Georgetown, the pope would like a word with you

He addressed a timely issue during today’s remarks to American bishops:

Pope Benedict XVI called on America’s Catholic colleges and universities to reaffirm their Catholic identity by ensuring orthodoxy in theological studies and accepting the oversight of bishops.

The pope made his remarks May 5 to U.S. bishops from Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Wyoming, who were making their periodic “ad limina” visits to the Vatican.

While he acknowledged recent efforts by America’s Catholic institutions of higher education to “reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the church’s mission,” Pope Benedict said that “much remains to be done.”

The pope emphasized the need for compliance with canon law in the appointment of theology instructors, who are required to possess a “mandate” from the “competent ecclesiastical authority,” ordinarily the local bishop.

The requirement for a mandate was underscored in 1990 by Blessed John Paul II in his apostolic constitution “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” but many Catholic theology departments in the U.S. have yet to comply.

Pope Benedict said that the need for a mandate was especially clear in light of the “confusion created by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the church’s pastoral leadership.”

“Such discord harms the church’s witness and, as experience has shown, can easily be exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom,” the pope said.

U.S. bishops have clashed with the administrations of Catholic colleges and universities on a number of occasions in recent years, with some of the most prominent cases involving invited speakers who dissent from Catholic moral teaching.

Read on.

Rocco, meantime, has the complete text of Benedict’s remarks.


  1. Well it’s about time someone of authority finally shook a finger at our Liberal Catholic universities. Between this and the hammer that fell on the radical nun groups last week, I do believe someone is getting it at the Vatican. Wasn’t Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger known as God’s Rottweiler, the protector of the faith? You can’t have all this “confusion” and “dissonance” without it undermining the values and the Magisterium.

  2. lethargic says:

    If only …

  3. Shamrock says:

    When are we going to have an investigation (similar to that of America’s Women Religious )
    by the CDF of our Catholic colleges and universities. Their dissonance is all the more dangerous to the Magisterium and the Faith as they heavily influence the coming generations.

  4. Donal Mahoney says:

    Shamrock, you could not be more right about the need for a CDF investigation of Catholic colleges and universities, especially those run by the Jesuits. I can recall being proud of degrees obtained from Loyola of Chicago prior to the Vatican Council. Aquinas was the maven then. I imagine he no longer rules the way he once did at many Jesuit colleges and universities.

    Yet on the last EWTN live, the good Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J., spent an hour discussing the qualifications of some deceased priest now in the preliminary stages of possible canonization. As an inveterate viewer of the program, I cannot recall the good moderator ever taking up the subject of the cancer in Catholic higher education today. We have plenty of saints but too few good orthodox Catholic colleges and universities. They need to be investigated by the Vatican just as many orders of nuns require moderation in philosophy and behavior.

  5. Fiergenholt says:

    Couple of side bar issues here that we all need to keep in mind:

    –Many European universities — but let’s pick on the University of Tubingen in Germany as the best example — have duplicate Religious Studies Departments. Earlier in his career, Benedict XVI — then Fr. Josef Ratzinger — was on the Catholic Faculty there and at the same time, his good friend and colleague, Fr. Hans Kung, was on the more general oriented Religious Studies faculty. (Not sure I have the correct names of the actual “departments” here but you get the picture). The “Catholic Faculty” needed the contemporary equivalent of a “mandatum”; the Religious Studies faculty did not.

    –In the beginning of American higher education, all colleges and universities were religious based. All of them, including Roman Catholic ones, attracted enrollments because men (and eventually women) want to move into professional responsibilities within their churches. That profile of college enrollments started changing early in the twentieth century but sharply changed again in the late 1940′s (G.I.Bill veterans) and again in the 1960′s (“baby-boomer” students). Theology majors, where they even existed, might be as low as less than 1% of all enrolled students.

    –Thus, many years ago, American Universities, even with strong Roman Catholic roots, made the decision to move away from having Theology Departments (focusing tightly on Roman Catholic doctrinal theology — seminary preparation) into a more generic Religious Studies Departments. Part of the move was market-based — it is kind of hard to attract non-Catholic students (that very easily make up a large percentage of the college’s enrollment) with that sort of an extremely narrow doctrinal focus.

    –In the meantime, the Roman Catholic seminaries across the country went through a major transformation and more were becoming something like independent single-major colleges. Now, if you wanted to become a Roman Catholic priest, you went to an independent seminary instead of the theology departments of a college or university for your formation

    I really think that is where we are at. AND, I am willing to bet that only faculty in identified THEOLOGY departments at Roman Catholic universities are still required to have the “mandatum.” Those Roman Catholic universities who have identifiable RELIGIOUS STUDIES departments are following the same path as the European ones.

  6. Deacon Norb says:

    “F” my friend — I had totally forgotten about that European model !

    Another interesting twist is also under development. Here in the Midwest, we have a major public university that — maybe twenty years ago — moved into the Religious Studies arena. They created an administrative framework that would encourage local religious communities to sponsor and fund “Endowed Chairs.” They started with an endowed Chair of Catholic Studies and now have added both an endowed chair of Jewish Studies and an endowed chair of Islamic Studies.

    With the endowment protocol, the local religious communities of the respective traditions totally fund the professorships. The university would provide overall academic credibility, an administrative framework including course registration codes open to all students and applicable to most degree programs. The university would provide necessary office and classroom spaces, and would permit the endowed professors to be identified as connected with that public university.

