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Universities Adrift: The Secular Approach to Academic Freedom and Catholic Higher Education

This paper, with the title “Universities Adrift: How a secular approach to academic freedom established a fractured educational blueprint in Catholic Higher Education,” was delivered at the Symposium for Transforming Culture at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, on March 16, 2024.

Today, Catholic colleges and universities in the United States have achieved what was once only a dream; they compete among the most elite institutions of higher education in the world. Boston College, Fordham University, Georgetown, Notre Dame, College of the Holy Cross, and our beloved Villanova University are now commonly known as the “Catholic Ivies” as referred to in The Complete Guide to Liberal Arts Colleges.[1] They rival other leading institutions such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford in terms of academic research, athletics, enrollment, and size of their endowment. In nearly every capacity, aside from carefully worded mission statements that reflect humanistic and slightly religious values, almost all of the 221 current Catholic colleges and universities are indistinguishable from their private and secular counterparts.

The majority of American Catholics who enroll in or send their children to Catholic higher education would not be able to articulate what makes a Catholic education uniquely Catholic, other than the University says they are a Catholic school, there is a chapel on campus, and some religious classes are required. However, this was not the case in the early to mid-1900s when Catholic dioceses and religious congregations, through an evangelical imperative and desire to educate men and women according to the Catholic intellectual tradition, established many of these schools. During that time, Catholic identity was implicitly communicated through the priests, nuns, and religious who occupied a majority of the educational and formational roles and allowed their Catholic worldview to permeate their witness and work. Today, Catholic colleges and universities are adrift, far away from their religious foundations in both word and practice. This paper will provide a brief examination of how the adoption of a secular blueprint for higher education led to this demise as well as discuss civil and canonical questions that are essential for retaining a coherent Catholic identity and education, and finally examine civil and canon law to propose considerations on how to switch to a uniquely Catholic blueprint for higher education.

Three Cultural Forces that shaped Catholic Higher Education in the United States

There were three predominate cultural forces at work during the 1960s which prompted several dozen Catholic university presidents to write a blueprint to define the future direction of Catholic higher education in the United States. The first cultural force, born from the resilience of the vast number of Catholic immigrants to America, is one of upward mobility. It is a natural desire for each generation to sacrifice to build a better life for the subsequent generation. Inherent in the University of Notre Dame’s nickname, “The Fighting Irish,” is the memory of Irish immigrants who fought hard and laid down their lives to create upward mobility for their children in America. Catholic universities began to embody that same desire for upward mobility, which was expressed through their explicit efforts at growing enrollment, competitive athletics, lavish endowments, and leading research. Prestige, and more importantly prestige over religion, became a dominant force. Although the desire for prestige may be considered noble, particularly as it enables the university and Church to shape culture as it has done throughout various points in history, scripture forewarns that “you cannot serve both God and mammon”[2] and “apart from me, you can do nothing.”[3]

One of the most outspoken critics against the lack of prestige in American Catholic higher education, John Tracy Ellis, wrote a provocative essay in 1955 that, according to America Magazine, still fuels a rigorous debate today.[4] In his essay, “American Catholics and the Intellectual Life,” Ellis critiques the American church saying, “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.”[5] Among the various explanations for a lack of intellectual prestige in American Catholic universities, many of which were beyond the control of the Church, Ellis makes a subtle suggestion for the need for an “intellectual apostolate.” His assessment, which will be explored later in this paper, is that “An additional point which should find place in an investigation of this kind is the absence of a love of scholarship for its own sake among American Catholics.”[6]

A second cultural force, which emerged from the tension and confusion surrounding the Second Vatican Council, is a deep desire for Catholic institutions to have autonomy from the hierarchy of the Church. Pope St. John XXIII opened the Second Vatican Council in the fall of 1962 with the desire to modernize the Church and renew Catholic life around the world. The Council, while prophetic in many aspects, produced documents that became widely disputed and oftentimes misinterpreted regarding their specific application. Catholic theologians such as Edward Schillebeeckx, saw Vatican II as an opportunity to move away from the hierarchical structure of the Church. Schillebeeckx’s approach, along with anticlerical sentiments and a strong thrust for a more prominent role for the laity, fueled an already growing distrust of the Church and a skepticism toward her authority.

