the Catholic Church and with it, a new urgency to reform its structures and institutions throughout the world. Catholic higher education was not spared the effects of this “aggiornamento.”

In his apostolic constitution Humanae salutis convening the Council, Pope John XXIII wrote that the Church at that moment was:

…witnessing a crisis under way within society. While humanity is on the edge of a new era, tasks of immense gravity and amplitude await the Church, as in its most tragic periods of history. It is a question in fact of bringing the modern world into contact with the vivifying and perennial energies of the gospel, a world which exalts itself with its conquests in the technical and scientific fields, but which brings also the consequences of a temporal order which some have wished to reorganize excluding God. This is why modern society is earmarked by a great material progress to which there is no corresponding advance in the moral field.15

The Holy Father addressed the hierarchy gathered in Council on October 11, 1962, stating that “the greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.”16 Notice the phrase “guarded and taught!”

That concern, as it related to Catholic institutions of higher learning, had been voiced some thirty-one years earlier by Pope Pius XI in his apostolic constitution Deus Scientiarum Dominus where he wrote that the Church’s chief concern in all of Catholic education had always been the correct teaching of doctrine.17 Anyone well acquainted with Church teaching and its development in history could hardly argue that this process was ever or could ever be legitimately envisioned as a static enterprise.

Defining the Catholic university

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) dealt specifically with the broad topic of formal Catholic education in their 1965 declaration Gravissimum educationis. It has been said that the underlying concern of the Council was “education,” “Catholic education” in one form or another.18 The situation of Catholic universities and colleges received specific attention. The declaration stated that:

The Church is preoccupied too with schools of higher learning, especially colleges and universities and their faculties. In schools of this sort which are dependent upon her, she seeks in a systematic way to have individual branches of knowledge studied according to their own proper principles and methods, and with due freedom of scientific investigation. She intends thereby to promote an ever deeper understanding of these fields, and as a result of extremely precise evaluation of modern problems and inquiries, to have it seen more profoundly how faith and reason give harmonious witness to the unity of all truth. The Church pursues such a goal after the manner of her most illustrious teachers, especially St. Thomas Aquinas. The hoped-for result is that the Christian mind may achieve, as it were, a public, persistent, and universal presence in the whole enterprise of advancing higher culture, and that students of these institutions may become men (and women) truly outstanding in learning, ready to shoulders society’s heavier burdens and to witness the faith to the world.19

One should notice the emphasis given here to proper disciplinary methodology, due freedom of inquiry, growth in understanding, students outstanding in learning, advancing higher culture and witness to faith.

During the years immediately following the Second Vatican Council, Catholic universities and colleges throughout the world engaged in an effort to define their nature and mission in the Church and world more clearly. That process witnessed the eager participation of members of the American Catholic academy, chastised as they had been by Monsignor Ellis over ten years earlier.

In 1967, a gathering of Catholic educators in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin, sponsored by the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) produced a document that set forth its own credo on the nature of Catholic colleges and universities:

The Catholic university today must be a university in the full modern sense of the word, with a 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 of life and growth and indeed of survival for Catholic universities as for all universities. The Catholic university participates in the total life of our time, has the same functions as all other true universities and, in general, offers the same services to society.20

Notice the emphasis given to authority “external to the academic community itself.” The stage was now set for what would become a decades-long effort to resolve growing contemporary tensions between the teaching Church and Catholic institutions of higher learning that existed in a variety of forms within its embrace in the post-conciliar era. Other international meetings would continue to occur but nowhere, at least in my opinion, were these tensions as keenly felt as within the American Catholic academic community.

The controversy surrounding the publication of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae21 in 1968, again in my opinion, distracted educators from the process of addressing the issue of the nature and purpose of Catholic institutions of higher education. In the minds of some, however, especially in the United States, Humanae Vitae was precisely the type of Church teaching that provided a timely example with which to frame the debate. Dissent over this encyclical crystallized the polarization between the faithful presentation and teaching of Church doctrine that Pope John XXIII saw as the “greatest concern” of the Council he convened and “the true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind” that was the mantra of those who subscribed to the assertions of the Land O’Lakes manifesto. In many respects, The Catholic University of America at the time was the epicenter of the storm.

In 1972, at the invitation of the Holy See and IFCU, Catholic universities and colleges were invited to send delegates to an international congress in Rome, the second such gathering in Rome since Land O’Lakes. Their deliberations resulted in a document, “The Catholic University in the Modern World,”22 which accomplished two major things:

  1. it defined six basic types of Catholic post-secondary institutions that existed within the Church:
    1. those directly established by ecclesiastical authorities and those which were not;
    2. those with statutory relationships to ecclesiastical authorities and those which had none;
    3. those with a formal, explicit commitment to Church teaching and beliefs and those whose commitment was merely implicit.
  2. it also provided a framework for Catholic identity and mission later cited by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae.23

Responding to this document, the Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education at that time, Cardinal Gabriel Marie Garrone, wrote that although the statement envisioned the existence of Catholic institutions of higher learning without formally established or statutory links to ecclesiastical authority, Catholic institutions should not consider themselves removed from those relationships with the hierarchical structures of the Church which must characterize institutions that call themselves Catholic.24 A clear point of difference with the Land O’Lakes statement!

Ten years later, the revised 1983 Code of Canon Law,25 also mandated by Pope John XXIII along with the Second Vatican Council at the beginning of his papacy in 1959, introduced
specific legislation intended to address all Catholic colleges and universities, those canonically dependent upon the Church as well as others that claimed a Catholic foundation, character, and purpose but which lacked an explicit canonical establishment. Pope John Paul II had already addressed the former type of institution before the new Code appeared in his apostolic constitution Sapientia Christiana (April 15, 1979).26 It should be noted that the overwhelming majority of Catholic universities and colleges in the United States were of the latter variety. Needless to say, the provisions of the new Code received a chilly reception within the American Catholic academic community.

Magna Carta for Catholic higher education

Himself a Catholic university professor, Pope John Paul II evidenced a great concern for Catholic institutions of higher learning. Following on the heels of both Sapientia Christiana and the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the Holy Father published a second apostolic constitution in 1990 intended to address Catholic universities and colleges that were not ecclesiastical in nature. Ex corde Ecclesiae (August 15, 1990) was, in my opinion, the beginning of the “great thaw” in “the winter of our discontent.”

While not original in the sense that they first appeared in a 1972 document “The Catholic University in the Modern World” produced by the Second International Congress of Delegates of Catholic Universities referred to earlier, the observations of Pope John Paul II summarized what he considered the “bottom line” for Catholic institutions of higher learning. These “essential characteristics” are particularly significant not only because the Holy Father made them his own in Ex corde Ecclesiae but also because they are the reflections of a body of international Catholic educators that helped make the case for a strengthening of the meaning of Catholic identity in Catholic post-secondary academic institutions. Pope John Paul II wrote that:

Since the objective of a Catholic university is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in the university world confronting the great problems of society and culture, every Catholic university as Catholic, must have the following essential characteristics:

  1. Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such;
  2. A continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research;
  3. Fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church;
  4. An institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life.27

To assist in providing that assurance, the Holy Father noted, perhaps in part an answer to “Land O’Lakes” and other responses of similar kind:

Every Catholic University, without ceasing to be a university, has a relationship to the Church that is essential to its institutional identity. …One consequence of its essential relationship to the Church is that the institutional fidelity of the university to the Christian message includes a recognition of and adherence to the teaching authority of the Church in matters of faith and morals. Catholic members of the university community are also called to a personal fidelity to the Church with all that this implies. Non-Catholic members are required to respect the Catholic character of the university, while the university in turn respects their religious liberty.28

With the deftness and insight that have characterized his pontificate and all his writings, drawing upon extraordinary human experiences including that of being a university professor, Pope John Paul II provided in Ex corde Ecclesiae a “magna carta”29 for Catholic higher education throughout the Church, including the United States. Calling for a clearly recognizable relationship between Catholic colleges and universities and the universal and local church in which they exist,30 the Holy Father has wisely required that these institutions “operationalize” their Catholic identity through the assistance of a formal, juridical association with the Church. This juridical dimension and its accompanying call for greater accountability to the Church, unfortunately for some, dominated the discussions that would follow within the American Catholic academic community. I say “unfortunately” because the text and substance of the Holy Father’s apostolic constitution—recognized by many, including those outside of the Catholic academic community, as a magnificent exposition of the unique mission of Catholic higher education—have often been reduced by some to a mere set of legal norms.

When the constitution appeared in its final form, after three drafts and the widest, most extensive public consultations to accompany any Church document, it was generally well received in America. Bishops and Catholic educators in the United States appeared appreciative of the opportunities afforded them by the Congregation for Catholic Education to be involved in its formulation. Some hesitation still lingered in these and other circles with respect to the idea of any juridic norms at all—general or particular—but the prevailing sentiment seemed to be that “there was little to cause anxiety and much to enable and inspire” those involved in Catholic higher education.31

For the better part of the past fifteen years, the bishops and the Catholic academic community in the United States have been engaged in a dialogue regarding the regional application or implementation of the constitution required in its “General Norms.” Here again, several drafts and extensive consultations have accompanied the entire process.

From the beginning, two important presuppositions regarding the outcome of the process have been present: (1) that the application document would include juridic norms; and (2) that the application document would be the product of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops or NCCB (now, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops or USCCB) as an episcopal document.

Although these “understandings” were present, their implications were not always clearly appreciated, even among the bishops. One could legitimately claim that they were often avoided or ignored in the hopes they would simply “go away.” In the months immediately preceding the 1999 NCCB meeting, these elements seemed to be all but forgotten, especially within Catholic academic circles. Discussions among Catholic university presidents for which I was present were openly hostile to the idea of episcopal juridic implementation.

The NCCB established an Implementation Committee of bishops in 1991, and several Catholic university presidents were invited to participate as consultors to the committee. An application document was developed, circulated for consultation, revised, approved by the NCCB with a vote of 224-6 on November 16, 1996, and forwarded to the Holy See for the recognitio required by canon law.32 The Congregation for Catholic Education praised the application but indicated that it needed further juridic refinement, especially with respect to Canon 812’s provision regarding the mandate to teach theological disciplines, before it could be passed on to the Congregation for Bishops.

Although the Holy See’s critique was not well received in the United States, the NCCB Implementation Committee set out to respond positively to the Vatican request. A subcommittee was created in 1997 and revised drafts of an application document were developed and circulated in 1998 and 1999 respectively, again accompanied by extensive consultations. A strong argument was made in the Catholic and secular press by critics of the application, including several university presidents and even some bishops, that its provisions would yield “disastrous” results for Catholic universities and colleges in the United States if approved. Concerns were voiced that the new text was, at best, risky and, at worst, destructive of whatever progress had been made in the ongoing dialogue about Catholic identity that had been occurring among bishops and Catholic educators since Ex corde Ecclesiae was first issued in 1990.

Anyone participating in American Catholic academic life since the Code of Canon Law was revised and promulgated in 1983 has heard these concerns before. In fact, some of the more controversial elements now found in the document of implementation known as The Application33 are already contained in canon law’s treatment of “Catholic Universities and Other Institutes of Higher Studies (807-814),” although they were deemed by educators and some canonists as doubtfully applicable in the American Catholic academic context. Similarly, as Ex corde Ecclesiae progressed through its own draft stages in the late 1980s, these same concerns surfaced again.

It would be a mistake to separate The Application as it currently exists from the constitution itself. The “General Norms” accompanying Ex corde Ecclesiae require “local and regional” implementation of the constitution.34 A very concerted effort was made by those concerned with drafting The Application to insure that this text remained directly focused on the constitution, its exhortations and canonical provisions. In fact, several Catholic university presidents explicitly made that recommendation, myself included, during the consultation. Hence, what is required as normative in the resulting juridic text must always be viewed through the broader lens of the constitution itself for accurate interpretation and implementation.

It would equally be a mistake to separate the constitution and The Application from “the teaching of Vatican II and the directives of the Code of Canon Law” upon which it is based, as Pope John Paul II himself has stated.35Ex corde Ecclesiae, he wrote, “was enriched by the long and fruitful experience of the Church in the realm of universities and open to the promise of future achievements that will require courageous creativity and rigorous fidelity.”36 In the minds of some, these two concepts—courageous creativity and rigorous fidelity—can make strange, even difficult bedfellows. I certainly do not believe that to be the case.

Hope and vision for the future

Apart from a few members of a vanishing generation of Catholic academics, there has been no revolt as had been predicted. In fact, Catholic institutions of higher learning in this country have been unusually quiet given recent history. Catholic universities and colleges continue to possess what the Church has called a “rightful” autonomy and a “legitimate” academic freedom. There have been no major legal battles as had been predicted and the allegedly adverse financial consequences have been exposed as myths. We have witnessed no “pastoral disaster” as one bishop claimed or anything even slightly problematic.

And Catholic teaching continues to be faithfully presented in our institutions by those who are faithful, although it is still challenged by some who view faith and reason at odds. I doubt very much that we will ever make converts of them, no matter what is said or done. The rigorous fidelity of their peers, a new generation of creative Catholic intellectuals and students seeking the truth, and, ultimately, time itself will work together toward the long hoped for renewal in Catholic higher education. The greatest evidence of renewal, however, is present on our campuses within the Catholic students themselves. It has been my experience that they are eager for leadership, hungry for truth, seeking to pray, and open to service to their neighbors. In many ways, they are teaching us.

Ex corde Ecclesiae and The Application promulgated to implement it, in my opinion, spearheaded and inspired an attempt to present a coherent vision that continues to unfold for and within our Catholic universities and colleges in this country. It is up to all of us to replace the tired, negative rhetoric of the not so distant past—when political and polarized ideologies seemed to dominate the conversation—with voices of Catholic scholars and leaders who are faithful and who are “convinced of the priority of the ethical over the technical, of the primacy of the person over things, of the superiority of the spirit over matter,” joining knowledge to conscience;37 voices of Catholic scholars and leaders who do not, in the words of our Holy Father’s encyclical Fides et Ratio, “run from the truth as soon as they glimpse it because they are afraid of its demands”38 but who stand and serve the truth in charity.

New leadership in the Church brings new emphases. Building upon the strong legacy of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI has addressed the value and importance of Catholic higher education several times. Even before his election to the papacy, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote to me of the importance of involving our Catholic universities and colleges in confronting the pressing moral issues of our day. “Universities,” he stated, (should) “organize symposia, possibly with the participation of representatives of different confessions, religions and cultures, in order to identify currents and points of agreement which may be productive in renewing an understanding of the natural moral law.”39 He sees Catholic universities and colleges as an effective element for positive social and cultural change, a “positive choice,” in his words, for all that Catholicism and Christianity represent.

In a speech at Rome’s Sacred Heart University in 2005, Pope Benedict remarked that “The Catholic university is a great workshop in which, in keeping with the various disciplines, new lines of research are constantly being developed in a stimulating encounter between faith and reason… This then is the great challenge to Catholic universities: to impart knowledge in the perspective of true rationality, different from that of today which largely prevails, in accordance with a reason open to the question of the truth and to the great values inscribed in being itself, hence, open to the transcendent, to God.”40 And when our students graduate, he continued, “How do they leave? What culture did they find, assimilate, develop?” Addressing himself to administration, faculty, staff and students, Pope Benedict encouraged all Catholic universities and colleges “to give life to an authentic Catholic university that excels in the quality of its research and teaching and, at the same time, its fidelity to the Gospel and the Church’s Magisterium.”41

At his Angelus address on January 20, 2008, the Holy Father responded to a protest that, despite the invitation previously extended, occasioned him not to speak on the campus of LaSapienza University in Rome. His words in St. Peter’s Square that day gave us a glimpse into his view of the mission of Catholic higher education in our world today:

The university environment, which for many years was my world, linked for me a love for the seeking of truth, for exchange, for frank and respectful dialogue between differing positions. All this, too, is the mission of the church, charged to faithfully follow Jesus the Teacher of life, of truth and of love. As a professor, so to say, emeritus, who’s encountered many students in his life, I encourage you… to always be respectful of other people’s opinions and to seek out, with a free and responsible spirit, the truth and the good.42

Very Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M., J.C.D., is president of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and a consultor to the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education.