    One of the key criteria was that these courses would be open to all students as an opportunity for all students to understand the rich academic traditions of the various major religious traditions with no polemics at all.

    Everything I have heard about this program has been positive. It is also my understanding that the holder of the Catholic professorship is not required by the university to have a “mandatum” from the local bishop but that all who have held that slot over the years have obtained it anyway.

  7. Obsessing over a speaker is like obsessing over the campus Burger King being open on Fridays during Lent. At this point, there really is no positive vision of Catholic education. And no, secular but better is not a positive vision. At most, you have an obsession over the social life – no coed dorms, adoration on campus, etc. Secondarily you see some people obsessing over what amounts to less than 5% of credit hours for an undergraduate. Oh yes, you do have some bishops thinking the Catholic University is helping to bring about social equality, at $20,000 per year. But delusions aside, university life stopped being about being well rounded in religion long ago, and this is little more than an attempt to put toothpaste back in the tube. If universities are going to become more Catholic, a positive vision will have to be established for doing so. We simply cannot go back to the past.

  8. I think it’s too late.

    The secular now control ‘Catholic’ colleges and canon law is mocked. You see it showing in places like the Camden dioceses where folks don’t want to toe the line any more. The nations largest nun association endorses is at odds with the Vatican on basic core beliefs.

    Progressive Catholics are now inventing a new Catholicism that ‘judges not’ and traditional mores are deemed intolerant and passe.

    I fear that the horse has already left the barn and it may be too late.

  9. Georgetown University Press is even hawking books like this.

    “In Defense of Same-Sex Marriage
    Religious Freedom, Sexual Freedom, and Public Expressions of Civic Equality”

    and hosts pro-gay marriage speakers.

    “This afternoon, Jesuit, Catholic Georgetown University is hosting a lecture by Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), according to the University events page.

    The event with HRC is dubbed “Beyond DADT Repeal: The Future of the LGBTQ Rights Movement.” The page desribes the HRC as ”America’s largest lesbian & gay advocacy organization.””

    “Notre Dame enhances support for gay and lesbian students”

  10. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    A small clarification: Hans Kung was on the Catholic faculty; in fact, he was the one who hired by nomination the young Josef Ratzinger. Kung later lost his episcopal mandatum and becaome an independent university professor as head of an ecumenical institute.

  11. Fiergenholt says:


    Thanks you. I was afraid my memory was missing a few connections here and I do appreciate the clarification

  12. @Fiergenholt, I know of several professors on Boston College’s Theology faculty who do not have the mandatum. It’s specifically a “Theology” program, not a “Religious Studies” program, and there are not two divisions for Catholic and non-Catholic professors. There’s one professor in particular who is the reason the university’s Theology Department has to remain part of the College of Arts and Sciences instead of becoming part of the School of Theology and Ministry (founded in 2008 when Weston Jesuit School of Theology was reaffiliated with Boston College) because this particular faculty member has been forbidden from being part of an ecclesiastical faculty, and the School of Theology and Ministry grants ecclesiastical degrees.

  13. pagansister says:

    Times change—and universities, and in order to attract students(who most of the time have to pay a fortune) have to change to. The college/university experience is a time when many students are for the first time more or less “on their own” as to whether they attend Mass/church on a regular basis, and some will start to question their faith, and some will become more devout and some will either reject or change their faith to what they find acceptable to them. IMO, college/university time should be a time when the students are exposed to different opinions, and ideas on many subjects, religion included, thru the speakers/professors provided by a university/college, even if it is a school run by a particular faith. Some religions tend to not want to have any different ideas presented, for fear of losing their followers.

  14. midwestlady says:

    Your remark is interesting for a lot of reasons, pagansister, chief among which is that the Catholic Church is responsible for the founding of the university system. Catholicism isn’t antithetical to real inquiry and it never has been, although sometimes people in charge have sometimes gotten a bit nervous about it. Rather, the difficulty has always been that students and professors tend not to do a good enough job of what they do, dwelling on their own concerns and details without attending to the bigger picture–and they often do it in an oppositional fashion which is not consonant with the whole truth of things.

    I’m a convert. I’m also a practicing scientist and a former chemistry teacher. Among the things that brought me to the Church were my studies in history, physics and chemistry. Who could have come up with biochemistry but God? Science is not antithetical to religion. Only people who misunderstand science on a fundamental basis think that.

  15. midwestlady says:

    Nevertheless, pagansister, if whoever is currently running Georgetown thinks they’re beyond all things Catholic, maybe they should disaffiliate themselves and go it alone. I’m serious. Parents, students and the university itself are not served by duplicity in these matters. People deserve “truth in advertising.”

  16. A number of people have converted to Catholicism, after attending Catholic Universities. And being exposed to Catholic teachings. People worked and sacrificed to build these universities. It is a sin to hand them over to secular influence. These Universities, Hospitals, and Soup Kitchens are an important part of Catholic Missions.

  17. midwestlady says:

    One other little detail. My religious awakening came at a secular university where there is a genuine diversity of inquiry. All options were on the table, thanks to the thorough-going, almost ruthless nature of inquiry there, and I was able to analyze them all, including openness to religious thought.

    I would not recommend sending a child to a “Catholic” university in the present atmosphere, not because they do or do not teach religion explicitly, but because there is such a negative overlay of force over the topic of religion at some religious universities that the openness to truth is obscured, and this is true of other denominations besides Catholicism as well.

