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What to Do About Our Largely Secularized Catholic Colleges & Universities?

IT'S TIME FOR THE BISHOPS TO USE THEIR SHEPHERD'S CROOK

By Kenneth D. Whitehead | July/August 1997
Kenneth D. Whitehead is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, the author of (among other books) Catholic Colleges and Federal Funding, and a Contributing Editor of the NOR.

On November 13, 1996, the Catholic bishops of the U.S. approved by an overwhelming majority a document entitled “Ex Corde Ecclesiae: An Application to the United States.”

Ex Corde Ecclesiae (“From the Heart of the Church”) is the title of Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution defining and describing what a Catholic college or university should be and providing the General Norms by which they are henceforth supposed to govern themselves.

These General Norms require of a Catholic college or university that it should: make known its Catholic identity in its public documents; make Catholic teaching and discipline normative in all its activities; uphold academic freedom as well as freedom of conscience within the framework of Catholic truth and the common good; maintain communion with the Church and secure the consent of the latter to the use of the name “Catholic”; require Catholics in the college or university to be faithful to, and non-Catholics to respect, Catholic teaching and discipline; ensure the appointment of teachers with “integrity of doctrine” and “probity of life” and provide for the removal of those who do not measure up; require teachers in theological disciplines to have a mandate from competent ecclesiastical authority; and ensure that Catholics are a majority among faculty and administrators.

Ex Corde Ecclesiae went through a number of drafts reflecting extensive consultations with higher education leaders. These kinds of discussions have gone on, in fact, for more than two decades. The concerns of leaders of Catholic higher education in the U.S., especially the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU), were exhaustively listened to and carefully taken into account by the Holy See. Comparing the finished Ex Corde Ecclesiae with some of the early drafts of the apostolic constitution shows how many accommodations were made in the final product.

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