The Restoration of a Catholic ‘Idea of a University’

Most Rev. David L. Ricken

The 1967 “Land O’Lakes Statement” by leading Catholic educators precipitated a revolution in Catholic higher education that amounted to heresy and schism.43 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.”44 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”45 that resists “theological or philosophical imperialism.”46

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.”47 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)48 and Benedict XVI’s “Address to Catholic Educators” (2008),49 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).50 It teaches the ability “to think rigorously… to act rightly and to serve humanity better.”51 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.”52 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.”53

Thus the Catholic Church, “expert in humanity,”54 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.55

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.”56 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,57 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.”58 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?”59

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”60 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.”61 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)62, 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.”63 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.”64 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.”65 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.”66 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.”67 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”68—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 University69—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”70—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.”71

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.”72 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.”73 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,”74 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….”75 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.”76 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.77

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.”78 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.

Bishop David L. Ricken, J.C.L., S.T.L., is Bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He previously served as the Bishop of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and presided over the founding of Wyoming Catholic College.


Vatican II, Evangelization and Catholic Higher Education

Dr. John P. Hittinger

It is rare to find members of Catholic colleges and universities aware of the late Holy Father’s encouragement to them and his trust in them to take up the task of evangelization in Christifideles laici79 and Ex corde Ecclesiae.80

Indeed, the very word, evangelization, is jarring to the solemnity of institutional autonomy or academic freedom and questions the staid emulation of the secular academy now so deeply embedded in Catholic higher education. But there it is, the culminating point of Ex corde Ecclesiae, prominently displayed as if on a lamp stand: “By its very nature, each Catholic university makes an important contribution to the Church’s work of evangelization… all the basic academic activities of a Catholic university are connected with and in harmony with the evangelizing mission of the Church.”81 

What are we to make of this claim and this trust given to the universities? In the previous section, Pope John Paul II defines the notion of evangelization as follows:

The primary mission of the Church is to preach the Gospel in such a way that a relationship between faith and life is established in each individual and in the socio-cultural context in which individuals live and act and communicate with one another. Evangelization means “bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new… It is a question not only of preaching the Gospel in ever wider geographic areas or to ever greater numbers of people, but also of affecting and, as it were, upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, humanity’s criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation.”82 

This passage provides us with a proper orientation to the meaning of “evangelization.” As expected, it means “preaching the gospel,” the very idea that may cause the academy alarm that its mission is reduced to proselytism. But the gospel must be preached in a certain way, or with a certain end in view, namely that the dynamic relationship between faith and life is rightly and fruitfully established. We must recall that in the documents of Vatican II, a council celebrated for its absence of “anathema sit,” there is a condemnation of the split between faith and life, as the “serious error of our age.”83  The error consists in two extremes of either withdrawing into a religious sphere separated from the daily life of the world (“otherworldliness”), or alternatively, engaging in worldly affairs as if religion has no bearing on temporal matters (“secularism”). Faith must be available, through personal assimilation and cultural embodiment, to “transform” and “renew” humanity. The Catholic university is uniquely positioned and endowed to overcome this split. Through its formation and preparation of the young for entry into society, the Catholic university can assist men and women to fashion a unity of faith and life so that they bring the good news into “all strata of humanity.” And through the academic way of life, after the manner of a Socrates or Augustine, the Catholic university can challenge and upset “humanity’s criteria of judgment” and explore the integral human good. The central place for evangelization in the vision for Catholic higher education accorded by Pope John Paul II reflects his commitment to implement the message of Vatican II, as already begun by his predecessor, Pope Paul VI.

I would argue, therefore, that our failure to understand or to respond to this urgent plea for evangelization by Pope John Paul II is proportionate to the failure to understand or implement the message of the Second Vatican Council. For “evangelization” is the heart of the message of Vatican II, sometimes stated as such, or couched in the rubric of “missionary mandate” or “lay apostolate.”

Pope John Paul II never tired of voicing his gratitude for Vatican II. The Council, he said, was “the gift of the Spirit to the Church,”84  “the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century,”85  and “what the Spirit is saying to the Church with regard to the present phase of the history of salvation.”86  He made reference to his reliance upon its teaching and guidelines: it is “the authentic depository of the predictions and promises made by Christ to the apostles,”87  a “treasure… in the guidelines offered to us by the Second Vatican Council,”88  and a “sure compass by which to take our bearings.”89  He frequently spoke of our need as a Church to steep ourselves in its teachings.

In Christifideles laici, John Paul said “the lay faithful are invited to take up again and reread, meditate on and assimilate with renewed understanding and love, the rich and fruitful teaching of the Council.”90  In Novo Millennio Ineunte, John Paul challenged the Church “to examine herself on the reception given to the Council,” and repeated his plea that the Council documents, having “lost nothing of their value or brilliance,” need to be “read correctly, widely known, and taken to heart.”91  Indeed, Pope John Paul II concluded the apostolic letter repeating his now famous call to put out into the deep (“duc in altum”) because “a new millennium is opening before the Church like a vast ocean upon which we shall venture.”92 

The missionary mandate (Mt. 28:19) accompanies us on this journey. Christ is at work today and we may rely upon him for our venture of faith. So in Ex corde Ecclesiae he says that his hope is that “these prescriptions, based on the teaching of Vatican Council II will enable Catholic universities to fulfill their indispensable mission in the new advent of grace that is opening up to the new millennium.”93  He wrote Ex corde with an eye toward the Jubilee and the new millennium. To take part in the venture to which we are called as Catholic educators, we must have “discerning eyes” and a “generous heart.”94 

Presuming upon the generous hearts of my readers, I wish to make a small contribution to the discernment we need to see and begin to act for the paramount aim of Catholic higher education—evangelization. In this paper I wish to make a summary of the teachings of Vatican II in order to highlight the notion of lay apostolate and to see how this provides the essential purpose and ultimate outcomes, if you will, of Catholic higher education today. I will also indicate how the thought and writing of Pope John Paul II on Catholic higher education, including Ex corde, amplify and apply this teaching and purpose. I will conclude with some brief comments about what this means for Catholic higher education at the present moment.

Vatican II and evangelization

The mission, or gift of service [munus], of Catholic higher education, as evangelization, emerges through the notion of lay apostolate. We need to view this notion in the light of the dynamic relationship of the four major Documents of Vatican II—The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium)The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Sacrosanctum concilium)The Dogmatic Constitution on Revelation (Dei verbum), and The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes). In addition, we must briefly consider some passages from The Decree On the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem)The Decree On the Mission Activity of the Church (Ad Gentes), and finally, The Declaration On Christian Education (Gravissimum Educationis). Arguably, the notion of lay apostolate, fully and properly understood, is the central focus of the entire Council. At the end of this paper, I provide a schematic of these seven documents exhibiting their relation to lay apostolate.

We must first of all consider the approach to the Church as “mystery” in Lumen Gentium.95  Not reducible to a sociological complex or a political interest group, the Church is a “communion of life, love, and truth,”96  “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of unity among all men.”97  The Church is a “complex reality” which comes together from “a human and a divine element,” much like the mystery of the incarnation of the Word.98  It is her mission to “reveal in the world, faithfully, however darkly, the mystery of her Lord.”99  Indeed, the church must fulfill the command of Christ to spread the faith to the very ends of the earth. The mandate to preach the gospel (Mt. 28:18-20), to evangelize, gives rise to a work that constitutes more than proclaiming the gospel: “through her work, whatever good is in the minds and hearts of men, whatever good lies latent in the religious practices and cultures of diverse peoples, is not only saved from destruction but is also cleansed, raised up and perfected unto the glory of God, the confusion of the devil and the happiness of man.”100  In other words, evangelization accomplishes renewal and transformation of culture. This requires entry into all “strata” of humanity and society.101  Here emerges the critical role for the laity.

The laity have a special role to play in the mission of the Church: “The laity are given this special vocation: to make the Church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that she can become the salt of the earth. Thus, every lay person, through those gifts given to him, is at once the witness and the living instrument of the mission of the Church itself ‘according to the measure of Christ’s bestowal.’”102  This vocation is called “lay apostolate,” and it is said to be “sharing in the salvific mission of the Church.”103  The laity are a witness and instrument primarily in the world, in secular activities, structures, and communities.104 

The laity share in the three-fold mission of Christ, as priest, prophet, and king. We can not do better than to quote Pope John Paul II’s own summary of Lumen Gentium:

The lay faithful are sharers in the priestly mission, for which Jesus offered himself on the cross and continues to be offered in the celebration of the Eucharist for the glory of God and the salvation of humanity. Incorporated in Jesus Christ, the baptized are united to him and to his sacrifice in the offering they make of themselves and their daily activities…. Through their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, “who proclaimed the kingdom of his Father by the testimony of his life and by the power of his world” (n.35), the lay faithful are given the ability and responsibility to accept the gospel in faith and to proclaim it in word and deed, without hesitating to courageously identify and denounce evil…. They are also called to allow the newness and the power of the gospel to shine out everyday in their family and social life, as well as to express patiently and courageously in the contradictions of the present age their hope of future glory even “through the framework of their secular life” (n.35)…. Because the lay faithful belong to Christ, Lord and King of the Universe, they share in his kingly mission and are called by him to spread that Kingdom in history. They exercise their kingship as Christians, above all in the spiritual combat in which they seek to overcome in themselves the kingdom of sin, and then to make a gift of themselves so as to serve… the lay faithful are called to restore to creation all its original value. In ordering creation to the authentic well-being of humanity in an activity governed by the life of grace, they share in the exercise of the power with which the Risen Christ draws all things to himself and subjects them along with himself to the Father, so that God might be everything to everyone.105 

The world, temporal society, is the place where the laity exercise their apostolate. So we must briefly examine the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes). Called to make common cause with men and women of goodwill, Christians need to understand the trends of the modern world in light of the gospel and the Catholic intellectual tradition. The document looks to the human aspiration for greater freedom and participation as a good thing, the awareness of human dignity and concern for rights is another positive aspect of the modern world, and finally the trend toward greater communication and exchange among all members of the world is a sign of a longing for brotherhood. But along with these signs of human development there are also signs which contradict them—the development of new forms of servitude, opportunities for debasement, and increased divisions and hatreds. In his first encyclical letter, Redemptor hominis,106  Pope John Paul II traces and elaborates on these themes from Gaudium et spes. A true Christian anthropology, a theocentric humanism, is the deep truth modern man needs to confront the challenges and fulfill his destiny. In light of the Christian anthropology, members of the Church will join in to explore ways to deal with five areas of special urgency: family and marriage, culture, economics, politics, and war and international cooperation. In light of the life and teaching of Christ, Christians can become involved in the common work of building a more just and humane world.

As explained in Ad Gentes, this activity takes on a missionary aspect and becomes a work of evangelization because the Christian acts as a leaven “even in the secular history of mankind.”107  Missionary activity is “an epiphany, or a manifesting of God’s decree, and its fulfillment in the world and in world history.”108  Missionary activity “wells up from the Church’s inner nature.”109  Pope John Paul II again amplifies this notion in his encyclical letter Redemptoris missio wherein he speaks of the “‘Areopagus’ in the modern world” as the new sectors which must be of special concern and attention of lay people today.110  The Church seeks to overcome the split between faith and culture.

The scope of this work and apostolate is vast. Pope John Paul II and Paul VI both refer to the Decree On the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem) which sets out key areas such as family, youth, professional life, politics, and international relations.111  A broader and more intense apostolate is necessary to meet the challenge of the present day, which again is stated in terms of an exaggerated autonomy of temporal affairs, or secularism which involve a “departure from the ethical and religious order” in the name of autonomy.112  In an important passage in Gaudium et spes, the Council fathers distinguish true and false autonomy of temporal affairs, seeking to avoid otherworldliness and secularism: “created things and societies themselves enjoy their own laws and values which must be gradually deciphered, put to use, and regulated by men.”113  The sciences and arts must be allowed to unfold according to their different methods. “But if the expression, the independence of temporal affairs, is taken to mean that created things do not depend on God, and that man can use them without any reference to their Creator, anyone who acknowledges God will see how false such a meaning is.”114 

Lay apostolate requires a wise combination of knowledge of the secular disciplines with a keen sense of the origin and end of all things in God, i.e., a theological context and perspective. But ultimately the lay person must achieve in their own person and work the unity of faith and life. The Church must be present to these groups and involved in the various activities and projects of the world today, or else modern man will be turned away from God by an excessive preoccupation with technology and mastery.115  The Council fathers say that the principal duty of men and women is “to bear witness to Christ, by their life and their words, in the family, in their social group, and in the sphere of their profession.”116  This is called “the apostolate of the laity.” As John Paul II says with very poignant words, the importance of this apostolate is made clear: “On a continent marked by competition and aggressiveness, unbridled consumerism and corruption, lay people are called to embody deeply evangelical values such as mercy, forgiveness, honesty, transparency of heart and patience in difficult situations. What is expected from the laity is a great creative effort in activities and works demonstrating a life in harmony with the Gospel.”117  The terms of the challenge are familiar—we must achieve unity of faith and life and bring the faith or the gospel to culture.

Contribution of Catholic higher education

How will such a vision be implemented and come to pass? Such a vision requires the special mission and resources of Catholic higher education. In Gaudium et spes the challenge to the laity is said to be the development of a “well-formed Christian conscience” so that they may “see that the divine law is inscribed in the life of the earthly city.”118  The task requires as well the development of technical and professional competence. What is demanded of the lay person is a “vital synthesis” of “humane, domestic, professional, social and technical enterprises” with religious values, under whose “supreme direction all things are harmonized unto God’s glory.”119  In the spirit of Maritain’s notion of “integral humanism,” John Paul II concludes Christifideles laici with an articulation of “a total integrated formation for living an integrated life.”120  Of what does such an integral human education consist?

The first element and the foundation for this education must be “living by faith in the divine mystery of creation and redemption.”121  Obviously, the foundation for such formation and education is the knowledge of revelation through scripture and tradition, since “sacred tradition and sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God, which is entrusted to the Church.”122  Sacred scripture must be part of the education for lay apostolate as it is said: “access to sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful.”123  Indeed, it is through the “word of the living God” that we are formed as a community.124  And we recall that “only meditation on the word of God” can we bring others to Christ and “make sound judgments on the true meaning and value of temporal realities.”125 

The second element in the education for lay apostolate would be the study of theology, ethics, and philosophy. Although called “solid doctrinal instruction,”126  such a study must be animated by the vital dialectic between faith and reason. Pope John Paul II sets out the vision for “an integral education” when he writes that “faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.”127  He says further that faith and reason each contain the other128  and that one without the other is “impoverished and enfeebled.”129  Unpacking these ideas will provide very fruitful direction for the education of lay people for their apostolate. It is also useful to look back to the pioneers commended by John Paul II (Newman, Maritain, Gilson, and Stein) precisely in their efforts to connect the dynamic interplay of faith and reason with the formation of the laity for their special role within the Church. Certainly, Newman, Maritain, and Gilson were forerunners of Vatican II in their interests in the life of the laity in the Church and in their educational concerns for finding a proper balance between faith and reason.

The third element is said to be “general culture along with practical and technical formation.”130  Although this component may vary according to circumstances, clearly basic cultural literacy and ability to engage the culture and communicate in it are essential to lay apostolate. Science and technology are an important part of the modern world and the aspiration toward greater mastery. In addition, Pope John Paul II said that the modern age is especially an age of social communications, and that this is the first areopagus for evangelization. So too, practical and technical training depends in large measure on the profession chosen for achievement by the students.

Fourth, the lay apostle needs to have a knowledge of “social teaching especially, its principles and conclusions, as will fit them for contributing to the progress of that teaching, and for making correct application of these same principles and conclusions in individual cases.”131  Pope John Paul II, in speaking of the education for lay apostolate, states that lay people need “an exact knowledge of the Church’s social teaching.”132  The importance and role of the family needs to be the hallmark of this social teaching. But also, the political context for all social action must be understood. In Gaudium et spes, the Council fathers say that “there is no better way” to establish political life than by encouraging “an inward sense of justice of good will” and by consolidating basic convictions about the “true nature of the political community and the aim, proper exercise, and limits of political authority.”133  In other words, political philosophy is a very important part of the education for lay apostolate. Given the importance of dialogue and the trends toward greater international solidarity and cooperation, the lay apostle must be knowledgeable of diverse cultures, regions, and religions.