    At the end of the day, Christianity is true on it’s own merits or it’s not. I found it compelling.

  18. Pagansist – Here’s an idea. Rather than playing interloper, maybe you and your fellow pagans should get together and build a Pagan University. Promote the values of paganism, atheism, etc.

  19. midwestlady says:

    Well, Ray, I don’t know that it would be a sin, particularly if these institutions have changed their goals and are not being upfront about what they now are, in order to avoid loss of applicants and donations.

    You know, there are a number of Catholic organizations of various types that have been engaging in this sort of institutional prevarication for a number of years now, and it needs to come to an end. The Vatican has stepped in on some of these, and the news media has confronted the Church on others. It’s a huge problem.

  20. Here’s the thing about changing your message to remain popular. The Gospel of John speaks of an encounter with the Pharisees, where Jesus said “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” And many of his disciples heard this and were disturbed by it. Did he taper his message so they wouldn’t leave? Did he sugar coat it so he would be cool and popular? No, he was prepared to let them leave. He wasn’t going to manipulate the truth, just to make others happy. So in that sense, it is a sin if our Universities and other instituations forget their number one goal should be to promote Christ’s teachings, and develop young minds, better able to serve our Lord.

  21. midwestlady says:

    The question here is why did Catholic universities find it necessary to pattern themselves after public universities when their stated goals were different? Was it merely envy of resources or grant envy or the like? Or misplaced zeal about drawing in more Catholics at a cost they thought they could sustain or?

  22. midwestlady says:

    Having been a student of philosophy of religion in a public university, I am aware that there are different perspectives from which religion can be approached. But with this Georgetown issue, we’re not talking about the content of a syllabus or the choice of reading materials for a class; rather, we’re talking about dramatic changes in the entire orientation of the university in public life.

  23. midwestlady says:

    This would be the case if Georgetown didn’t trumpet it’s so-called Catholicism as a selling point for new students and donations. This is the real issue.

    Burger King makes no pretenses about being a Catholic restaurant. It’s a bargain hamburger joint and it’s upfront about that. Period. I have no problem with that. It’s honest, anyway.

  24. midwestlady says:

    Catholic identity is the problem. It’s not about a self-assumed label. Catholic is as Catholic does. And we need to get far more discerning about that as a religious group.

  25. midwestlady says:

    The word “catholic” has not been restricted to things that are really Catholic enterprises. You know this is a problem for all large organizations. Apparently, we have made the decision not to pursue this issue, and at any rate, the time to pursue it has long ago passed. Very well then. It’s up to Catholics to discern these things and share the information about them, just like we are doing.

    NB: Being frustrated as all get out about things we cannot fix is probably not helpful. Identifying these patterns of deception and making them known, while building appropriate Catholic identity is helpful.

  26. midwestlady says:

    Except Ray, we don’t own them. A board of directors runs Georgetown, if I’m not mistaken. And they have a business model which has goals and they have a funding strategy, which are obviously contradictory. Students looking for a college need to know this so as to avoid being taken to the cleaners.

    I learned long ago to approach “Catholic” institutions with a great deal of caution. Sometimes I’ve been pleasantly surprised but not often.

  27. midwestlady says:

    Part of the problem, too, is the attitude out there that self-labeled “Catholic” institutions are good, whatever that means. [It can mean a million things to a million people.]
    So, we have:

    “Nuns are good,” therefore everything they do is good. No, they’re being corrected now.

    “Catholic hospitals are good,” therefore every procedure they engage in is good. No, some of them have engaged in abortion, so not everything they do is good.

    “Catholic universities are good,” therefore they’re all good, no matter who’s really running them now or whether they’ve gone off the rails or not. No. Obviously Georgetown is showing us that this is bogus.

  28. midwestlady says:

    What is it to be Catholic? How do we know something is really Catholic and not just pretending for the obvious benefits that can come from that?

    Can only people really be Catholic? Or people + parishes? Or people + parishes + private apostolates? Or people + parishes + private apostolates + corporate apostolates? Or people + parishes + private apostolates + corporate apostolates + corporate apostolates run by business boards of directors?

    If we say, all of the above, which is still under question: What if they defy the territorial bishop? What if they defy a definition given by the Holy See?

  29. midwestlady says:

    Now, the thing with the LCWR is that clearly, since the LCWR is an organization with pontifical approval from the Congregation for the Institutes of Religious Life in Rome, the CDF can step in and mandate that they do some things. And if they won’t, then they will have to come to terms with the consequences in terms of approval.

    On the other hand, so-called “Catholic universities,” particular in the case that they are being run by a secular board of directors, are not under such compunctions because there is no official approval in place at this time like there is for religious orders, institutes, congregations and societies. Which makes this situation a lot more difficult to manage.

    It might be the case that the local ordinary could step in, if the Jesuits retain no residual control. If the Jesuits retain any measure of control, however, they are an order of pontifical right, so the ordinary can’t touch them, and by extension, their apostolates. In which case, the Holy See could step into the Jesuits because they can do that. However, the most they could do was demand behavior as a condition of formal approval. If Georgetown goes non-canonical, there’s not a thing anyone can do to them. And I’m sure they know this. I’m also sure that foot-dragging could take years.

    One can only hope they’ll get too big for their britches and leave of their own accord.

  30. Fiergenholt says:

    MWL: Can I be a “devil’s advocate” on your posting of 11:52am ?