In his essay, “The American Background of Ex Corde Ecclesiae: A Historical Perspective,” Philip Gleason explains how a desire for autonomy impacted Catholic higher education. He writes, “Concern for autonomy must be seen against the backdrop of Vatican II and the cultural revolution that took place in American society in the 1960s. Vatican II made ‘freedom in the church’ a different kind of issue than it had ever been before…In the context of the radical antiauthoritarianism of the 1960s, Catholic institutions of higher learning could not continue in the old ways and remain immune to the ‘dissent’ that had become a powerful symbol of positive values.”[7] Many believed it became the laity’s role to demonstrate to the Church her errors and provide the correct intellectual response to meet the needs of modern man. To do so required that Catholic academia be autonomous from the hierarchical and institutional structure of the Church. In the application of the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes Catholic higher education’s relationship with the Church came into question regarding the section on Man’s Activity Throughout The World where it says, “If by the autonomy of earthly affairs we mean that created things and societies themselves enjoy their own law and values which must be gradually deciphered, put to use, and regulated by men, then it is entirely right to demand that autonomy.”[8]

The third and strongest force, a misconceived understanding of human freedom, emerged from the sexual revolution. Americans in the 1960s and 1970s experimented with a project to radically explore human sexuality apart from any responsibilities, repercussions, or results. In an interview with the National Catholic Register, prominent economist and author Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse defined the sexual revolution “as having three components: 1) contraception ideology, that a good and decent society should separate sex from procreation, 2) divorce ideology, that a good and decent society should separate both sex and procreation from marriage, and 3) gender ideology, that there are no differences between men and women.”[9]

Simultaneously there was an overwhelming rejection, from both within the Catholic Church and the culture at large, of the Church’s teachings on human sexuality as promulgated by Pope St. Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. Combined with the growing antiauthoritarian sentiments toward the Catholic Church, the popular culture adopted and proselytized a distorted view of human freedom. This was not solely confined to sexual freedom, but became status quo in nearly every other human facet and institution, including that of academic freedom. A separation of freedom from the Church’s moral framework resulted in grave issues, resulting in many of the negative consequences of the sexual revolution which we are now experiencing—identity crisis, rampant depression and suicide, single parent households, and incarceration. However, the concept of rejecting the moral framework proposed by the Catholic Church in the name of academic freedom became evermore present among both Catholic and non-Catholic faculty, administrators, board members, and donors at Catholic universities.

Land O’Lakes Statement: a secular blueprint for Catholic universities

These three cultural forces, resulting in a desire for prestige, complete autonomy from the hierarchy of the Church, and pursuit of academic freedom, were the main impetus for Fr. Theodore Hesburgh C.S.C., then president of Notre Dame University and president of the International Federation of Catholic Universities, to gather a small number of influential leaders in Catholic higher education at the Land O’Lakes retreat center in 1967. Although their ambitions were “to discuss ways Catholic Universities might join in the renewal of the Church sparked by Vatican II,”[10] the results of the past five decades of nearly every Catholic university implementing their infamous Land O’Lakes Statement have demonstrated what they actually composed was a secular blueprint.

Three marks of the Land O’Lakes Statement make it essentially secular in nature: 1) complete autonomy from any outside influence, resulting in an unregulated theological teaching authority separate from the Church, 2) unbridled academic pursuit under the guise of academic freedom, resulting in a separation of faith and reason, and thus 3) weakening Catholic moral teaching and its natural law philosophical framework as antiquated and antithetical to modern intellectual pursuits, resulting in scientism as the rubric for assessing truth claims.

The most definitive clause in the statement, “to perform its teaching and research functions 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,”[11] essentially truncates the university from the mission of the Church. In fact, the Statement establishes Catholic universities as a type of “checks and balances” to the teaching authority of the Church by saying, “the university should carry on a continual examination of all aspects and all activities of the Church and should objectively evaluate them. The Church would thus have the benefit of continual counsel from Catholic universities.”[12]

The Land O’Lakes Statement section titled “Some Characteristics of Undergraduate Education” offers a response to John Tracy Ellis’ previously discussed criticism of Catholic universities lack of academic rigor. By stating “the university should endeavor to present a collegiate education that is truly geared to modern society…that the intellectual campus of a Catholic university has no boundaries and no barriers…there must be no outlawed books or subjects…the student will be able to develop his own capacities and to fulfill himself by using the intellectual resources presented to him,”[13] the signers of the statement agree to an unbridled academic pursuit. By doing so, they assert a secular theory rooted in the Enlightenment quest for truth of “knowledge seeking knowledge.”