We have thus drawn from the documents of Vatican II, with the help of Pope John Paul II, the guidelines for Catholic education today, if we are to take seriously lay apostolate as the outcome or fundamental aim of Catholic education.

The unity of faith and life must be lived out in charity. In Apostolicam Actuositatem, the Council fathers said the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, “communicate and nourish that charity which is the soul of the entire apostolate.”134  This phrase no doubt alludes to the famous book, The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Chautard, in which he explains how apostolate must be the fruit and overflow of interior life, an interior life centered on the Eucharist: “Our Lord wanted to institute this Sacrament in order to make it the center of all action, of all loyal idealism, of every apostolate that could be of any real use to the Church.”135  Chautard said “the living memorial of the Passion revives the divine fire in the soul of the apostle when its seems on the point of going out.”136  He draws the necessary conclusion or law of apostolate if you will: “the efficacy of the apostolate almost invariably corresponds to the degree of Eucharistic life acquired by a soul.”137 

The apostolate of the laity requires “intimate union with Christ in the Church” chiefly by “active participation in the sacred liturgy.”138  It is interesting to go back and read the famous line from the document on liturgy: “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the fount from which all her power flows. For the goal of apostolic endeavor is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of his Church, to take part in the Sacrifice and to eat the Lord’s Supper.”139  The source and summit of Christian life is directly linked to apostolate in the second sentence. So the source and summit of the life of the Church must frame for us an “apostolic goal,” that is, the Eucharist must send us forth to draw things to Christ and to renew the world in the Spirit. In receiving the sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord, must we not desire to serve him in love? We must be apostolic.

If we turn to section 8 of Ecclesia de Eucharistia we find a beautiful statement about the renewal and restoration of the world through the Eucharist:

Even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation. The Son of God became man in order to restore all creation, in one supreme act of praise, to the One who made it from nothing. He, the Eternal High Priest who by the blood of his Cross entered the eternal sanctuary, thus gives back to the Creator and Father all creation redeemed. He does so through the priestly ministry of the Church, to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Truly this is the mysterium fidei which is accomplished in the Eucharist: the world which came forth from the hands of God the Creator now returns to him redeemed by Christ.140 

The “coming forth” and “return” is a variation of St Thomas Aquinas’ account of the structure of Summa, called in Latin the “exitus/reditus.” All things come forth from God, rational creatures return to God through reason and virtue, law and grace. The incarnation of Christ redeems man, body, and soul. The coming forth and return is reiterated in a key section of Gaudium et spes on the proper autonomy of secular affairs; the world is good and has a “proper autonomy” deriving from its creaturely status. False autonomy asserts that created things do not depend on God, and that man can use them without any reference to their Creator. The proper framework for apostolate is to understand the proper origin and end of creation in the Creator God. Without the creator, the creature is lost and becomes unintelligible.141 

The Eucharist therefore leads us to a deep affirmation of the goodness of God’s creation. Father Vann says that Thomas Aquinas is the Doctor of the Eucharist because he is “the expounder of this great affirmation: all things are good in themselves though evil has damaged and twisted them.”142  To restore what is damaged by sin; to straighten what is twisted and perverted by human willfulness—that is the effect of the Eucharist; that is the challenge to the lay faithful to bring to the altar God’s good creation, now wounded by sin, but redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ. This is lay apostolate.

A brief look at the document on Christian education (Gravissimum Educationis) would complete our effort to see the connection between the role of the Catholic university in evangelization and the thrust of Vatican II. The document opens with a reference to the Council’s care for the importance of education “in the life of man and how its influence ever grows in the social progress of this age.”143  The very conditions of the new era (i.e., growing awareness of human dignity, the movement for an active participation in economic and political life, new leisure, and new means of communication) make it both “easier” and more urgent to achieve this education. Attempts are made “everywhere” to promote “more education.” To fulfill its mandate for evangelization the Church has a role in the “progress and development of education.”144  The true end of education is the formation of the human person “in the pursuit of his ultimate end and the good of the societies of which, as man, he is a member, and in whose obligations, as an adult, he will share.”145  Young people must be helped to “acquire a mature sense of responsibility.”146  Such education should not only achieve the mature sense of their own responsibility but also cultivate awareness of the gift of faith and the opportunity to witness to the hope within them.147  The Church is responsible for announcing the good news to all men and is bound “to provide an education by which the whole life of man is imbued by the spirit of Christ and to promote the temporal good.”148  Catholic education should orient “the whole of human culture to the message of salvation” so that knowledge is illumined by faith.149  Such an education prepares students to work for the welfare of the world and to live “an exemplary apostolic life” and be a leaven in society.150 

Specifically, through the Catholic university the Church ensures a “public, enduring and pervasive influence of the Christian mind in the furtherance of culture.”151  Its students will be formed to be outstanding in their training and “ready to undertake weighty responsibilities in society and witness to the faith in the world.”152  Such a project must achieve the integration of faith and reason. The university respects the autonomy of the disciplines153  and strives to be true to the principles and methods of each discipline. And yet at a Catholic university there is an aspiration that “there may be a deeper realization of the harmony of faith and science.”154 

The Council recommends the tradition of the doctors of the Church on faith and reason, especially the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. John Paul II similarly commends Thomas Aquinas in his encyclical on Fides et ratio: “Saint Thomas is an authentic model for all who seek the truth. In his thinking, the demands of reason and the power of faith found the most elevated synthesis ever attained by human thought, for he could defend the radical newness introduced by Revelation without ever demeaning the venture proper to reason.”155  He also makes reference to Pope Paul VI, quoting an important passage from his allocution:

Without doubt, Thomas possessed supremely the courage of the truth, a freedom of spirit in confronting new problems, the intellectual honesty of those who allow Christianity to be contaminated neither by secular philosophy nor by a prejudiced rejection of it. He passed therefore into the history of Christian thought as a pioneer of the new path of philosophy and universal culture. The key point and almost the kernel of the solution which, with all the brilliance of his prophetic intuition, he gave to the new encounter of faith and reason was a reconciliation between the secularity of the world and the radicality of the Gospel, thus avoiding the unnatural tendency to negate the world and its values while at the same time keeping faith with the supreme and inexorable demands of the supernatural order.156 

I think we can see here a fitting conclusion to our study of Vatican II and lay apostolate and Catholic higher education. Vatican II, as we have seen, balances a respect for the world and its structures with the supernatural perspective of faith. It is precisely the radicality or newness of the gospel, made available through baptism, which gives the laity their participation in the office of Christ as priest, prophet, and king. The “secularity” of the lay member of the church is the distinctive attribute noted by the Council. But such secularity must be matched by, formed by, the radicality or newness of the gospel. Catholic higher education can avoid those extremes of the negation of the world and the marginalization of faith through paying attention to the mission of evangelization and the outcome of producing men and women who can be lay apostles.

Catholic higher education at the present moment

Catholic universities must set forth their vision for an integral education for lay apostolate and fulfill the trust given to them by Pope John Paul II for evangelization. We have instead accepted and exacerbated the split or divergence between faith and life, faith and reason, and faith and culture. A few lessons we may learn from the documents of Vatican II as a context for reading Ex corde Ecclesiae concern three points: (1) communio and the unity of faith and life, (2) curriculum and the unity of faith and reason, and (3) integration and the unity of faith and culture.

Communio and the unity of faith and life: The university must be first of all a true community rooted in faith, “ecclesial faith” as Pope Benedict would put it to American educators.157  The importance of hiring to mission is not only a matter of the statistical count of Catholics on the faculty or students recruited. There must be a faithful community gathered around the Eucharist. Out of this faithful communion springs the community of “joy in truth” that marks the university. The community itself is the first “sign” of God’s presence in the world.158  Around the sacrifice of the Mass and the word of God the community finds its bearings. At the very outset of the encyclical Fides et ratio, Pope John Paul II says that the young have no point of reference for their lives because the teachers have given up: “this time of rapid and complex change can leave especially the younger generation, to whom the future belongs and on whom it depends, with a sense that they have no valid points of reference. The need for a foundation for personal and communal life becomes all the more pressing at a time when we are faced with the patent inadequacy of perspectives in which the ephemeral is affirmed as a value and the possibility of discovering the real meaning of life is cast into doubt.159  We owe to the students to provide the points of reference embedded in our heritage and way of life. The professors are the first models and witnesses of the unity of faith and life. Their position at the university is an apostolic venture.

Curriculum and the unity of faith and reason: The dynamic interplay of faith and reason must characterize the curriculum of a Catholic university. This means that philosophy and theology provide the fundamental structure and animating content of the education. Authentic Catholic theology must be offered with no fear of watering it down. In addition, the curriculum requires a philosophy “consonant with the word of God” to complement the study of theology.160  As we noted above, St Thomas Aquinas should be the model for the dynamic formation curriculum. The unity of faith and reason is a model or template for the achievement of western culture as such, and some access to this achievement and its principles are important for Catholic higher education today.161  The plea for integration of knowledge and the encouragement of interdisciplinary studies should be viewed in the light of the formation for lay apostolate and the fragmentation of culture. A concern is expressed in Gaudium et spes about the influence of scientism, materialism, pragmatism and the deformation of education; they express the aspiration for a humanistic education achieved in “synthesis” of wisdom, the whole truth, a synthesis based upon the “whole human person,” a blending of sciences and morality and doctrine.162  All of this serves the renewal of life and culture of fallen man. Catholic education “strengthens, purifies, and restores” culture in Christ.163 

Integration and the unity of faith and culture: The integration requires a capstone course of some kind to facilitate that “synthesis” of professional knowledge with the theological principle. The faculty must be the chief models for this. Faculty development is required so that all faculty may place their discipline within a Christian worldview, as called for Ex corde Ecclesiae: “University teachers should seek to improve their competence and endeavor to set the content, objectives, methods, and results of research in an individual discipline within the framework of a coherent world vision. Christians among the teachers are called to be witnesses and educators of authentic Christian life, which evidences an attained integration between faith and life, and between professional competence and Christian wisdom. All teachers are to be inspired by academic ideals and by the principles of an authentically human life.”164  Clearly, the faculty at a Catholic university are the means of its success. As the decree on Christian education states: “Teachers must remember that it depends chiefly upon them whether the Catholic school achieves its purpose.”165 A recent sociological study of Catholic higher education underscores the pressing need for faculty development if universities are to maintain a sense of mission.166 The notion of lay apostolate and evangelization based upon the documents of Vatican II should be the foundation of any program for development.

The challenge by Pope John Paul II for Catholic universities to participate in the evangelization of culture could provide an opportunity for them to discover their true energy and splendor. For the Catholic colleges and universities that now struggle for maintaining their existence, the integrity of the evangelizing mission provides a framework for establishing priorities for re-structuring and re-allocation. For those colleges and universities that continue to see an increase in student enrollment and donations, the challenge continues to be that of fidelity to the Church and to see that the notion that unity of life and faith, or the internal coherence of Christian witness, is the primary value at stake in the educational arena, and not worldly success.

Taking a Catholic View on Academic Freedom

Rev. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J.

So much about an answer depends on the way one poses the question. In the old story about the two monks who liked to smoke, for instance, it is easy to see why the one who asked if he could pray while smoking received permission, but the one who asked if he could smoke while praying had his request denied.

There is all the difference in the world between asking whether academic freedom is an indispensable condition for intellectual inquiry or is itself the goal. It is surely a crucial condition for real intellectual progress, for we do not know all the answers to our questions. Even figuring out how best to formulate the questions can be a difficult task. The promotion of such freedom is a necessary feature of university life. This is as true of a Catholic institution as of any other. But to think of academic freedom as somehow more than a necessary condition for intellectual progress is to mistake the means for the end. Academic freedom cannot be rightly understood as a permission to advocate for policies that are intrinsically immoral or as an artistic license for the exhibition of what is obscene, for these are not part of the goal. Academic freedom, properly understood, is a sphere for genuine scholarly debate about the truth of things.

Robust and lax views of academic freedom

The effort to take a Catholic view on academic freedom is not to postulate that there is some distinct species of the genus (“Catholic academic freedom”). Quite the contrary—my suggestion is that a Catholic view on academic freedom provides a model of what academic freedom rightly understood ought to look like anywhere. We should not presume that what passes for academic freedom in the secular sphere is the true model, and that the Catholic view is some quaint, parochial version that unfairly permits special reservations or exclusions. A better understanding of academic freedom makes it possible to see how lax versions of it can obscure a proper understanding of the relation between truth and freedom.

In the academy today there is a tendency to envision academic freedom as utterly unrestricted and to criticize any position that might order freedom to the service of any other interest. But such a highly abstract view of academic freedom risks treating what is important as a condition for scholarly inquiry as if it were independent of higher goals such as academic instruction of students, or docility to inconvenient truths, or service to a particular community that a religiously affiliated university was founded to provide. Freedom in the academy, as anywhere else, ought to be understood in service of something higher. To put it very simply, freedom is not just a matter of freedom from but of freedom for.

The idea of a university

What is essential to the very idea of a university is an interlocking triad of functions: scientific and scholarly research, academic teaching, and a creative cultural life intended to be bear fruit for the larger society and for the body that sponsors the institution. The kind of intellectual formation that students may rightly expect to find at the university level will be more likely to occur when their instructors are personally engaged in research, so that what teachers impart is a personal sense of the quest and not just a set of pre-packaged results. The demands of teaching help keep researchers alert to the meaning of the indefatigable work their disciplines require. By teaching they are regularly challenged to relate their discoveries and frustrations to the whole of knowledge, for their students are studying other things and want to understand connections between the subjects under study, even if full achievement of the unity of all knowledge may remain out of reach.

What the faculty should hope to develop in university students is a love of the quest for truth as well as the skills and disciplines needed to join in that quest. The goal of university education is the development not only of the mind but of the whole person. There ought to be concern to make new discoveries, to impart what is knowable in a given discipline, and to contribute to the development of maturity in body and mind, heart and spirit. To treat academic freedom as if it were some privileged sphere for the expression of personal beliefs in a way that is unrelated to other—and sometimes higher—ends is to sacrifice certain essential concerns of the university to a mere abstraction.

As an institution within a culture, the university receives benefits that it could not obtain on its own. In turn it owes significant debts to that culture. The service that a university needs to render includes education of a new generation in useful disciplines and moral formation of persons with a sense of the common good, the discovery of approaches and solutions to genuine problems, and the transmission of wisdom, knowledge, and traditions important to the community. Seeing academic freedom in the context of these important relationships makes for a better sense of its true nature. From this expectation of mutual benefits come both the reason for the sacrifices needed to sustain universities and the need for those who are granted the freedom of a university to benefit the community precisely by contributing to all the missions of a university.

The relation of truth and freedom

One might well argue that the relationship of the university to the society is “dialectical,” like the very relationship between truth and freedom. Freedom is a condition for the possibility of truth, and truth is the goal of freedom. To assert that a relation is dialectical is to say that the terms stand in a kind of complementary relation to one another—here it is a relation between an enabling condition and the proper use of that condition. Grasping this dialectical relationship allows us to distinguish authentic forms of freedom from inauthentic forms. However much of a little world of its own the university tends to be, the university is not its own end, but an indispensable means for the progress of research and the transmission of knowledge and wisdom. Understood in light of the specific goals of any institution of higher learning, the freedom typical of university life can be seen to take authentic and inauthentic forms.

Negatively, academic freedom involves an absence of external compulsion. Granted the need to respect such practical concerns as the financial, universities need to resist utilitarian and ideological pressures, such as a quest to give intellectual respectability to positions that are not respectable or to provide sophisticated propaganda for partisan projects. Positively, academic freedom has to be a “freedom for truth,” that is, a condition suitable for enabling scientific and scholarly progress and for subjecting reasons and arguments to the most compelling scrutiny we can devise.