    –Are their “stated goals” so much different ?

    –I’m not sure “envy of resources” nor “grant envy” had anything to do with it.

    Why not consider:

    Catholic universities simply did not want to be restricted by what they believed was an over zealous and academically anemic general public who — in turn — pressured local bishops to take action of some kind — particularly in the public forum.

    Remember what I said before: doctrinal theology is best taught in seminaries. I know of a very prominent Midwest seminary which is well known locally as the “West Point of the American Church.” It’s graduates make very good bishops and very good priests. These graduates learn the business of the Church very well — like West Point graduates know the business of the military very well — but is that the real mission of a university ?

  31. I have no problem with a free exchange of ideas inside the class and lecture halls where true debate and intelectual honesty might take place. But, to invite a speaker outside of that setting that is on record as being in opposition to the Magistrrium teaching of the bishops troubles me. I would have less off problem with GU if they invited Sebelis to guest lecture and be open to a Q&A session. But to give her a platform to once again force feed the Administrations policy to restrict religious freedom and subvert the First Amendment is difficult to understand. Even if one looks at this as GU inviting a Cabinet Secretary to “teach ” on public policy it is not a great choice considering one of her policies is headed to the courts as a violation of our Constitution. Is this really a good example of how to do “good” public policy?

  32. Is Georgetown a good Catholic college? They invited a cabinet secretary, not viewed favorably by all Catholics, to speak at graduation. What else does the university do to be a good or bad Catholic university? Especially things that directly affect students? It does appear to be a good college. US News and World Report ranks Georgetown as number 22 among national universities.

  33. I’m all for diversity of speech and thought. I would be in favor of a guy like the late Christopher Hitchens giving a commencement speech. Because at least he would say – leave Catholicism to their own devices. If they don’t want to support abortion, they shouldn’t be made to. But when you have a so-called Catholic like Sibelius – pushing fascist policies, forcing Catholic Organizations to pay for abortion and contraception, not only should she not speak at a Catholic College, she should be excommunicated as well. Clearly that University is not living up to their religious calling.

  34. midwestlady says:

    Turning out clergy is not the real mission of either a Catholic college or a public college, since we have seminaries for that explicit purpose. However, flaunting the non-negotiable doctrinal statements of Rome may be acceptable for a secular university that owes nothing to the church, but it is not appropriate for a university calling itself Catholic AND receiving advantages on the basis of it’s calling itself Catholic.

    I think “envy of resources” had a lot to do with what’s happened, the first and foremost resource being prestige and the allure of being real & independent and as “good” as anyone else. Catholic colleges ache in their immigrant guts to compete with secular ones in every way. I am very familiar with Notre Dame, which values its sports program very highly for that very reason.

    Nevertheless, there is a far bigger issue here, and perhaps the answer to this problem lies within it.

    I believe that issues of Catholic identity are at the root of this problem. We long ago lost control of the word “catholic.” Just because an institution considers itself Catholic or calls itself Catholic, it may not mean much and Catholics need to realize this. The naive days when we could just assume we were on the same page by using that word–Catholic–are over.

    We need to give Georgetown the cold shoulder shrug, and go on. Putting up with heretic usurpers has been something Catholics have had to do since the very beginning of the Church, with the gnostics, and this is no different.

  35. midwestlady says:

    Maybe it’s a good secular college. And maybe they’d ought to come clean and admit that openly.

  36. A university is committed to a “search for truth”. In this search, many paths may be taken, many voices may be heard, many books and articles may be read, in that search. The “search for truth” is most definitely not synonymous with Catholic doctrine or promoting the Vatican party line. The Vatican has been wrong on many things over history. Galileo, Copernicus, slavery, etc. eventually, the Vatican did change its position on some matters. All voices are important in the search for truth. Regrettably, we see how the bishops and Vatican are often more interested in silencing different opinions rather than engaging in any dialog. The Vatican and US Bishops promote “shunning” rather than engagement. We have full demonstration of this by the way that The catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. is operated. No District of Columbia City Council member is permitted to speak on campus on any subject. This is ridiculous. Th University is often in need of working with the City Council on various matters, and often needs favors. Yet, it has made this policy so that Catholics are rightly viewed as clannish and afraid of debating any subject. Catholic University is loosing many opportunities to demonstrate what it is doing well and missing a chance to be a light to the World. Instead, it is simply preaching to the choir.
    No university in their right mind will follow this example, especially by special pledges by faculty to the Vatican.

  37. midwestlady says:

    Sure, Ray. Ex-Catholics are famous for villanizing the Church. They are not impartial AT. ALL. Nothing about is the kind of “impartial” that I found at a secular university. At that secular university, there was thorough-going inquiry where all ideas and options were on the table. One could investigate the existence of God as freely as not. The idea in a good secular university is to know the history of ideas and learn to tools to evaluate them logically and sensibly.

    Specifically as an example, I took a graduate philosophy of religion class, in the Philosophy Department because that was my graduate major, and we talked about the varieties of religious experience and the ways of handling the ideas logically from both within and outside the membership, aka theodicy and so on. The point was to take the subject matter of religion in general, understand it in its various aspects as a discipline, and learn to use the definitions and tools of philosophy proper to that field, thus the name of the class, Philosophy of Religion. It was respectful, thoughtful and useful and I enjoyed it. Religion is, after all, one of the chief pre-occupations of humanity, as history and culture exhibit to us in every age.

  38. midwestlady says:

    We did, BTW, have people from all kinds of backgrounds in that class because this was a secular university, even though the class, which was more of a semester-long seminar, was relatively small and held at a professor’s house. There was one gentleman who kept trying to convert us all, and we accepted him with equanimity and kindness, but that wasn’t the point of the class. It did enrich the class in its own way though, because that is one of the activities in which most religions engage themselves.

    So you see, religion can be approached in a lot of ways, but approaching it as a persistent critic out of vitriol, revenge or recrimination is not really an acceptable academic stance if what one wants to do is learn something other than hate, vitriol or recrimination, that is. And I think that would fit in the abnormal psychology class. JMHO. ;)

  39. RomCath says:

    Please don’t try to talk reason with Pagan. Obviousy a Catholic university should promote Catholic teaching not invite a dissident Catholic to speak. The fact is Georgetown is not a Catholic U. The Jesuits are often at odds with reality. Read America magazine.

  40. midwestlady says:

    I hate to break the news to you, Peter, but Madame Sebelius and her cronies are not engaged in a “search for truth.” They’re engaged in a battle for power and dominion. I would dare say that this might be what draws Georgetown and Madame Sebelius together.

  41. What do you base that on? Especially things that directly affect students?

  42. midwestlady says:

    Well, I mean, you said that US News and World Report had put them in some kind of a ranking system with other universities and they had come up okay. Those are secular criteria and your comment impugned, therefore, decent secular status for Georgetown.

    I mean, if you use a measuring stick laid out in inches, you’re going to get a measurement in inches; if you use one in meters, you’re going to get a result in meters; if you use a secular yardstick, you’re going to get a result in secular terms. That’s all a recommendation by US News & World report can ever be.

  43. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    I suspect the real reason some administrators as well as instructors and professors teaching in Catholic institutions teaching Catholic courses but have lost their faith, do not do the right and honorable thing and resign, is because there aren’t that many jobs out there in the academic world. So they live lives of fraud and duplicity giving all sorts of excuses for attacking or ignoring the genuine teachers of the Faith–the bishops and the pope. They hide behind academic excuses to give a platform and/or honors to those who are a party to trashing core teachings of the Catholic Faith, like the sacredness of innocent human life.

  44. Oh, calm down everyone. It’s a speech. PERIOD! So what. This isn’t the middle ages where Church can condem and burn heretics at the stake. And by the way, Seblious is no more a fascist than Mitt Romney. You guys get all upset about things that REAAALLY don’t matter. what was the Gospel quote about about noticing the cinder in someone’s eye, but missing the log in your own.

  45. While we’re checking our eyes pol, you might want to check you understanding of the Catholic Faith, starting with scandal. If you really think/believe there is “nothing wrong with the poster child of late term abortion and imposed birth control”, giving a commencement speech at a Catholic University, you have no more business commenting on this topic than I do about lawn bowling, of which I am clueless save for the fact it’s played outside.

  46. Scandal? To whom? There ARE plenty of scandals in the Church, BUT this isn’t one of them. This is all faux outrage. And IF the Secretary is the poster child of late term abortion and imposed birth control, it’s to you guys NOT to the rest of us. And the whole scandal thing comes off to the average person as patently silly.

  47. Pol to “us guys” is all that is needed for perilous scandal. Anything out of a Catholic University represents our witness to the faith. If you see it as “faux”, it’s your choice. For us, it’s our faith, and even more so, our salvation at stake for every scandal that may seem crazy, faux, outrageous, or stupid to the rest of the world.

    It’s imposed on no one, but its witness is paramount

  48. RomCath says:

    Scandal to faithful CATHOLICs not to those Catholics in name only. Pol perhaps you might learn something about the faith before you comment on it. I don’t know what “the rest of us” means but I assume you are human. I guess abortion is not scandalous?

  49. I am a former seminarian, married to a pastoral associate with a Master’s Degree in Theology and I know plenty about our faith. I did very well in theology as a matter of fact.
    Bill Maher talks about a Right Wing Bubble. I’d say there is a Catholic Bubble or Ghetto(and I grew up in one in 1950′s Indianapolis AND have no desire to live in another one). The “rest of us” refers to those us who are just working class schlubs just trying to makeit through life as best we can. We have a lot of real world problems etc to deal with. A fellow pastoral associate friend of mine read this blog and others and laughingly dubbed posters here as “Professional Catholics” and I’d say that’s pretty accurate.
    Me? I’m merely a fly in the oatmeal of life.

  50. Fiergenholt says:

    Deacon John says:

    “is because there aren’t that many jobs out there in the academic world.”

    Actually, quite the contrary. Have you ever checked out a current issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education? That is the “trade-paper” of everyone in that career field. In any given weekly issue there are always several THOUSAND openings for positions in higher education.

    NOW, I will admit, they are not what you might expect. Any isolated faculty slot posted in CHE might well receive 25-30 qualified applicants; but an administrative slot (especially in two-year colleges) may not be filled for several months. There is plenty of work available if you understand where the demand is.

    –Tenure track in Medieval English or Theater or Philosophy or Sociology or Religious Studies or Geography or History or Political Sciences — forgetaboutit!

    –Administrative drones who do nothing but make sure Federal and State mandates on instructional objectives are met at the two-year college level (but never at the four year college level) OR similar drones who are constantly inspecting profit-making colleges to make sure they meet objective standards of learning (imposed by other drones in some obscure office somewhere)– now those jobs go begging. And they pay well.