In more practical terms, a university marked by a true sense of academic freedom ought to be hostile to political correctness in any form. There should be a willingness to engage frankly and deeply even the positions with which a sponsoring institution most profoundly disagrees. Coming to an authentic understanding of the best reasons in the arsenal of one’s opponent is, after all, a hallmark of intellectual respectability and a better route for making sure of the validity of one’s own position than precluding the discussion of those points. On this point, Catholics have the testimony of none other than Pope Benedict XVI in his address of April 2008, when he urged that the idea of Catholic higher education is not only compatible with academic freedom in the genuine sense of the term but that ensuring appropriate instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice is crucial to advancing academic freedom and to honoring the institution’s mission:

In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges and universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet… any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission…. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual or spiritual…. Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom.167

In his address Pope Benedict reinforces the notion that Catholic-sponsored institutions would fail in their duty if they did not provide adequate instruction in the religious tradition that supports the school.168 While an overly abstract understanding of academic freedom is only likely to bring confusion, academic freedom in its proper sense gives precisely the venue needed for the search for truth, wherever the evidence may lead.

Personal commitments and the university’s mission

In practice, I believe that there needs to be toleration for those who do not share a sponsoring institution’s outlook, but on the understanding that the specific mission goals of such a university may never be sidelined; rather, it must be given accurate presentation in any academic forum.169 This position does mean that we ought to resist the demand that every possible outlook be represented at a university; unless a given point of view produces scholars of the first rank, it has no claim to the status expected of a university faculty. Some will urge that it is not permissible to investigate a prospective member of the university’s beliefs, but only the person’s professional attainment and intellectual standing. But this also seems excessively abstract. In the effort to enhance the quest for intellectual progress and the teaching mission of a university, there has to be concern not just with the learning typical of a recognized discipline but also with the sort of truths that are associated with a person’s philosophy, that is, the insights that are not accessible by the relatively impersonal sort of thinking that is typical of training in a discipline but also those that require personal commitment. These are important concerns about the meaning of human existence, about the natural law that is beyond all jurisprudence, and about the reality of God, however ineffable and mysterious, and they will enter into the life of those who live and work at a university.

University faculty like to think of themselves as independent-minded. In many respects they are, for their training has generated habits of disciplined analysis. But in addition to learning in any area there is often a curious blindness to how little one knows outside the area of one’s discipline. The penchant of any professor to be a know-it-all can easily lead to the temptation to use one’s post as a bully pulpit for what is no more than an opinion. In our own day, the liberal biases of many graduate and professional schools can dull the awareness that this temptation specially afflicts the chattering classes.

The responsibility to use freedom for pursuing and presenting the truth

In this regard there is an immediate and direct implication of the relation between freedom and responsibility. Members of a university faculty should truly have the freedom to pursue truth according to the methods germane to their disciplines and should be free from interference by those outside the discipline. But it is also important to remember that in their use of this freedom they ought to remain true to the methods of their discipline that qualify them for the privilege of this freedom and that presenting themselves as authorities beyond the areas of their expertise risks misusing that freedom.170

Of special interest to Catholic universities, of course, is the academic freedom of theologians and the proper use of this privilege.171 In this sphere there is need to bear in mind not only the standard considerations about methodology proper to any discipline, but also the specific grounding in the truth of divine revelation and the teachings of the Church for the areas of knowledge that are particularly the concern of theology. The teaching of Catholic theology in a Church-sponsored institution requires an acceptance of the truth of revelation and the teachings of the Church.

In addition to the moral responsibility that individual faculty members must shoulder in this area, there is also a responsibility on the administration of a Catholic university.172 Such a university must have a staunch commitment both to protect the proper freedom of theologians for their research and to insist that the members of the theology faculty present the teachings of the Church faithfully. The obligation here involves ensuring that the university honor its commitments to its sponsoring tradition and safeguarding the principle that one not exceed the areas of one’s professional expertise in teaching, particularly in areas of special sensitivity.

Consider, for example, the problems that can arise in courses on moral theology and ethics, an area where there can be strong personal convictions by faculty members but also an area where the Church has clear teachings. These courses might be courses in general ethics or one of the various specializations (medical ethics, business ethics, professional ethics, etc.). The need to have faculty members teaching within the area of their expertise will require that the university provide teachers suitably trained in Catholic moral theology and disposed to teach such courses in ethics in a way that is consistent with the university’s Catholic identity by being faithful to Catholic doctrine.

Faculty members who are not Catholic theologians or not willing to do this should identify themselves in such a way that will prevent confusion about this matter. Likewise, the obligation not to teach beyond one’s area of expertise should preclude faculty members in other departments who are not trained in ethics or moral theology from teaching or promoting varieties of ethics that are inconsistent with the university’s Catholic identity. To say this is in no way to put into doubt that such individuals may well have personal convictions on matters of ethics; in fact, it would be highly appropriate and advisable to organize suitable forums for the discussion of these matters in interdisciplinary circles. But it is not appropriate to have individuals who have never formally studied ethics offering courses identified as courses in ethics or moral values within the course offerings of their various disciplines. For instructors who have not themselves formally studied ethics or moral theology to be offering such courses would be cases of teaching outside the area of their professional expertise and thus to go beyond the privileges accorded to academic freedom properly understood.

Privilege, obligation, and right

When discussing academic freedom, we would do well to speak in terms of “privilege and “obligation.” Academic freedom is a privilege, not a right. The language of right should probably be reserved to “the pursuit of truth.” Individuals are privileged to come to a university for the purpose of seeking truth, both to participate in its discovery and to play a role in its dissemination. But the human right to pursue truth unconditionally and for its own sake is what governs the privilege and grounds the obligation of those exercising this right to make proper use of it. Getting this relationship right requires keeping sharp one’s intellectual conscience and exerting conscious and honest control over one’s creative impulses, especially by staying alert to the consequences, immediate and far-reaching, for one’s ideas.

There can be failures to observe these proprieties. One might consider, for instance, the sad history of the German universities in the period leading up to the Second World War.173 Despite the courageous resistance of some of its members, a university can collapse under the attack of a dictator. We need to acknowledge a special responsibility for such a collapse that lies at the feet of those university professors who care too little about the interaction between academic life and its social and political environment. The rationalizations and justifications used for the programs of forcible sterilization and the murder of the mentally ill seem to be recurring in our debates on abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, and euthanasia. The price of freedom is always vigilance and a readiness for sacrifice: in no walk of life may one take one’s post for granted and allow oneself not to see what one prefers not to see.

The dialectical tension between truth and freedom is one that academics sometimes do not like to hear about. Although a non-negotiable aspect of the life of a university, academic freedom is not an independent absolute but an absolute that stands in a dialectical relation to truth. Karl Jaspers put the point clearly when writing of those German universities:

Academic freedom can survive only if the scholars invoking it remain aware of its meaning. It does not mean the right to say what one pleases. Truth is much too difficult and great a task that it should be mistaken for the passionate exchange of half-truths spoken in the heat of the moment. It exists only where scholarly ends and a commitment to truth are involved. Practical objectives, educational bias, or political propaganda have no right to invoke academic freedom.174

Academic freedom does not refer to the political concept of freedom of speech, let alone to the liberty of pure license in thought, but to the liberty that is the condition for the possibility of truth. In turn, the truth toward which academic work is ordered as its goal justifies the freedom provided at a university and protected by our understanding of a university’s privileges. Academic freedom exempts a faculty member from certain kinds of external constraints so as to enable that person better to honor the obligations of a scholar to intellectual thoroughness, method, and system.

The correlative safeguards for the proper use of that freedom will presumably have to be moral rather than legal. This is often the case with other kinds of authority, for the highest administrators of legal justice are near the summit of law and generally have no higher authority watching over them. We depend upon justice being in the heart of the judge as much as upon the checks and balances of power that are so crucial to our system of government, and yet are ever subject to corruption. The frustrations of academic life (e.g., when one simply has no success in the lab, at the clinic, or in one’s research) point out clearly enough that freedom may be the condition for truth, but it is not a guarantee that one will automatically achieve truth merely by hard work or persistence.

In my judgment, the dialectical relation between truth and freedom constitutes a central aspect of academic freedom. That all of a university’s branches of learning work with hypotheses of only relative validity and do not describe the whole of reality itself but only particular aspects in no way alters or denies the goal of truth that belongs to the idea of the university. There remains a need for the guidance in our endeavors that the idea of the unity of knowledge provides. Only the goal of truth pursued in responsible freedom, guided by a sense of the oneness of reality, can sustain our search to know all the particulars as a way of getting at that basic oneness and wholeness. The result of a commitment to this idea will be not just the protection of academic freedom but the maturation of an increasingly authentic idea of freedom in the individual and the community of the university.

Rev. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J., Ph.D., S.T.L. is an associate professor of philosophy at Fordham University in New York and editor-in-chief of International Philosophical Quarterly. He also serves as president of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.


Communion and the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian in Catholic Higher Education175

Very Rev. J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P.

It should be admitted at the outset that the cozy juxtaposition of terms in my title, as much as they might reflect an ideal state of relations, do not fully correspond to the reality of the situation in which we find ourselves today in the United States of America.

For one thing, that the vocation of theologians is a properly ecclesial one has been and continues to be doubted, disputed, or denied. Even if it is conceded that the theological profession entails a calling of some kind, it is supposed that this would be primarily an academic or intellectual vocation, involving overriding allegiances, not to a church or denomination, but to one’s scholarly guild and the larger academic community. The code of free inquiry upheld by these communities is thought to exclude in principle the intrusion of non-scholarly considerations (such as creedal or dogmatic ones) and even more so the interference of representatives of non-academic communities (such as bishops or the Holy See) in the pursuit of the theologian’s specific intellectual vocation. In this perspective, if the possibility of an ecclesial vocation were to be granted at all, then it would presumably have to be defined and expressed in ways that did not contradict the supervening obligations of a strictly academic or intellectual vocation.

Furthermore, that the theologian has a place in higher education is a proposition that has not been self-evident at any time in the past hundred years, and that remains in doubt among Catholic and non-Catholic educators alike. The issue here concerns not theologians qua theologians but the field of theology itself. It may come as something of a surprise—especially to Catholics thinking of the historic importance of theological faculties in the great universities of western Europe—that theology found its place in American higher education only relatively late, with difficulty, and at a moment coinciding with the ascendancy of religious studies. With or without an ecclesial vocation, the theologian’s place in Catholic higher education at the present can hardly be said to be a secure one.

Finally, that institutions of higher learning could maintain recognizable—not to say institutional—bonds to the Catholic Church and still be true to their mission as modern research institutions has been and continues to be questioned by many, both within the Catholic Church and beyond it. Behind this doubt stretches a long history of which the period since the publication of Ex corde Ecclesiae is but the most recent phase. The view that church affiliation and academic integrity might be incompatible with one another has led many Catholic and Protestant institutions of higher learning over the past century to weaken or dissolve the affiliations that bound them to their founding ecclesial communities. The pressure to pursue this course has perhaps been felt more acutely by Catholic higher education because the polity of the Catholic Church, in contrast to that of most other churches and ecclesial communities, is perceived to allow for a more direct involvement in the life of the Catholic campus. In the years since Ex corde Ecclesiae, it has perhaps become clearer that the issue here is not just the maintenance of a Catholic identity but also participation in Catholic communion. Disagreements about how to track the relationships between the Catholic college or university and the Catholic Church influence perceptions of the theologian’s vocation, as well as judgments about his or her place in Catholic higher education.

It is clear then that, far from announcing the exposition of truths concerning which there is an undisturbed consensus in Catholic higher education in the United States, my title in effect introduces a set of disputed questions about which there are widespread and persistent doubts even within Catholic circles. In the form of powerful cultural assumptions, these doubts have influenced the actual shape of Catholic higher education in this country.

Catholic higher education and the ecclesiology of communion

The Church’s teaching authorities, while cognizant of these doubts, cannot be said to share them.

Consider higher education first. The Second Vatican Council reaffirmed the traditional Catholic view of the possibility and character of Church sponsorship of colleges and universities.176 Following upon and implementing the conciliar teaching were two companion documents: Sapientia Christiana,177 concerning the governance of ecclesiastically accredited institutions, and Ex corde Ecclesiae,178 concerning all other Catholic institutions of higher learning. These apostolic constitutions laid out the different ways that ecclesial communion is embodied by Catholic institutions of these diverse types. The publication of Sapientia Christiana initiated a period during which American ecclesiastical faculties brought their own statutes into line with the new legislation, while in 2000 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ application of Ex corde Ecclesiae received official recognition by the Holy See.179 What is more, within postconciliar teaching, theology and education have been regularly addressed by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI in their many discourses and encyclicals.

The call to holiness and communion is central to understanding the confidence—one could as well say the absence of doubts—with which the Church advances her vision of Catholic higher education and the place of theology within it. The ecclesiology of communion is of fundamental importance in sustaining this confidence and in articulating this vision.

The gift of truth that we have received from Christ is this: to know that no one has ever wanted anything more than God wants to share the communion of His life with us. What Christ taught us and what we proclaim to the world is that the triune God invites all human persons to participate in the communion of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and with one another in them. Holiness is nothing less than the transformed capacity to enjoy this communion, and ecclesial communion is at root nothing less than trinitarian communion.

This basic truth of Catholic faith unfolds in an ensemble of other truths about creation, incarnation, redemption and sanctification. The central truths of the Christian faith find their deepest meaning in the reality of trinitarian communion. Everything created exists so that the Blessed Trinity could realize this plan of love. Through the incarnation and the paschal mystery, Christ enables creaturely persons to enter into the life of the uncreated Persons. In the Church, the Holy Spirit unites all those transformed in Christ and draws them into the communion of trinitarian love. Ecclesial communion is nothing less than the beginning of our participation in the life of the Blessed Trinity.

Pope John Paul II repeatedly described this communion as a “participated theonomy” which draws us into the communion of trinitarian love in such a way that our full humanity is fulfilled and at the same time transcended. This theme, frequently reiterated in the Holy Father’s great encyclicals, is fundamental for developing a properly Catholic understanding of the place of education and scholarship in human personal, social, and cultural life. In Christian faith, the human reality is not suppressed but is fully realized. To embrace the First Truth and the Absolute Good who is God is not to accept constraints on human reason and desire, but to free them for their divinely willed destiny.

The Church’s teaching and legislation regarding Catholic higher education are unintelligible apart from the ecclesiology of communion.

Autonomy and institutional bonds of Catholic higher education

It is clear that a wide range of teaching activities is required if the Church is to be able to communicate the gift of truth she has received from Christ.180 The institutional expression of these teaching activities has taken many different forms throughout Christian history. In the field of higher education the evidence for continuing and vigorous Catholic presence is indisputable. Far from experiencing any doubts about this possibility, the Church assumes as her rightful role the establishment of colleges and universities, and the maintenance of appropriate relations with them.

From a theological perspective, the genius of Catholic jurisprudence in this area arises from its underlying Christian humanism. As personal and social beings, the Christian faithful possess an inherent dignity and autonomy which must be respected if ecclesial communion is to be realized. The reality of communion presupposes the reality of persons in communion and, in an ordered community like the Catholic Church, the reality of institutions in communion. It would be self-contradictory to invoke the ecclesiology of communion as grounds for infringing upon the autonomy rightly enjoyed by persons and institutions, and thus juridically protected, in the Catholic Church. The very notion of being in communion presupposes the integrity and autonomy, if also the interdependence, of the participants in ecclesial communion. The concrete expression of a series of relationships by its very nature affirms the proper autonomy and distinctive competencies of the persons and institutions enjoying ecclesial communion.

Although the grace of ecclesial communion is in the deepest sense an invisible reality, it is not an abstraction. Catholic tradition insists that it must take visible form in concrete communities and in their social and institutional structures. In the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, the Church has invited Catholic colleges and universities to internalize the renewed ecclesiology of communion in the structures of their institutions, and in different ways depending on whether they are ecclesiastically accredited or not.