    There are good career opportunities to be had in higher education — even today — but you have to prostrate yourself to the great “god” of Total Quality Management. You will be there to push paperwork — not to really have an impact on later generations.

  51. ron chandonia says:

    Georgetown’s witness–or lack thereof–matters plenty to people who work for a living. My wife and I spent a fortune putting our son through Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. (The school made his academic scholarship “honorary” because they thought we could afford their ridiculous tuition.) It matters very much to us that the place left him with a negative taste for Catholicism. We now have a daughter approaching college selection time, and Georgetown will not be on our list.

  52. Bill McGeveran says:

    I basically agree with Peter and Pol (no pun intended). I do think that a Catholic college or university needs to have a “Catholic” mission and identity. But the (difficult) question is, what should one mean by a “Catholic” mission and identity, and how can it best be carried out in the concrete? This is something for Catholic colleges to work out. I think it has to do with embodying and promoting basic Catholic and Christian values in an atmosphere of respect for other traditions/orientations and for free inquiry. I don’t think it entails aggressively promoting the moral-social position of the hierarchy or local bishop on controversial hot-button issues such as contraception, legalization of same-sex marriage, or even the boundaries of religious freedom in a pluralistic society. I don’t think it entails blackballing speakers, Catholic or not, who are known to disagree with such positions.

  53. Bill McGovern
    I think that Cardinal Newman would agree!


  55. Bill it’s not based on the hierachy of local bishops per se. All Catholic Universities need to uphold CHURCH TEACHING. Why in the world would we cave on the hot button issues. Being the sign of contradiction when the rest of the world is wrong is EXACTLY why the world, and especially America right now, needs the Catholic Church.

    For any and all who believe in Church Teaching, we know that in keeping with the teaching, ALL teaching, be it a chemisty class or moral theology, is taught in a rightly ordered (as in the Truth of Jesus Christ), manner.

  56. What, your misguided POV?

  57. naturgesetz says:

    Several decades ago the Jesuits gave Georgetown University away to an independent board of directors. The Society of Jesus cannot control what happens there. If the directors accede to requests the Jesuits make, it is voluntary on their part.

  58. I disagree. It’s nothing that can’t be turned around. Just as it turned once, it can and will turn back again. Unless they want to sever their relationship with the Church, they will have no choice if our Church hiearchy insists.

  59. Oh midwestlady, you and I think very much alike. I completely agree.

  60. Bill McGeveran says:

    Klaire, I don’t think it’s a matter of caving. I just don’t believe a Catholic college or university should expose students only to people or writings that support church teaching—that’s nothing but indoctrination; not appropriate for an institution of higher learning, where critical thinking should be the norm. Also, the examples I gave are not even basic to Catholicism, and they are matters on which many Catholics disagree. In the case of religious liberty, while I myself might disagree with Sibelius, we are not even talking about a moral principle, so much as about the extent of power a church should have vis a vis its employees or others in a pluralistic society (and she may not even be speaking about this). In general, I don’t think it is the mission of a specifically Catholic college to be a tool in the hands of a local bishop or the hierarchy seeking to promote a certain controversial agenda, whatever its merits, or to shut off debate or anathematize opponents; the mission of a Catholic college is something more basic, profound, even spiritual, as well as intellectual.

  61. For what reasons do you not consider Georgetown to be a good Catholic college? They asked Ms. Sebelius to speak at the graduation. Other than that, do you know of specific things that makes them a good or bad Catholic university? I am not familiar with Georgetown, so I am asking for specifics.

  62. Bill I respect your agrument. Truth be told, I’m having the same one with a good friend of mine. I would argue to you that nothing like the truth of Jesus Christ for “critical thinking”, especially in a country that has lost its way and aborts 4000 babies a day, while contracepting many others whom God willed for life. That’s two intrinsic evils Bill, regardless if 99% of America disagrees.

    Can’t we at least expect our Catholic Universities to get it right?

  63. Pol nice to have your background info.

    Did it ever occur to you that “a lot of our real world problems” stem from the fact that we kill 4000 babies a day in this country and not only encourage, but soon to be, “provide”, contraception?

    FYI, shouldn’t every Catholic be defending the teachings of Christ, especially when we can no longer count on many of our Catholic Universities?

  64. ” …laughingly dubbed posters here as “Professional Catholics” and I’d say that’s pretty accurate.”

    Are we supposed to be insulted? Does that make you feel superior? Despite apparently you living in a Catholic “ghetto” you obviously never did learn the Catholic concept of humility.

  65. Bill McGeveran says:

    Klaire, I respect your argument also and there are a lot of considerations here. I myself agree that abortion in general is wrong. And as far as I understand it, some forms of contraception may be a form of abortion as well, and if so would be wrong in those cases. I don’t think Georgetown is setting itself up as denying these things by inviting Sebelius. Aside from that, does a Catholic college also have a responsibility to stand up in some way (and if so, how?) for these and other principles and their application, perhaps for all official teachings for the church, and all interpretations of moral and social issues as enunciated by the hierarchy and local bishop, and the illegalization of activities that the church considers wrong? The farther we go along in that direction, the more tenuous it becomes in my opinion. Basically I think a Catholic college functions for the benefit of its students and not as a mouthpiece for church positions

  66. Bill I get that we live in a pleuralistic socieity, and also the fact that this is the school of Public Policy with to my knowledge, no Jesuits on board there. Could we at least agree, at you appear to indicate, that the current public policy of abortion, birth control, and the impending danger of religious freedom is NOT in accordance with Catholic Church Teaching?

    That being the case, as well as the teaching of Jesus Christ, who will defend that truth to our graduation seniors, our bellwether for future policy? If there was ever a time for the church to be the “contradiction”, it is now. That is the discussion we need to be having, that the young graduates need to be having,and the country needs to be having, regardless of how radical it may appear.

  67. RomCath says:

    “On the level of higher education, many of you have pointed to a growing recognition on the part of Catholic colleges and universities of the need to reaffirm their distinctive identity in fidelity to their founding ideals and the Church’s mission in service of the Gospel.”

    Pope Benedict said this to the Bishops of the Southwest US last Saturday. Perhaps we all should read the entire address.

  68. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    Our society and culture is steeped and saturated with secular values and attitudes that does plenty of indoctrination. Students have no need as part of their education to be exposed even more to what they are already being immersed and suffocated in. The last thing students need is for the Church and her institutions to also become part of that secular indoctrination by giving platforms, bully pulpits, and honors to those –nominally Catholic or otherwise– who are the tip of the spear being plunged into the Church’s side.

  69. Bill McGeveran says:

    Klaire, we are operating from partly different perspectives and I don’t think we are going to agree on a lot, though we probably can on some things (e.g., Catholic colleges have a mission as such; abortion in general is wrong, etc.) But I dont for example think that contraception as such is wrong, And while I do believe Roe v. Wade was a wrong decision I can see why many people think it should legally be up to the woman to decide what she will do based in her own conscience. Be that as it may, I don’t think it is the job of Catholic colleges to inculcate whatever bishops and the hierarchy may hold, or teach, on whatever controversial issue. I think it is part of their job to help make Christ visible and communicate and embody basic Catholic and Christian values, including respect for argument, intelligence, and individual conscience. Not to create a cadre of young people who have been made to agree with the church position on every issue and are ready, as it were, to do battle accordingly.

  70. midwestlady says:

    That may be too much work for them, Fiergenholt. And that’s quite a step down from having one’s own office hours and a pulpit to protest defiance from.

  71. midwestlady says:

    Except Klaire,

    We’ve done such a lousy job of founding and monitoring our universities, as well as protecting the word “Catholic” from infringement by others, that no matter whether Madame Sebelius speaks at Georgetown or not, as you say, “ALL teaching, be it a chemisty class or moral theology, is taught in a rightly ordered …… manner,” won’t happen that way.

    Georgetown is clearly, based on its current actions, a catholic-in-union-with-Rome university in name only.

    It’s out of our control. It’s probably out of the control of the local ordinary. It may be out of the control of the USCCB. It may even be somewhat out of the control of the Holy See, unless some very, very dramatic actions are taken on the part of the Holy See.

    I don’t know what the solution is to this problem. Perhaps Georgetown will cut itself loose. Or perhaps its own arrogance will unwittingly cut it loose in the eyes of prospective students and donors. It’s hard to tell.

    A long, long time ago, about 1800 years ago, there was a schismatic branch of the Church with a loosely defined structure, called the gnostics, who insisted that they were the “real” Catholics. Gnosticism was more or less a negative mirror image of Christianity. (Have you ever heard of the caloric theory of heat? Something like that.) At any rate, Catholics had to carefully distinguish between one version of the faith and the other, without the aid of the word “Catholic.” I think we’re there again. BTW, the gnostics, in the original sense of the word, are all gone now. They do reappear in different guises now and then, generally in a more limited fashion: The Cathars were neo-Gnostics and some New Age groups are. But the original group with the full wrong version are now gone. The word “Catholic” can be a slippery thing.

  72. midwestlady says:

    Perhaps what you’re saying is that we shouldn’t be running Catholic universities. AKA the time for that is past. All universities should be secular whether we pay for them or not.

    But my response to you is: Very well, then, but, Bill, we certainly shouldn’t maintain, own and pay for one then, simply as a matter of common sense. Perhaps the time for a big university with all subjects, run by a religious order in the Catholic church, is past. Perhaps we’d ought to carve out our seminaries and institutes for teaching orthodoxy and just leave it at that.

  73. midwestlady says:

    Bill, it’s not your job to rule on the status of birth control for others. That’s the point. You can think whatever you want. Seriously. Anything you want. You can go over it with an Ishikawa diagram forwards and backwards. You can do Pew Matrices til you’re 90 if you want. But you don’t have the authority to tell anyone else anything else about your moral conclusions. It’s just that simple. They’re your conclusions and you are responsible for them.

    When you are elected pope. That will change, but you haven’t been elected pope yet.

  74. Bill McGeveran says:

    Midwest lady, I don’t anticipate being elected pope and, of course, I can’t rule on anything in the meantime. But I can say what I think about morality, or anything else, just as you can, and anyone who happens to see it can take it or leave it.