The historical record in the United States supports the conclusion that, given the political and cultural pressures favoring increasing secularization over the past hundred years and into the foreseeable future, the Catholic identity of currently Catholic institutions of higher learning is not likely to be sustainable without concrete juridical bonds between these institutions and the Church. Naturally, in developing its teaching and legislation in this area, the Holy See does not have only the situation in the United States in view. But the practical implications of an ecclesiology of communion, formulated with the whole Catholic Church in view, nonetheless have particular urgency in a situation where “the disengagement of colleges and universities from their Christian churches” has become endemic.181 In his indispensable book on this topic, The Dying of the Light, Father James Burtchaell documented with considerable detail the informal arrangements by which hundreds of sincere and well-meaning faculty, administrators and church leaders of countless once church-related colleges and universities believed that they would be able to ensure the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, and other denominational identities of their institutions.182 Without the adoption of juridical provisions, and relying solely on the good will and sense of commitment of Catholic educators and bishops—as was strongly suggested by some—few of the currently Catholic institutions of higher learning in the U.S. are likely to remain distinctively and recognizably Catholic. Even with the adoption of something like clearly stated juridical provisions of the USCCB Application, it may be that the secularizing trends will turn out to have been irreversible in some of the two hundred or more Catholic institutions of higher learning in the U.S.

Recent studies, including those by Father Burtchaell, Philip Gleason, John McGreevy, Philip Hamburger, and others, have made it possible to identify with greater precision the cultural and political forces operative in the relatively swift transformation that has occurred in Catholic higher education in the U.S. since the 1960s.183 Significant anti-Catholic cultural assumptions, which in part contributed to shaping public policy towards education, gave prevalence to the notion that church affiliation, most especially in the Catholic ambit, inevitably compromised the academic excellence, research capacity, and institutional autonomy of institutions enmeshed in such relationships. In addition, it was widely held that, because of their submissiveness to church authority, Catholics could never fully internalize the valued American traits of individual autonomy and freedom of thought and expression that would make for good citizens of the republic. In so far as they were not actively anti-religious, these forces favored the development of a broadly enlightened form of religiosity, free of ties to particular churches or denominations, and of the dogmatic and institutional commitments entailed by these ties. The impact of these cultural and political forces was aggravated after the Second Vatican Council, not only by the collapse of a distinctively Catholic culture, but also by the uncritical embrace of the secular culture (mistakenly thought to be warranted by the council’s constitution, Gaudium et spes).184 Catholic educators (and others) failed to recognize that the ambient culture, whose values they sought to embody institutionally, was not religiously neutral but often encoded with actively de-Christianizing assumptions.

The call to holiness and communion, reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and vigorously reasserted in the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, offers an opportunity for Catholic Church-related institutions of higher education in the U.S. to recover their distinctively Catholic identity and embody it in clearly expressed communal bonds with the Church. With a tradition of academic excellence and freedom of inquiry stretching back to the medieval universities, Catholic higher education should courageously address the range of anti-Catholic and, increasingly, anti-Christian prejudices that seek to exclude Catholics and other Christians from participation in public life and from influence on public policy. According to the Second Vatican Council, Catholic universities aim to ensure that the Christian outlook should acquire “a public, stable, and universal influence in the whole process of the promotion of higher culture.”185 As was true in the past, Catholic colleges and universities in the U.S. have an important contribution to make to the Christianization of American culture. George Lindbeck, the distinguished Lutheran theologian and astute observer of the Catholic scene, has written: “The waning of cultural Christianity may not be a good thing for societies. Traditionally Christian lands, when stripped of their historic faith, become unworkable and demonic…. Christianization of culture can be in some situations the church’s major contribution to feeding the poor, clothing the hungry and liberating the imprisoned.”186 Catholic institutions of higher learning can play a central role in helping the Church, as well as other Christian communities, to monitor the impact of mass culture on the communication of the faith and the expression of Catholic and Christian life in western postmodern societies.

The place of theology in Catholic higher education

In addition to articulating a comprehensive vision of Catholic higher education, both conciliar and post-conciliar teaching consistently assigned a central role to theology and its cognate disciplines in Catholic higher education. Following upon Gravissimum Educationis of the Second Vatican Council, the twin post-conciliar apostolic constitutions on higher education each assume that theology will find a place in the Catholic colleges and universities. As might be expected in a document that contains norms for ecclesiastical faculties and seminaries, Sapientia Christiana provides a complete picture of the curriculum of theology and its associated disciplines. But Ex corde Ecclesiae is no less explicit on the matter, even if it concedes that in certain situations nothing more than a chair of theology will be possible.187 Both documents affirm that the primary focus of theology is to investigate and explain the doctrines of the Catholic faith as drawn from revelation. It is assumed that this study will be pursued in a spirit of true freedom of inquiry, employing appropriate methods, and acknowledging the derived character of the knowledge sought and thus its dependence on divine revelation. Significantly, both documents ascribe important integrating functions to theology within the overall programs of Catholic colleges and universities, a traditional emphasis in the rationales for theology in almost all church-related higher education.

Studying these documents within the framework of Catholic history in western Europe, one might well expect the legitimacy of theology’s place in the curriculum of higher education to be self-evident. Indeed, as Cardinal Avery Dulles has noted, it is unrealistic not to include theology in the university curriculum since “the Church and the Catholic people legitimately expect that some universities will provide an intellectual environment in which the meaning and implications of the faith can be studied in relation to the whole realm of human knowledge.”188

Nonetheless, for a variety of reasons, which are lately being subjected to more systematic study, the study of religion and theology did not enjoy an unchallenged place in the evolution of church-related, and indeed public, higher education in the U.S. Two brilliant books—D. G. Hart’s on the history of Protestant rationales for the study of theology and religion and Philip Gleason’s on the history of Catholic higher education in the twentieth century—give the topic the attention it deserves and at the same time provide fascinating reading for anyone interested in understanding the current situation of the study and teaching of religion and theology in American higher education.189

Hart and Gleason show that in the United States throughout much of the nineteenth century, both Catholic and Protestant educators tended to view theology as a discipline that belonged in the seminary, not in the college or university. In church-affiliated Catholic and Protestant colleges, religious instruction was more likely to be seen as catechetical and moral formation than as properly theological inquiry. Later, with the emergence of the modern research university, Protestant educators struggled to legitimate teaching and research in the Christian religion while at the same time downplaying the particular denominational entailments such teaching and research might otherwise involve. Catholic higher education in early twentieth century America tended to give a central role to religiously colored philosophical studies rather than to theology itself. Between the 1920s and the 1950s, neoscholastic philosophy played an influential role in curricular integration in Catholic colleges and universities and in the provision of the self-understanding that gave Catholic culture its shape. During this period, theology properly so-called only gradually began to find a place in Catholic higher education, though kerygmatic, liturgical, and Thomistic approaches remained in contention as Catholic educators strove to identify the kind of teaching that would be appropriate for undergraduates. Inevitably, both Protestant and Catholic curricula were influenced by the teaching of theology as conducted in their seminaries. For different but related reasons, neither Protestant nor Catholic university theology enjoyed the undiluted respect of the broader academic community. With the erosion of the hold of neo-orthodoxy in Protestant theology and the collapse of the neoscholastic synthesis in Catholic higher education, the 1960s were a time of crisis for both Catholic and Protestant theological and religious educators. The 1960s set in motion powerful cultural and educational trends that eventuated in the widespread (albeit unstable) prevalence of religious studies in Catholic, Protestant, and public higher education.190

In Catholic higher education, the displacement of theology by religious studies poses significant challenges. Frank Schubert’s important study of this shift covers the crucial period 1955-1985 and demonstrates the steady move away from courses engaging in appropriation of the Catholic tradition toward courses in the history, anthropology, and sociology of religion.191 While admitting areas of overlap between theology and religious studies, most scholars acknowledge the fundamental difference in perspective represented by the approaches to religious realities in these diverse fields. Whereas theology takes the claim to truth made by the sources of Christian revelation as its framework, the field(s) of religious studies systematically bracket the claims to truth made for contending religious traditions. For theology, revelation provides the principles for inquiry, and the truth of Christian doctrines is the basic assumption for this inquiry. For religious studies, the world’s religions present a richly diverse set of texts, institutions, rites, and other phenomena, which are studied employing a range of humanistic and social scientific methodologies.

In Catholic colleges and universities where this shift is complete and likewise unchallenged, it is difficult for theology to maintain its integrity and finality as fides quaerens intellectum. Apart from any other secularizing pressures that might be operative, in the midst of predominantly religious studies departments, theology itself can easily yield to the methods and perspectives of the study of religion. As we shall see shortly, the transformation of theology into a branch of religious studies makes it nearly unintelligible to claim for theologians any properly ecclesial vocation or even connection with the believing community.

The ecclesial vocation of the theologian

What must be surely regarded as among the most significant official documents on the place of the theologian in the Church appeared in 1990. It was prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and was confidently entitled “The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian.”

Although the documents of the Second Vatican Council mentioned theology and theologians at various points—perhaps most notably in the Constitution on Divine Revelation (Dei Verbum),192 the Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium),193 and the Decree on Priestly Formation (Optatam Totius)194—the council did not make this theme the focus of an extended treatment.195 Given the impact that the council had on the work of theologians, this may come as something of a surprise—all the more so perhaps, since it was “the great blossoming of theology between the world wars which made the Second Vatican Council possible.”196 After the conclusion of the council the continuing contribution of theologians was institutionalized in a remarkable way when Pope Paul VI established the International Theological Commission in 1969.197

The CDF Instruction reflects the Church’s renewed consciousness of the centrality of the role of the theologian in her life. Reprising significant elements of the Catholic tradition, as articulated in conciliar and post-conciliar teaching, the Instruction forcefully argues that the theologian’s vocation is a properly ecclesial one and, as in the case of Catholic colleges and universities, that the bonds of ecclesial communion implied by this relationship can be expressed juridically. The CDF Instruction may be taken as a robust reminder that the call to holiness and communion comes to theologians at least in part through the mediation of their ecclesial vocation precisely as theologians.198

At the start of his splendid book, The Shape of Theology, Father Aidan Nichols asks the question: “What sort of person must I be in order to become a theologian?”—to which we might well add, “and in order to continue being one.”199 This, in effect, is the arresting question posed by the CDF document. In addressing this question, the Instruction takes up in turn the divine gift of truth, the vocation of the theologian, and the role of the Magisterium. Under its consideration of the role of the Magisterium, the Instruction gives extended attention to the problem of theological dissent.200

But what is particularly noteworthy is that the Instruction begins, not with the Magisterium, but with the gift of divine truth. Indeed, the Instruction’s Latin title is Donum Veritatis, “the gift of truth.” Because theology is not simply an “ancillary function” of the Magisterium, we need to locate the theologian and the work of theology in the broader context of the life of Church, precisely as she is the locus of a truth which she did not generate but which she received as a gift. At the center of this truth is the person of Jesus Christ who reveals the divine desire to draw us into the communion of trinitarian love and, moreover, who enables us to enjoy this communion. The function of the Magisterium is to guard and teach this truth in its entirety which the Church received as a gift and is bound to hand on. For this reason, according to Cardinal Ratzinger, the Instruction “treats the ecclesial mission of the theologian not in a duality of Magisterium-theology, but rather in the framework of a triangular relationship defined by the people of God, bearer of the sensus fidei, the Magisterium, and theology.”201 In different ways, therefore, both the Magisterium and theology are servants of a prior truth, received in the Church as a gift.202

Perhaps the most important contribution of the Instruction is to have secured in this way what Cardinal Ratzinger called the “ecclesial identity of theology”203 and, correspondingly, the ecclesial vocation of the theologian. In the words of the Instruction itself: “Among the vocations awakened… by the Spirit in the Church is that of the theologian… [whose] role is to pursue in a particular way an ever deeper understanding of the Word of God found in the inspired Scriptures and handed on by the living Tradition of the Church… [which he does] in communion with the Magisterium which has been charged with the responsibility of preserving the deposit of faith.”204 The theological vocation responds to the intrinsic dynamic of faith which “appeals to reason” and “beckons reason… to come to understand what it has believed.”205 In this way, “theological science responds to the invitation of truth as it seeks to understand the faith.”206 But the theological vocation also responds to the dynamic of love, for “in the act of faith, man knows God’s goodness and begins to love Him… [and] is ever desirous of a better knowledge of the beloved.”207

The gift of truth received in the Church thus establishes both the context for the vocation and mission of the theologian, and the framework for the actual practice of the discipline of theology. This ecclesially received truth, as articulated in the deposit of faith and handed on by the Magisterium, constitutes not an extrinsic authority that poses odious limits on an inquiry that would otherwise be free but an intrinsic source and measure that gives theology its identity and finality as an intellectual activity. Hence, as Cardinal Ratzinger asks, “Is theology for which the Church is no longer meaningful really a theology in the proper sense of the word?”208 Examined independently of the assent of faith and the mediation of the ecclesial community, the texts, institutions, rites, and beliefs of the Catholic Church can be the focus of the humanistic, philosophical, and social scientific inquiries that together constitute the field of religious studies. But Christian theology is a different kind of inquiry. Cut off from an embrace of the truth that provides its subject matter and indicates the methods appropriate to its study, theology as the Church has always understood it loses its specific character as a scientific inquiry of a certain type.209 Its precise scope is to seek the intelligibility of a truth received in faith by the theologian who is himself a member of the ecclesial community that is, as Cardinal Walter Kasper has said, “the place of truth.”210

The theologian is thus free to seek the truth within limits imposed, not by an intrusive external authority, but by the nature of his discipline as such. As the Instruction points out: “Freedom of research, which the academic community holds most precious, means an openness to accepting the truth that emerges at the end of an investigation in which no element has intruded that is foreign to the methodology corresponding to the object under study.”211 Theology cannot “deny its own foundations,” to use the words of Cardinal Dulles; the acceptance of the authority and Scripture and doctrines in theology is “not a limitation but rather the charter of its existence and freedom to be itself.”212 The freedom of inquiry proper to theology, is, according to the CDF Instruction, the “hallmark of a rational discipline whose object is given by Revelation, handed on and interpreted in the Church under the authority of the Magisterium, and received by faith. These givens have the force of principles. To eliminate them would mean to cease doing theology.”213 The principles of theology, as we noted earlier, are derived from revelation, and constitute the discipline as such. In accepting them, the theologian is simply being true to the nature of his subject, and to his vocation as a scholar in this field.

These elements of the Instruction’s account of the theological vocation are ferociously contested in today’s academy, largely on the basis of what Lindbeck has called the “individualistic foundational rationalism” which shapes the deepest cultural assumptions of modernity.214 But the Church has a solid, well-substantiated, and historically warranted rationale for its account of the nature of theology as an intellectual discipline of a particular sort, and of the responsibilities of its practitioners. In the present circumstances, we need to make this case without apology. It is central to the convictions of the Catholic Church, and indeed of the Christian tradition as such, to give priority to a theonomous rather than to an autonomous rationality. It so happens that certain postmodern intellectual trends have begun to advance what Alasdair MacIntyre calls the traditioned character of all rational inquiry215 and Lindbeck calls the socially and linguistically constituted character of belief. This intellectual climate is, to a certain extent, more favorable to the defense of the principle of theonomous rationality that is crucial for the Catholic understanding of theology. But it must be recognized that the basis for this understanding is itself a properly theological one that is rooted in fundamental Christian convictions about the gift of truth and its reception in the ecclesial community.216

The Church embodies her understanding of the nature of theology and of the ecclesial vocation of the theologian by, according to both the discipline and its practitioners, a role in Catholic higher education according to the principles of the ecclesiology of communion which we considered earlier.

According to Ex corde Ecclesiae and Sapientia Christiana, the standard theological disciplines include: sacred Scripture, dogmatic theology, moral theology, pastoral theology, canon law, liturgy, and church history. Those teaching these disciplines are invited to make a profession of faith and oath of fidelity in order to express the derived character of these disciplines and the ecclesial space they inhabit. These formulas in effect allow the scholar to express a promise to respect the principles of his or her field as well as the personal communion of the theologian with the Church. Viewed in this light, theological disciplines and their practitioners are in a situation analogous to other disciplines and to scholars in other fields which are supervised by professional societies, by peer review, and by a whole range of certifying and accrediting bodies who maintain the standards within these fields and the credibility which they rightly enjoy among the general public.

In addition, the Church offers a canonical mission to theologians teaching in ecclesiastical faculties, and a mandatum to those teaching in all other institutions of higher learning. Although both the canonical mission and the mandatum have provoked controversy, the necessity of the canonical mission is perhaps better understood within the context of ecclesiastically accredited faculties. Here, I will confine my remarks to the mandatum.217

The nature of the mandatum referred to in Ex corde Ecclesiae is best understood in the light of the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the laity: “Thus, making various dispositions of the apostolate according to the circumstances, the hierarchy enjoins some particular form of it more closely with its own apostolic function. Yet the proper nature and distinctiveness of each apostolate must be preserved, and the laity must not be deprived of the possibility of acting on their own accord. In various church documents this procedure of the hierarchy is call a mandate.”218 (Apostolicam Actuositatem 24). While the mandatum has a different juridical character from the canonical mission of professors teaching in ecclesiastical faculties as required by Sapientia Christiana, both express in a concrete way the ecclesial identity of the theologianAccording to canonist Father Reginald Whitt, the above-mentioned mandate “refers to those apostolic activities that remain activities proper to the laity in virtue of their baptism yet joined closely to the apostolic ministry of the bishop.” A Catholic professor of theology in a Catholic university is thus considered “as one of the faithful engaged in the higher education apostolate entitled and required to obtain endorsement from the competent hierarch.”219

In requiring the mandatum (and, for that matter, the canonical mission) the Church acknowledges that the Catholic theologian pursues his or her inquiries under the light of revelation as contained in Scripture and tradition and proclaimed by the Magisterium. In seeking the mandatum, the individual theologian gives a concrete expression to the relationship of ecclesial communion that exists between the Church and the Catholic teacher of a theological discipline in a Catholic institution of higher learning. The acceptance of the mandatum does not make the pursuit and recognition of truth a matter of obedience to authority: as we have seen, it is not that the doctrines of the faith are true because the Magisterium teaches them, but that the Magisterium teaches them because they are true. It is the Catholic conviction that the
truths of faith point ultimately to nothing less than the First Truth itself, whose inner intelligibility constantly draws the inquiring mind to himself. The acceptance of the mandatum by a theologian is simply the public affirmation and social expression of this fundamental Catholic conviction.


We have considered the ecclesial vocation of the theologian in Catholic higher education and the ecclesiology of communion. We began with a series of doubts, but we end on a note of confidence. Surely, if the example of Pope Benedict XVI teaches us nothing else, it should teach us confidence in the inherent attractiveness of the Christian faith, and, in particular, the Catholic vision of higher education and of the vocation of the theologian. While the assumptions of the ambient culture will not always be friendly to it, this vision nonetheless deserves to be presented fully and without compromise. Indeed, because the call to holiness and communion originates not with us but with Christ, our hearers deserve from us a confident and unapologetic invitation to share a vision of human life that finds its consummation in the divine life of trinitarian communion. Nothing less will do.

Very Rev. J. Augustine DiNoia, O.P., Ph.D., S.T.M., is undersecretary of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He was previously executive director of the Secretariat for Doctrine and Pastoral Practices at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and professor of theology on the Pontifical Faculty of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.


Catholic Campus Ministry: Christocentric Accompaniment

Rev. Msgr. Stuart W. Swetland

It began with music. Fr. Karol Wojtyla, a 31-year old parish priest who later would be known the world over as Pope John Paul II, had recently been assigned as an assistant at St. Florian’s Parish in Krakow. His duties included the role of campus ministry to the many university students in the parish. But how was he to minister to these students in 1951 Stalinist Poland? He began with music.

By Polish tradition (following the pre-Vatican II calendar), February 2nd (the Feast of the Presentation) ends the Christmas season. It is the “last chance” to sing Christmas carols. On February 2, 1951, Fr. Wojtyla invited some university students to the parish to sing carols. He also began to teach them Gregorian Chant. Soon he had developed a regular student choir for the parish. But Fr. Wojtyla was teaching more than music. The choir practices afforded him the opportunity to begin a real relationship with those who participated in it. Soon these students would also be attending a special Wednesday morning Mass and a Thursday evening conference and inviting their friends. Wojtyla’s campus ministry had begun.220

During this incredibly fruitful time for Fr. Wojtyla’s ministry, he developed many of the ideas and themes that would serve him—and through his papacy, the Church and the world—so well in the future. These included his understanding of the relationship of philosophy and theology, his “theology of the body,” and the idea of young adult retreats that eventually became World Youth Days. However, underlying all of these developments was his basic pastoral approach to campus ministry. Fr. Wojtyla made the conscious decision to approach his pastoral assignment through what his biographer George Weigel calls “the ministry of accompaniment.” The young priest would “accompany” the university students placed in his charge as they journeyed from childhood into the world of adults.221

This basic pastoral stance is not without its dangers. Many older adults think the way to relate to the younger generation is to become like them. This runs the double danger of insincerity and foolishness. Fr. Wojtyla’s accompaniment was different. While he did truly share his life with the students, even vacationing with them so that he could further instruct and serve them, he never attempted to become like them. Rather, he modeled the life of a fully formed Christ-centered adult so well that he made his students want to be like him. Weigel records that one of his former students, Stanislaw Rybicki, understood this well when he stated: “Today, many priests try to be like the kids. We were trying to be like him.”222

What made Fr. Wojtyla’s accompaniment different was that he was not just “hanging out” with the students through some vague “ministry of presence.” Rather his accompaniment was grounded in a thorough, total embrace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His accompaniment was absolutely Christocentric. As one of his students wrote in a pseudonymously signed article in the underground press of the time, Wojtyla taught them “to look at all things in the spirit of the Gospel.”223

George Weigel’s massive biography had not been published when I began working in campus ministry in the early 1990s. However, enough of Pope John Paul II’s life and writings were published for me to glean the essence of his pastoral approach. I attempted to focus the entirety of the campus ministries that I had the privilege to serve on “Christocentric accompaniment”—to accompany the students as they made the journey to adulthood and help them focus on the person and teaching of Jesus Christ so that they may begin “to look at all things in the spirit of the Gospel.”

In post-war Communist Poland there were great pressures brought to bear upon the young adults to abandon the faith. If loyalty to the Church could not be eradicated from the young, the authorities at least wanted to isolate Church activities from the rest of society. In particular, they wanted the young to separate their faith from the rest of their lives. Weigel writes, “In Poland as elsewhere, communism deliberately fostered the fragmentation of society and the atomization of its members, the better to maintain political control and the easier to form ‘new socialist man.’”224

While the powers that be in the United States have no such official policy, the social and political forces of today have a similar effect on young (and not so young) adults. The affluence in our society tends towards atomization, and various societal pressures tend toward asking of us, either explicitly or implicitly, a separation of faith from life. Catholics and Catholic university campuses are not immune from the temptation to compartmentalize our lives. Faith and the commitment to Christ can be seen as something to be limited to the one or two theology courses that are required of most students. Often these courses, attempting to cover everything and present all theological viewpoints, leave the students even more bewildered and lacking any core understanding of the purpose and meaning of Christ and His Church. Fortunately, many universities (like Mount St. Mary’s where I currently serve) are recognizing this problem and attempting to address the need to integrate faith and life in every aspect of the curriculum and campus life. However, this can only be done if campus ministry is providing the necessary atmosphere and opportunity for students to integrate their lives through prayer, study, and the sacramental life of the Church.

To be authentically Christocentric, the priests, religious, and laity who serve in campus ministry must be people who “think with the mind of the Church” (sentire cum ecclesia). All too often people are drawn (or worse, get assigned) to campus ministry who are dissenters or who struggle with fidelity to the Church’s sacramental practices. Perhaps people believe that the best place for such ministers is on a college campus where new and creative ideas are all the rage. In fact, the last place that any such people should be is anywhere near campus ministry. College-age students are at an incredibly important and vulnerable time in their faith development. During the ages 18-25 (or perhaps better in our age 18-30), young people must make adult decisions about the faith moving from the inherited faith of childhood toward a “fully owned” adult faith commitment. Hopefully, they will discern their vocation during this period. In addition, they will more than likely form the most important adult relationships of their lives (including meeting and perhaps marrying their spouse). Partly because of our dismal record in catechizing the young, partly because of the nature of this vulnerable time of life, young adults need a “meat and potatoes” approach to campus ministry. They do not need dissent and disobedience.

When I first started campus ministry, I took the Oath of Fidelity required of new pastors. I did this publicly, in front of a congregation of many of my students including most of the student leaders. I told them that they deserved in justice from their campus ministers two things: (1) the teaching and preaching of the Gospel whole and entire in accordance with the authentic teaching of the Magisterium of the Church and (2) the joyful celebration of the sacraments of the Church in accordance with the Church’s liturgical rubrics and norms.

All campus ministers and ministries should provide the same. It is a basic starting point for effective ministry and models for the students a Christ-like fidelity and obedience. The students will have their faith challenged in plenty of settings and situations; they will hear dissent from many quarters. They do not need to experience it from their campus ministry. In addition, making it clear that the students can expect to hear what the Church teaches and to experience what the sacred liturgy is meant to be, creates a much-needed attitude of peace and serenity in campus ministry amidst what can often be the whirlwind of college life. For too long, generations of college students have had to endure the “fluffiest” of teaching (often at odds with the Magisterium) and the lunacy of the latest fads at Mass. Campus ministers of all types have unjustly imposed their own ideas of “innovation” onto an unsuspecting and unprepared college community. Clown masses, “liturgical dancing,” black lights and gimmicks of all sorts have been forced upon students. The students usually vote with their feet. They do not want, and certainly do not need, at this point of their lives, such novelties. They are looking for some stability, real answers, authentic prayer, and deep spirituality in campus ministry. The gospel provides the kind of answers for which they seek; the liturgy, celebrated as the Church intends it, provides the “living space” for them to come into authentic contact with the Living Lord. Justice demands of the Church’s ministers that we provide it.

Campus ministry must also be a “school of prayer.” Campus ministers need to have a profound prayer life of depth and substance. Of course, all are called to such prayer, but in particular campus ministers will need such a spiritual life because of the demands of their vocation. Long hours, stressful days, constant demands, an almost infinite need for their help and guidance from their students means that campus ministers must be well-grounded in the Lord or they will quickly “burn out” or self-destruct.

But in addition to their personal need for prayer, campus ministers must be a model of prayerfulness for their people. Mark Twain used to joke that politics is all about sincerity—if you can fake that, you’ve got it made! Well campus ministry is all about sincerity, and you cannot fake this sincerity. The young, especially the young of the Millennial Generation now in college, can spot a phony at one hundred paces. Many of them and/or their friends have been lied to and betrayed at every turn. They are skeptical of those in authority because they have let them down so often. They long, they search for people who are authentic—people who live what they proclaim.

Campus ministry (and each campus minister) must, as much as possible, radiate Jesus Christ in word and sacrament in everything that it does. This is what Pope John Paul II called for in Veritatis Splendor when he spoke of the sequela Christi—the following of Christ—in all things. This is the central teaching of one of the finest theologians of the last century, Hans Urs von Balthasar (made a Cardinal by John Paul II), when he wrote, “For this reason, lest everything in the Church become superficial and insipid, the true, undiminished program for the Church today must read; the greatest possible radiance in the world by virtue of the closest possible following of Christ.”225 By radiating Christ in all things, campus ministry will give witness to the beauty, truth, goodness, and unity possible in, with, and through Christ and His Church. It will allow the students to flourish in their journey to full adult membership in the Church.

Adult faith formation

During the college years, most people make an adult decision about their faith life. Studies have shown that if Catholics practice the faith during their college years, they will almost always remain an active member of the Church. Conversely, all too many of the fallen-away Catholics began their rebellion during their college years. This is why there must be many programs and opportunities on our campuses for adult faith formation. Bible studies, prayer groups, small group experiences, classes, reading groups, question and answer sessions, individual counseling and spiritual direction, Catholic societies, and professional groups are just some of the ministries that will be needed. Hopefully, campus ministry is supported by a vibrant academic community which is dedicated to helping students integrate faith and life. Of course, an excellent and faithful theology department is essential to this task. One very central moment in adult faith formation is the Sunday liturgy where the homily should be a model of solid, practical, enlightening proclamation of the beauty and grandeur of the gospel.

Vocational discernment

The idea of vocation should be an essential unifying theme for campus ministry. As a young campus minister, Fr. Wojtyla taught his students to view life vocationally. Weigel reports that “he once told Danuta Rybicka, whether one lived in a convent, in marriage, or as a single person in the world, ‘You have to live for a concrete purpose.’”226

Not only did Fr. Wojtyla counsel this in personal encounters, but as Supreme Pontiff he made this concept the focal point of his first letter to the youth of the world before the very first World Youth Day. In this letter he used the story of the Rich Young Man’s encounter with Jesus in the gospel (Mk 10:17-22, Mt 19:16-22, Lk 18:18-23):

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Mk. 10:17-22)

This well-known story was used by John Paul II to illustrate some central teachings of the Second Vatican Council on vocation.

The story is filled with pathos. Obviously, the rich young man is drawn to Jesus. He sees something in him that touches him and makes him believe that perhaps Jesus can answer his questions. He is willing to abandon his social status by running after this poor homeless, rabbi and kneeling in front of him. He asks Jesus a great question, “What must I do to inherit everlasting life?” How like the young to have such wonderful questions!

Jesus tells him that he already knows the answer: keep the commandments. As John Paul II points out, what Jesus has said to the young man is that he is called, as we all are, to be holy—to be a saint. This is what the Second Vatican Council called “the universal call to holiness.” All are called to sanctity. Campus ministry must help instill in young people a genuine “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Mt 5:6).

But the story does not end there. The young man has been trying to live the commandments, to live a holy life, but he knows there is something more. “What more must I do?” Jesus, looking at him with love, tells him he must sell everything, give it to the poor, and then come and follow him. This young man was called to be a radical disciple, like the apostles were, following Jesus wherever he went.

Not everyone is called to such a witness to Jesus. But this man was. This was this young man’s particular vocation, his unique calling. He refuses and thus “goes away sad.” Campus ministry must help students have an authentic encounter with the Lord. They should help and guide students as they struggle to live lives of holiness. They should provide the time and space convenient for student’s schedules to frequent the sacraments (especially mass and confession). Campus ministry should challenge students to ask what it is that God is calling them to do and be. Abiding joy comes from following Jesus by doing the will of the Father. Campus ministers should help students discern their particular call so that no one will “go away sad” because they missed or refused God’s invitation to greatness.

Forming adult friendships

The college years provide a wonderful opportunity to begin the most significant adult relationships in one’s life. Campus ministry should aid students by providing the type of atmosphere where healthy and holy friendships can be formed and deepened. Social events, support groups, peer ministry, retreats, service opportunities, etc. all provide the kind of place and space where Christ-centered friendship can flourish.

Some of these friendships might develop into dating relationships. Campus ministers should encourage young men and women to view dating as discernment. Numerous classes and discussions on the Church’s teaching on sex and sexuality ought to be offered. Peer ministry in these areas can be helpful as can presentations focusing on the theology of the body. In their heart of hearts, most young Catholics want to be chaste and to discover who, if anyone, they are called to marry. Campus ministers should strive to help create the kind of atmosphere where it is easy to be good and normal (even “cool”) to be chaste.

A healthy campus ministry will also be heavily involved with preparing couples to marry. In many ways, the college campus is a privileged place for such preparation. This will entail coordinating many people to aid in the preparation, not the least of which is several couples who are certified teachers of Natural Family Planning (NFP).

In all these aspects of campus ministry, the goal of the campus minister is to meet the students wherever they are at in their journey with Christ and to accompany them as they move closer to the Lord. Notice that Pope John Paul II started with music. The young wanted to sing popular Christmas carols. That is where he met them. But he did not leave them there. He took them deeper. He introduced them to Gregorian Chant. But what is more, he began from this music ministry to form, holistically, these young men and women into the Christian disciples they were called to be.