  75. Bill McGeveran:
    I think you miss Midwestlady’s point. You can certainly say what you want about anything–so true. Many people do just that-say anything they “think” about morality, etc. I could say what I want about brain surgery too–I am not very persuasive if I don’t know anything about brain surgery. Your comments,unfortunately, are what many Catholics and other Christians tend to do-take positions on matters that they have done nothing to investigate, e.g., Have you read Humanae Vitae, the Supreme Court’s decisions on Roe v. Wade and other related cases following, JPI Gospel of Life, medical information and sociological data on the societal effects of contraception (also, do you know that contraceptives can be abortafacients), the Catechism and Blessed JPII on the Gospel of Life, etc., etc., etc. I suspect you have read few of any of these, and consider, whether you are Catholic or not, the magesterial teaching of the Catholic Church as just another source of information to go along with any ill-formed conscience. Catholic colleges can call themselves “Catholic” because the successor’s to the apostles, i.e., the magesterium, Bishops in unity with the Bishop of Rome, say they can, just like religious orders of nuns and clergy are subject to the same chruch authority. As Midwestlady said, you can say what you want about anything, but addressing tough issues from the seat of your pants is not very persuasive to most intelligent people who take their Catholic faith seriously.

  76. Oregon Catholic says:

    I agree Deacon. The practicalities of earning a living trump ideals and honesty. I think it’s the same type of reason the LCWR clings to the Catholic identity – it’s financial. They cannot declare themselves what they truly are, a progressive, new age concern, because there is no support in it and they’d have to give up what belongs to the Church which they think they are entitled too.

  77. Oregon Catholic says:

    Universities calling themselves Catholic have an obligation to teach that which is truly Catholic. Not to beat anyone over the head with it or to stifle ideas and discussion or to give bad grades to dissenters but to have professors that can articulate clearly what the RCC Church teaches even when they may personally disagree with that teaching. If a student wants to accept/reject Catholicism that’s their choice but lets at least make sure they know what they are really accepting/rejecting. Having speakers like CINO Sebelius in a setting where there is no Catholic counterpoint is way too confusing for those who are not firm in their understanding of the faith and it does lead to scandal.

    I would love to hear her or Pelosi or Biden discuss their faith and how they think they live it out as a public official in a debate forum with a faithful Catholic theologian who could articulate Catholic moral theology. They might actually learn a thing or two and those listening could come away able to articulate the differences and truly decide for themselves which POV sounds like Truth.

  78. midwestlady says:

    This is exactly correct. I wouldn’t let just anybody with scissors cut my hair, anymore than I’d let a plumber be my surgeon. Expert qualifications count, and in their absence, like is so often the case in comboxes, originality + sound and thoughtful reasoning is the next best thing.

    Comment boxes are interesting in a couple of different ways because of the people that frequent them. Sometimes actual experts show up, and that’s one thing, but the great majority of people are definitely NOT experts. The great majority are people with common prevailing seat-of-the-pants opinions. Some of them are very conventional and close-minded, on both extremes BTW, and it’s interesting to read their accounts to see how many ways such a thing can be written, because the content is all really quite similar from person to person but once in a while, someone gets a bit creative about expression. Other than for novelties of expression, these kinds of responses can be a big yawn. That’s one thing.

    But sometimes people bring data which is interesting, like (maybe he’s in another thread) the man from down south in the parish with all the great potlucks…LOL. That’s another thing. You can learn from these people. They’re interesting, especially when you can find a pattern occurring in the accounts of many of them.

    But sometimes someone comes in with a totally new idea, insight or twist that I have never thought of or didn’t know about. That’s what I really like. Sometimes, you can learn a lot from talking to people, and that’s what comboxes are really for, as far as I am concerned (aside from their utility for blog owners, which might be marginal sometimes, I realize, having run a blog of my own before).

  79. midwestlady says:

    Sometimes, if you really press somebody and get past their knee-jerk automaticity stuff, you can see some originality and novelty too, if there’s anything there, and get into a real conversation with some new ideas. This is why I do this some times, although it can look a little assertive at times, and isn’t always copacetic with everyone, and I’m aware of that.

  80. Bill McGeveran says:

    Deacon Tom, I am sorry if I misinterpreted Midwestern Lady’s point. If it was that I do not have authority as a pope or bishop or whatever, and cannot rule on things, that’s true. But I was not trying to do that. I agree with much of what you say about speaking in ignorance but I dont know why you assume that if I think contraception as such is not wrong I must not have read most of the things you mention.. However, maybe this is getting off topic. More to the point you say that bishops determine whether a university can officially be called Catholic. This may be true as a matter of church law. But I think the real question is what makes a university properly Catholic, or better, what should a Catholic college’s identity properly involve and what should its mission be. This is an interesting question. And I am not trying to say anything goes. For instance I would agree with Oregon Catholic above at least that students should have the opportunity to be exposed to the teachings of the magisterium. (Beyond that, of course, a Catholic college could be insufficiently Catholic, or just plain insufficient, in many ways..)

  81. pagansister says:

    RomCath, may I as what your problem is? I give an opinion and you think I can’t be reasoned with? :o)

  82. pagansister says:

    Great idea, Ray. Will you fund it?

  83. pagansister says:

    Ray, How are different ideas “sinful” in the world of education even if the university is run by/founded by a specific religion? Are new ideas harmful because they make students think? IMO, everyone should question things, and many times they will confirm what they already believe when they have been given a chance to explore other ideas.

  84. pagansister says:

    I tend to agree with you to a point, midwestlady. They should be confirming the Catholic faith and it’s teachings, but with that should be an exchange of other ideas.

  85. pagansister says:

    Excellent points, Peter!!

  86. pagansister says:

    YES! pol :o)

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