The minister often acts as a guide and companion along the way. Sometimes the minister is more akin to a parental figure; sometimes more an aunt or uncle; friend or sibling. But the goal is always a Christ-centered journey by a Christ-centered community.

John Paul II in the end of his “Letter to the Youth of the World” holds up Mary for our contemplation as a model of this type of young adult ministry. He writes,

we have before our eyes the image of Mary, who accompanies Christ at the beginning of His mission among men. This is the Mary of Cana of Galilee, who intercedes for the young people, for the newly-married couple when at the marriage feast the wine for the guests runs out. Then Christ’s Mother says these words to those serving at the feast: “Do whatever he tells you.” He, the Christ.  I repeat these words of the Mother of God and I address them to you, to each one of you young people: “Do whatever Christ tells you.”

Mary accompanies the Church as we travel to our heavenly Cana. She intercedes and protects, guides and acts as a model of faithfulness. May all of us entrusted with the apostolate of campus ministry imitate her as she imitated her Son and Our Lord.

Monsignor Stuart W. Swetland, S.T.D., is vice president for Catholic identity and holds the ArchBishop Harry J. Flynn Endowed Chair for Christian Ethics at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He served for more than a decade as director of Newman Centers at Bradley University and University of Illinois.


Address to Catholic Educators at The Catholic University of America

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

April 17, 2008

Your Eminences,
Dear Brother Bishops,
Distinguished Professors, Teachers and Educators,

“How beautiful are the footsteps of those who bring good news” (Rom 10:15-17). With these words of Isaiah quoted by Saint Paul, I warmly greet each of you—bearers of wisdom—and through you the staff, students, and families of the many and varied institutions of learning that you represent. It is my great pleasure to meet you and to share with you some thoughts regarding the nature and identity of Catholic education today. I especially wish to thank Father David O’Connell, President and Rector of the Catholic University of America. Your kind words of welcome are much appreciated. Please extend my heartfelt gratitude to the entire community—faculty, staff, and students—of this University.

Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord’s disciples, the Church.

The dynamic between personal encounter, knowledge, and Christian witness is integral to the diakonia of truth which the Church exercises in the midst of humanity. God’s revelation offers every generation the opportunity to discover the ultimate truth about its own life and the goal of history. This task is never easy; it involves the entire Christian community and motivates each generation of Christian educators to ensure that the power of God’s truth permeates every dimension of the institutions they serve. In this way, Christ’s Good News is set to work, guiding both teacher and student towards the objective truth which, in transcending the particular and the subjective, points to the universal and absolute that enables us to proclaim with confidence the hope which does not disappoint (cf. Rom 5:5). Set against personal struggles, moral confusion, and fragmentation of knowledge, the noble goals of scholarship and education, founded on the unity of truth and in service of the person and the community, become an especially powerful instrument of hope.

Dear friends, the history of this nation includes many examples of the Church’s commitment in this regard. The Catholic community here has in fact made education one of its highest priorities. This undertaking has not come without great sacrifice. Towering figures, like Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and other founders and foundresses, with great tenacity and foresight, laid the foundations of what is today a remarkable network of parochial schools contributing to the spiritual well-being of the Church and the nation. Some, like Saint Katharine Drexel, devoted their lives to educating those whom others had neglected—in her case, African Americans and Native Americans. Countless dedicated Religious Sisters, Brothers, and Priests together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society.

This sacrifice continues today. It is an outstanding apostolate of hope, seeking to address the material, intellectual, and spiritual needs of over three million children and students. It also provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done, in cooperation with the wider community, to ensure that they are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.

Some today question the Church’s involvement in education, wondering whether her resources might be better placed elsewhere. Certainly in a nation such as this, the State provides ample opportunities for education and attracts committed and generous men and women to this honorable profession. It is timely, then, to reflect on what is particular to our Catholic institutions. How do they contribute to the good of society through the Church’s primary mission of evangelization?

All the Church’s activities stem from her awareness that she is the bearer of a message which has its origin in God himself: in his goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal himself and to make known the hidden purpose of his will (cf. Eph 1:9; Dei Verbum, 2). God’s desire to make himself known, and the innate desire of all human beings to know the truth, provide the context for human inquiry into the meaning of life. This unique encounter is sustained within our Christian community: the one who seeks the truth becomes the one who lives by faith (cf. Fides et Ratio, 31). It can be described as a move from “I” to “we,” leading the individual to be numbered among God’s people.

This same dynamic of communal identity—to whom do I belong?—vivifies the ethos of our Catholic institutions. A university or school’s Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students. It is a question of conviction—do we really believe that only in the mystery of the Word made flesh does the mystery of man truly become clear (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22)? Are we ready to commit our entire self—intellect and will, mind and heart—to God? Do we accept the truth Christ reveals? 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? Only in this way do we really bear witness to the meaning of who we are and what we uphold.

From this perspective one can recognize that the contemporary “crisis of truth” is rooted in a “crisis of faith”. Only through faith can we freely give our assent to God’s testimony and acknowledge him as the transcendent guarantor of the truth he reveals. Again, we see why fostering personal intimacy with Jesus Christ and communal witness to his loving truth is indispensable in Catholic institutions of learning. Yet we all know, and observe with concern, the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God. It is a complex phenomenon and one which I ponder continually. While we have sought diligently to engage the intellect of our young, perhaps we have neglected the will. Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in—a participation in Being itself. Hence authentic freedom can never be attained by turning away from God. Such a choice would ultimately disregard the very truth we need in order to understand ourselves. A particular responsibility therefore for each of you, and your colleagues, is to evoke among the young the desire for the act of faith, encouraging them to commit themselves to the ecclesial life that follows from this belief. It is here that freedom reaches the certainty of truth. In choosing to live by that truth, we embrace the fullness of the life of faith which is given to us in the Church.

Clearly, then, Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom (cf. Spe Salvi, 23). In this way our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society. They become places in which God’s active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ’s “being for others” (cf. ibid., 28).

The Church’s primary mission of evangelization, in which educational institutions play a crucial role, is consonant with a nation’s fundamental aspiration to develop a society truly worthy of the human person’s dignity. At times, however, the value of the Church’s contribution to the public forum is questioned. It is important therefore to recall that the truths of faith and of reason never contradict one another (cf. First Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith Dei Filius, IV: DS 3017; St. Augustine, Contra Academicos, III, 20, 43). The Church’s mission, in fact, involves her in humanity’s struggle to arrive at truth. In articulating revealed truth she serves all members of society by purifying reason, ensuring that it remains open to the consideration of ultimate truths. Drawing upon divine wisdom, she sheds light on the foundation of human morality and ethics, and reminds all groups in society that it is not praxis that creates truth but truth that should serve as the basis of praxis. Far from undermining the tolerance of legitimate diversity, such a contribution illuminates the very truth which makes consensus attainable, and helps to keep public debate rational, honest, and accountable. Similarly the Church never tires of upholding the essential moral categories of right and wrong, without which hope could only wither, giving way to cold pragmatic calculations of utility which render the person little more than a pawn on some ideological chess-board.

With regard to the educational forum, the diakonia of truth takes on a heightened significance in societies where secularist ideology drives a wedge between truth and faith. This division has led to a tendency to equate truth with knowledge and to adopt a positivistic mentality which, in rejecting metaphysics, denies the foundations of faith and rejects the need for a moral vision. Truth means more than knowledge: knowing the truth leads us to discover the good. Truth speaks to the individual in his or her entirety, inviting us to respond with our whole being. This optimistic vision is found in our Christian faith because such faith has been granted the vision of the Logos, God’s creative Reason, which in the Incarnation, is revealed as Goodness itself. Far from being just a communication of factual data—“informative”—the loving truth of the Gospel is creative and life-changing—“performative” (cf. Spe Salvi, 2). With confidence, Christian educators can liberate the young from the limits of positivism and awaken receptivity to the truth, to God and his goodness. In this way you will also help to form their conscience which, enriched by faith, opens a sure path to inner peace and to respect for others.

It comes as no surprise, then, that not just our own ecclesial communities but society in general has high expectations of Catholic educators. This places upon you a responsibility and offers an opportunity. More and more people—parents in particular—recognize the need for excellence in the human formation of their children. As Mater et Magistra, the Church shares their concern. When nothing beyond the individual is recognized as definitive, the ultimate criterion of judgment becomes the self and the satisfaction of the individual’s immediate wishes. The objectivity and perspective, which can only come through a recognition of the essential transcendent dimension of the human person, can be lost. Within such a relativistic horizon the goals of education are inevitably curtailed. Slowly, a lowering of standards occurs. We observe today a timidity in the face of the category of the good and an aimless pursuit of novelty parading as the realization of freedom. We witness an assumption that every experience is of equal worth and a reluctance to admit imperfection and mistakes. And particularly disturbing, is the reduction of the precious and delicate area of education in sexuality to management of “risk,” bereft of any reference to the beauty of conjugal love.

How might Christian educators respond? These harmful developments point to the particular urgency of what we might call “intellectual charity.” This aspect of charity calls the educator to recognize that the profound responsibility to lead the young to truth is nothing less than an act of love. Indeed, the dignity of education lies in fostering the true perfection and happiness of those to be educated. In practice “intellectual charity” upholds the essential unity of knowledge against the fragmentation which ensues when reason is detached from the pursuit of truth. It guides the young towards the deep satisfaction of exercising freedom in relation to truth, and it strives to articulate the relationship between faith and all aspects of family and civic life. Once their passion for the fullness and unity of truth has been awakened, young people will surely relish the discovery that the question of what they can know opens up the vast adventure of what they ought to do. Here they will experience “in what” and “in whom” it is possible to hope, and be inspired to contribute to society in a way that engenders hope in others.

Dear friends, I wish to conclude by focusing our attention specifically on the paramount importance of your own professionalism and witness within our Catholic universities and schools. First, let me thank you for your dedication and generosity. I know from my own days as a professor, and I have heard from your Bishops and officials of the Congregation for Catholic Education, that the reputation of Catholic institutes of learning in this country is largely due to yourselves and your predecessors. Your selfless contributions—from outstanding research to the dedication of those working in inner-city schools—serve both your country and the Church. For this I express my profound gratitude.

In regard to faculty members at Catholic colleges and universities, I wish to reaffirm the great value of academic freedom. In virtue of this freedom you are called to search for the truth wherever careful analysis of evidence leads you. Yet it is also the case that any appeal to the principle of academic freedom in order to justify positions that contradict the faith and the teaching of the Church would obstruct or even betray the university’s identity and mission; a mission at the heart of the Church’s munus docendi and not somehow autonomous or independent of it.

Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church’s Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution’s life, both inside and outside the classroom. Divergence from this vision weakens Catholic identity and, far from advancing freedom, inevitably leads to confusion, whether moral, intellectual, or spiritual.

I wish also to express a particular word of encouragement to both lay and Religious teachers of catechesis who strive to ensure that young people become daily more appreciative of the gift of faith. Religious education is a challenging apostolate, yet there are many signs of a desire among young people to learn about the faith and practice it with vigor. If this awakening is to grow, teachers require a clear and precise understanding of the specific nature and role of Catholic education. They must also be ready to lead the commitment made by the entire school community to assist our young people, and their families, to experience the harmony between faith, life, and culture.

Here I wish to make a special appeal to Religious Brothers, Sisters, and Priests: do not abandon the school apostolate; indeed, renew your commitment to schools especially those in poorer areas. In places where there are many hollow promises which lure young people away from the path of truth and genuine freedom, the consecrated person’s witness to the evangelical counsels is an irreplaceable gift. I encourage the Religious present to bring renewed enthusiasm to the promotion of vocations. Know that your witness to the ideal of consecration and mission among the young is a source of great inspiration in faith for them and their families.

To all of you I say: bear witness to hope. Nourish your witness with prayer. Account for the hope that characterizes your lives (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) by living the truth which you propose to your students. Help them to know and love the One you have encountered, whose truth and goodness you have experienced with joy. With Saint Augustine, let us say: “we who speak and you who listen acknowledge ourselves as fellow disciples of a single teacher” (Sermons, 23:2). With these sentiments of communion, I gladly impart to you, your colleagues and students, and to your families, my Apostolic Blessing.




  1. International Federation of Catholic Universities, Land O’Lakes Statement: The Nature of the Contemporary Catholic University,” article 1 in Alice Gallin, O.S.U., ed., American Catholic Higher Education: Essential Documents 1967-1990 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992), p. 7.
  2. Pope John Paul II, apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae, August 15, 1990 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1990).
  3. Delegates of the Second Congress of Catholic Universities of the World, “The Catholic University in the Modern World” in NCEA College Bulletin 35 (1973), pp. 1-10.
  4. Pope John Paul II, The Code of Canon Law: Latin-English Edition (Washington: The Canon Law Society of America, 1983).
  5. Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Catholic Educators at The Catholic University of America,” April 17, 2008. He cites his encyclical Spe Salvi, November 30, 2007 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2007).
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. D. W. Brogan, USA: An Outline of the Country, Its People and Institutions (London, 1941), p.65, in John Tracy Ellis, “American Catholics and the Intellectual Life,” Thought 30 (1955), p.353 (hereinafter referred to as “Ellis”).
  9. Ellis, p.353.
  10. Ibid., p.354.
  11. Ibid., p.353.
  12. See: C. Joseph Nuesse, The Catholic University of America: A Centennial History (Washington: CUA Press, 1990); see also: Margaret Mary Reher, “The Catholic University and Americanism: 1880-1900” in Margaret Mary Reher, Catholic Intellectual Life in America: A History of Persons and Movements (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, Inc., 1989).
  13. George Bull, “The Function of the Catholic Graduate School,” Thought 13 (1938), p. 378.
  14. Andrew M. Greeley, From Backwater to Mainstream: A Profile of Catholic Higher Education, Carnegie Commission Studies (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969), p.11.
  15. Pope John XXIII, apostolic constitution Humanae SalutisDecember 25, 1961, in Walter M. Abbott, S.J., gen. ed., The Documents of Vatican II (New York: Guild Press, 1966), p. 703 (hereinafter referred to as “Abbott”).
  16. Pope John XXIII, “Opening Speech to the Council, October 11, 1962, in Abbott, p.713.
  17. Pope Pius XI, apostolic constitution Deus Scientiarum DominusMay 24, 1931, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS) 23 (1931), p.245.
  18. G. Emmet Carter, “Education” in Abbott, p.634.
  19. Vatican Council II, Declaration on Christian EducationGravissimum educationis (October 28, 1965), 11, in Abbott, p.648.
  20. International Federation of Catholic Universities, “Land O’Lakes Statement: The Nature of a Catholic University,” article 1 in Alice Gallin, O.S.U., ed., American Catholic Higher Education: Essential Documents 1967-1990 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992), p.7.
  21. Pope Paul VI, encyclical Humanae Vitae, July 25, 1968 (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1968).
  22. Delegates of the Second Congress of Catholic Universities of the World, “The Catholic University in the Modern World” in NCEA College Bulletin 35 (1973), pp.1-10.
  23. Pope John Paul II, apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae, August 15, 1990 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1990).
  24. Cardinal Gabriel Marie Garrone, “Litterae S. Cong. Pro Institutione Catholica Ad Rectores Universitatum Cath. Et Directores Institutionum Universit. Cath.,” April 25, 1973 in Periodica 62 (1973), pp. 659-661.
  25. Pope John Paul II, The Code of Canon Law: Latin-English Edition (Washington: The Canon Law Society of America, 1983).
  26. Pope John Paul II, apostolic constitution Sapientia Christiana, April 15, 1979 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979).
  27. Pope John Paul II,  Ex corde Ecclesiae, 13.
  28. Ibid., 27.
  29. Ibid., 8.
  30. Ibid., 28: “Bishops have a particular responsibility… to promote and assist in the preservation and strengthening of their Catholic identity… Even when they do not enter directly into the internal governance of the university, Bishops should not be seen as external agents but as participants in the life of the Catholic university.”
  31. Alice Gallin, O.S.U., ed., American Catholic Higher Education: Essential Documents, 1967-1990 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992), p. 190.
  32. Canon 455.2: The general degrees mentioned in paragraph 1 can be validly passed in a plenary session only if two-thirds of the members of the conference having a deliberate vote approve them; such decrees do not have binding force, unless they have been legitimately promulgated, after having been reviewed by the Apostolic See.
  33. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae for the United States (Washington: United States Catholic Conference, 2000).
  34. Pope John Paul II, Ex corde Ecclesiae, General Norms, 2.
  35. Ibid., 11.
  36. Ibid., 8.
  37. Ibid., 18.
  38. John Paul II, encyclical Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1998), 28.
  39. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “To Rev. Fr. David M. O’Connell, C.M.,” Prot. No. 66/01-12262.
  40. Pope Benedict XVI, “Address at the Inauguration of the Academic Year at Sacred Heart University,” November 25, 2005.
  41. Ibid.
  42. Pope Benedict XVI, “Angelus Message,” January 20, 2008.
  43. International Federation of Catholic Universities, “Land O’Lakes Statement: The Nature of a Catholic University,” article 1 in Alice Gallin, O.S.U., ed., American Catholic Higher Education: Essential Documents 1967-1990 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1992), pp.7-12, hereinafter referred to as “Land O’Lakes.”
  44. George A. Kelly, “The Battle for the Catholic Campus,” The Catholic World Report (January 1995).
  45. International Federation of Catholic Universities, “Land O’Lakes,” p.10.
  46. Ibid., p.8.
  47. Ibid., p.10.
  48. Pope John Paul II, apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae, August 15, 1990 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1990).
  49. Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Catholic Educators at The Catholic University of America,” April 17, 2008.
  50. Pope John Paul II, Ex corde Ecclesiae, 1.
  51. Ibid., 2.
  52. Ibid., 4.
  53. Ibid., 7.
  54. Pope Paul VI, “Allocution to Representatives of States,” October 4, 1965: Insegnamenti di Paolo VI, Vol. III (1965), p.508.
  55. Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Catholic Educators.”
  56. Ibid.
  57. John Henry Cardinal Newman, The Idea of a University (London: Longmans Green & Co., 1907).
  58. Ibid., p.42.
  59. Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Catholic Educators.”
  60. Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (New York: Macmillan & Company, 1883), p.xi.
  61. Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Catholic Educators.”
  62. Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty” in Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (London: Humphrey Milford, 1918).
  63. Newman, p.164.
  64. Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Catholic Educators.”
  65. Ibid.
  66. Ibid.
  67. Ibid.
  68. Ibid.
  69. Newman, p.125.
  70. Ibid., p.189.
  71. Ibid., p.187.
  72. Ibid., p.187.
  73. Ibid., p.187-188.
  74. Pope John Paul II, Ex corde Ecclesiae, 4.
  75. Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Catholic Educators.”
  76. Newman, p.20.
  77. Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Catholic Educators.”
  78. Ibid.
  79. “The entire mission of the Church, then, is concentrated and manifested in evangelization. Through the winding passages of history the Church has made her way under the grace and the command of Jesus Christ: ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.’” Pope John Paul II, apostolic exhortation Christifideles laici, December 30, 1988 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1988), 33.
  80. “Beloved brothers and sisters, my encouragement and my trust go with you in your weighty daily task that becomes ever more important, more urgent and necessary on behalf of evangelization for the future of culture and of all cultures.” Pope John Paul II, apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae, August 15, 1990 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1990), 49.
  81. Ibid., 49.
  82. Ibid., 48. Pope John Paul II refers to the foundational document by Pope Paul VI, apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, December 8, 1975 ( Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1975), 18-19.
  83. Pope Paul VI, pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes, December 7, 1965 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965), 43.
  84. Pope John Paul II, “Address to the Conference Studying the Implementation of the Second Vatican Council,” February 27, 2000.
  85. Pope John Paul II, apostolic letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, January 6, 2001 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001), 57.
  86. Pope John Paul II, encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, May 18, 1986 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1986), 26.
  87. Ibid., 29.
  88. Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 57.
  89. Ibid., 57.
  90. Pope John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 14.
  91. Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 57.
  92. Ibid., 58.
  93. Pope John Paul II, Ex corde Ecclesiae, 11.
  94. Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 58.
  95. Pope Paul VI, dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium, November 21, 1964 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1964).
  96. Ibid., 9.
  97. Ibid., 1.
  98. Ibid., 8.
  99. Ibid., 8.
  100. Ibid., 17.
  101. Pope John Paul II, Ex corde Ecclesiae, 48.
  102. Pope Paul VI, Lumen Gentium, 33.
  103. Ibid., 33.
  104. Ibid., 36.
  105. Pope John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 14.
  106. Pope John Paul II, encyclical Redemptor hominis, March 4, 1979 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979).
  107. Pope Paul VI, decree Ad Gentes, December 7, 1965 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965), 8.
  108. Ibid., 9.
  109. Ibid., 6.
  110. Pope John Paul II, encyclical Redemptoris missio, December 7, 1990 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1990), 37.
  111. Pope Paul VI, decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, December 18, 1965 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965), 7, 11-14.
  112. Ibid., 1.
  113. Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et spes, 36.
  114. Ibid., 36.
  115. Pope Paul VI, Ad gentes, 11. See also Pope Paul VI, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 7.
  116. Ibid., 21.
  117. Pope John Paul II, post-synodal apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in America, January 22, 1999 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1999), 44.
  118. Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et spes, 43.
  119. Ibid., 43.
  120. Pope John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 59; see also Pope Paul VI, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 29.
  121. Pope Paul VI, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 29.
  122. Pope Paul VI, dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum, November 18, 1965 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965), 10.
  123. Ibid., 22.
  124. Pope Paul VI, decree Presbyterorum ordinis, December 7, 1965 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965), 4.
  125. Pope Paul VI, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 4.
  126. Ibid., 29.
  127. Pope John Paul II, encyclical Fides et Ratio, October 15, 1998 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1998), introduction.
  128. Ibid., 17.
  129. Ibid., 48.
  130. Pope Paul VI, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 29.
  131. Ibid., 31.
  132. Pope John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 61.
  133. Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et spes, 73.
  134. Pope Paul VI, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 3.
  135. Jean-Baptiste Chautard, The Soul of the Apostolate (Trappist, KY: Abbey of Gethsemani, 1946), 184.
  136. Ibid., 185.
  137. Ibid., 186.
  138. Pope Paul VI, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 4.
  139. Pope Paul VI, constitution Sacrosanctum concilium, December 4, 1963 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1998), 10.
  140. Pope John Paul II, encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia, April 17, 2003 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2003), 8.
  141. Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et spes, 36.
  142. Gerald Vann, O.P., The Divine Pity: A Study in the Social Implications of the Gospel (London: Fontana Books, 1956), p.118.
  143. Pope Paul VI, declaration Gravissimum Educationis, October 28, 1965 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965), introduction.
  144. Ibid., introduction.
  145. Ibid., 1.
  146. Ibid., 1.
  147. Ibid., 2.
  148. Ibid., 3.
  149. Ibid., 8.
  150. Ibid., 6.
  151. Ibid., 10.
  152. Ibid., 10.
  153. See Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et spes, 36.
  154. Pope Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis, 10.
  155. Pope John Paul II, Fides et ratio, 43, 78.
  156. Pope Paul VI, apostolic letter Lumen Ecclesiae, November 20, 1974 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1974), 20.
  157. Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Catholic Educators.”
  158. Pope Paul VI, Ad Gentes, 15.
  159. Pope John Paul II, Fides et ratio, 6.
  160. See my article, “Aquinas, Thomism, and a ‘Philosophy Consonant with the Word of God,’” Seminary Journal 11, no. 1 (2005): 47-55.
  161. “This intellectual structure was, to be sure, not only very highly differentiated; it was also fearfully imperiled and fragile. But this particular moment has continued to live in the memory of Western Christen­dom as something exemplary, a paradigm and model, a standard which ‘really ought’ to be met. [We] still actually respond to the coercion of that guiding principle which was formulated by Thomas. Thus we simply cannot succeed in living, without uneasiness, in terms of a world­liness wholly divorced from all supramundane calls. It is likewise impossible for us to live, without uneasiness, in terms of a ‘religionistic’ religiousness wholly divorced from all obligations toward the world.” Josef Pieper, Guide to Thomas Aquinas (Munich: Kosel-Verlag, 1986), chapters 10 and 11. See also Christopher Dawson, The Historic Reality of Christian Culture (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961) and The Crisis of Western Education (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1961).
  162. Pope Paul VI, Gaudium et spes, 56-62.
  163. Ibid., 58; cf. passages cited above from Lumen Gentium and Ad Gentes.
  164. Pope John Paul II, Ex corde Ecclesiae, 22.
  165. Pope Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis, 8.
  166. Melanie M. Morey and John J. Piderit, Catholic Higher Education: A Culture in Crisis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 103-105; see review by Rev. McDermott in Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, Summer 2008, pp. 59-61.
  167. Pope Benedict XVI, “Address to Catholic Educators at The Catholic University of America,” April 17, 2008.
  168. For Pope Benedict XVI’s views on the duty of Christians to make their views heard on political and civil issues, see his “Address to the Roman Curia,” December 22, 2008.
  169. See Benedict XVI, Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions (San Francisco CA: Ignatius Press, 2004).
  170. See Avery Dulles, S.J., “The Teaching Mission of the Church and Academic Freedom,” America 162 (1990): 397-402.
  171. See Georges Chantraine, La vraie et fausse liberté du theologie: Un essai (Paris and Brussels: Desclee, 1969).  See also Avery Dulles, S.J., “The Freedom of Theology,” First Things 183 (2008): 19-23.
  172. See Melanie M. Morey and John Piderit, Catholic Higher Education: A Culture in Crisis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); see also Alice Gallin, Negotiating Identity: Catholic Higher Education since 1960 (Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000).
  173. See Alice Gallin, Midwives to Nazism: University Professors in Weimar Germany, 1925-1933 (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1986).
  174. Karl Jaspers, The Idea of the University (Boston: Beacon Press, 1959), p. 131.
  175. This essay is revised from a lecture presented at the John Paul II Cultural Center on November 14, 2003, as part of a conference titled “The Call to Holiness and Communion: Vatican II on the Church” and sponsored by Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, Michigan.
  176. Pope Paul VI, declaration Gravissimum Educationis, October 28, 1965 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965), 10.
  177. Pope John Paul II, apostolic constitution Sapientia Christiana, April 15, 1979 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979).
  178. Pope John Paul II, apostolic constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae, August 15, 1990 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1990).
  179. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ex corde Ecclesiae: An Application to the United StatesOrigins 30 (2000), 68-75.
  180. J. A. Di Noia, “Communion and Magisterium: Teaching Authority and the Culture of Grace,” Modern Theology 9 (1993), 403-18.
  181. James T. Burtchaell, The Dying of the Light: The Disengagement of Colleges and Universities from Their Christian Churches (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), subtitle.
  182. On these themes, see also David J. O’Brien, From the Heart of the American University (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1994), and George Mardsen, The Soul of the American University (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
  183. Philip Gleason, Contending with Modernity: Catholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002); Philip Jenkins, The New Anti-Catholicism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); John T. McGreevy, Catholicism and American Freedom (New York: Norton, 2003)
  184. On American Catholic culture in the twentieth century, see Philip Gleason, Keeping the Faith (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987), and William M. Halsey, Survival of American Innocence (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1980). On the impact of Gaudium et spes, see Tracy Rowland, Culture and the Thomist Tradition (London: Routledge, 2003). For a general view of Christianity and culture, see Kathryn Tanner, Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997).
  185. Pope Paul VI, Gravissimum Educationis, 10.
  186. George A. Lindbeck, The Church in A Postliberal Age, ed. James J. Buckley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 7. See also Aidan Nichols, Christendom Awake: On Reenergizing Church and Culture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999).
  187. Pope John Paul II, Ex corde Ecclesiae, 19.
  188. Avery Dulles, The Craft of Theology (New York: Crossroad, 1992), 172.
  189. Gleason, Contending with Modernity, and D. G. Hart, The University Gets Religion: Religious Studies in American Higher Education (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1999), with extensive bibliography.
  190. See Patrick W. Carey and Earl Muller, eds., Theological Education in the Catholic Tradition: Contemporary Challenges (New York: Crossroad, 1998); Patrick Carey, “College Theology in Historical Perspective,” in Sandra Mize and William Portier, eds., American Catholic Traditions: Resources for Renewal (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1996), 242-71; Susan M. Mountin, “A Study of Undergraduate Roman Catholic Theology Education, 1952-1976,” Ph.D. diss., Marquette University, 1994; Pamela C. Young, “Theological Education in American Catholic Higher Education, 1939-1973,” Ph.D. diss., Marquette University, 1995.
  191. Frank D. Schubert, A Sociological Study of Secularization Trends in the American Catholic University (Lewiston, Maine: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990).
  192. Pope Paul VI, dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum, November 18, 1965 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965), 23-24.
  193. Pope Paul VI, dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium, November 21, 1964 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1964), 23.
  194. Pope Paul VI, decree Optatam Totius, November 28, 1965 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965), 12, 14-16.
  195. For a helpful discussion of conciliar teaching regarding theology, see Anthony J. Figueiredo, The Magisterium-Theology Relationship: Contemporary Theological Conceptions in the Light of Universal Church Teaching (Rome: Gregorian University Press, 2001), 211-37; for the historical background and setting, 167-237; for the relations between bishops and theologians in the United States, 287-342.
  196. Joseph Ratzinger, Nature and Mission of Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 66. See also K. H. Neufeld, “In the Service of the Council: Bishops and Theologians at the Second Vatican Council,” in R. Latourelle, ed., Vatican Council II: Assessments and Perspectives II (New York: Crossroad, 1988), 74-105.
  197. Michael Sharkey, International Theological Commission: Texts and Documents 1969-1985 (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989).
  198. For post-conciliar teaching on theology, see Figueiredo, 239-86.
  199. Aidan Nichols, The Shape of Theology (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1991), 13.
  200. This discussion of dissent is perhaps the most complete to be found in any official Catholic document. For the setting of this discussion, see Figueiredo, 232-3; 254-60. It could be noted here that, for a Catholic theologian, the situation of being in dissent from Catholic doctrine is essentially an anamolous one and should not be allowed to frame the treatment of the ecclesial vocation of the theologian.
  201. Ratzinger, Nature and Mission of Theology, 104-5.
  202. See Di Noia, “Communion and Magisterium.”
  203. Ratzinger, 105.
  204. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Veritatis, May 24, 1990 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1990).
  205. Ibid., 6.
  206. Ibid., 6.
  207. Ibid., 7.
  208. Joseph Ratzinger, Principles of Catholic Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 323.
  209. See J. A. Di Noia, “The Practice of Theology,” in The Blackwell Companion to Catholicism, eds. James J. Buckley, F.C. Bauerschmidt & Trent Pomplun (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishing, 2007), 237-50.
  210. Walter Kasper, Theology and Church (New York: Crossroad, 1989), 129-47.
  211. Ibid., 12.
  212. Dulles, 168.
  213. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Donum Veritatis, 12.
  214. Lindbeck, 7.
  215. Alasdair MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Theology (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990). See especially the essays by Jean Porter, Stephen P. Turner and Terry Pinkard in Mark C. Murphy, ed., Alasdair MacIntyre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
  216. See Lindbeck’s The Nature of Doctrine (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1984). For an excellent overview, see Bernhard A. Eckerstorfer, “The One Church in the Post-Modern World: Reflections on the Life and Thought of George Lindbeck,” Pro Ecclesia 13 (2004), 399.
  217. For helpful discussions of the canonical mission and the mandatum, see Figueiredo, 185-87; 253-54; 374-80.
  218. Pope Paul VI, decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, December 18, 1965 (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1965), 24.
  219. D.R. Whitt, “ ‘What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate’: The Mind of the Legislator in Ex corde Ecclesiae,” Journal of College and University Law 25 (1999), 790.
  220. George Weigel, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 1999), pp. 98-99.
  221. Ibid., p. 100.
  222. Ibid., p. 105.
  223. Ibid., p. 104.
  224. Ibid., pp 104-05.
  225. Hans Urs von Balthasar, My Work in Retrospect (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), pp. 57-58.
  226. Weigel, p. 107.
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