Rabbi David Novak provides a stark rebuke of this approach being anything but Catholic by saying “this secularist belief in the full sufficiency of human intellect to attain truth has poised the great intellectual challenge to Catholicism.”[14] Novak goes on, saying, “Catholics have asserted that faith and intellect are complimentary in the quest for truth. The type of secularism that came to dominate the non-Catholic universities just as assuredly asserted that faith and intellect are contradictory in the quest for truth, that faith impedes rather than completes that quest…secularism wrongly narrows the human quest for truth to human intellect alone.”[15] The third mark of a secular blueprint as proposed by Land O’Lakes overly emphasizes the scientific method to assert scientific fact as the only true knowledge. “There must be no theological or philosophical imperialism; all scientific and disciplinary methods, and methodologies, must be given due honor and respect.”[16] This minimizes the role that natural law and a philosophical approach, namely metaphysics, can be applied across disciplines, and elevates scientism to a more truly rational and intellectual approach.

Subsequent problems and outcomes from adhering to a secular blueprint.

The largely uncontested adoption of the Land O’Lakes Statement began to quickly unravel the Catholic identity which made Catholic universities diverse and unique in the field of higher education. The rejection of Church authority made it challenging to apply aspects of the Code of Canon Law such as Canon 812, which called for “those who teach theological disciplines in any institutes of higher studies whatsoever must have a mandate from the competent ecclesiastical authority.”[17] This resulted in numerous challenges from theology faculty across the country, first and most prominently being Fr. Charles Curran at the Catholic University of America.[18] Curran attempted to elusively avoid the mandatum by claiming he was hired before the expectation existed. However, other tenured theology faculty members such as Dr. Tat-siong Benny Liew at College of the Holy Cross, simply disregarded the Church’s authority altogether.

In 2018, Rev. Philip Boroughs S.J., then president at Holy Cross, defended Liew’s blasphemous analysis which questions the male sexuality of Jesus by saying, “Academic freedom is one of the hallmarks of a liberal arts education. Scholars in all disciplines are free to inquire, critique, comment and push boundaries on widely accepted thought.”[19] The vast majority of Dr. Liew’s published works express his “sadomaschochistic sex-fantasy dressed up in postmodern jargon”[20] and explore beliefs about Jesus Christ’s passion and crucifixion such as “suggesting [is that] when Jesus’ body is being penetrated, his thoughts are on his Father. He is, in other words, imagining his passion experience as a (masochistic) sexual relation with his own Father.”[21]

This type of heretical academic inquiry is not confined simply to the theology departments at Catholic universities. Most recently, the University of Notre Dame’s Gender Studies Program hosted a series titled “Reproductive Justice: Scholarship for Solidarity and Change,” which unequivocally proselytized abortion and beliefs about the human person fundamentally opposed to a Catholic anthropology.[22] The series featured Ash Williams, a “black trans abortion dula,” which prompted Bishop Kevin Rhoades of Ft. Wayne to publish a formal critique. Rhoades wrote in his diocesan paper Today’s Catholic saying, “Not surprisingly, inviting an abortion dula to provide an unrebutted case for abortion has prompted a great deal of concern and criticism around the country and in our diocese. I share these concerns and consider the decision to feature such a speaker on campus to be both intellectually unserious and unworthy of a great Catholic research university.”[23] He goes on to say, “This lecture is simply a conduit for activist propaganda that is not merely wrong, but squarely contrary to principles of basic human equality, justice, dignity, and nonviolence that the Catholic Church has affirmed for millennia.”[24]

Under the guidance of Land O’Lakes, academic programs such as these continue to be advanced unchallenged by Catholic university administration, faculty, and students, often to the extent of a complete absence of a uniquely Catholic education. Students such as Jon Soucy, who enrolled at Georgetown, oftentimes spend more than $50,000 a year to receive a Catholic education, and become disillusioned in its existence once their academic studies commence. Charlotte Allen’s article, “Crossroads,” in Notre Dame News details how Soucy’s quest to put crucifixes back on the classroom walls at Georgetown evolved into a university-wide controversy.[25] Even apart from a lack of crucifixes or Catholic images across campuses, the American Catholic universities and colleges have melded into the landscape of secular higher education and are far adrift from their once vibrant Catholic identity.

 

Civil and canonical questions regarding alignment to a coherent Catholic identity

Catholic colleges and universities are incorporated as both a legal person being a non-profit educational institution under IRC section 501(c)(3)[26]and a canonical juridic person according to Code of Canon Law 116[27]. As a legal person, which attorney Charles H. Wilson explains in his essay “American Catholic Universities and ‘Ex Corde Ecclesiae’—A Matter of Choice Under Civil Law,” the university has the “right to direct its own affairs subject only to the laws of the jurisdiction of incorporation and the federal government that apply to all like ‘persons’ in society.”[28] He then further explains that it is the responsibility of the governing board of such institutions to “establish the rules of conduct by which the institution operates.” This means that the governing body of a university that desires a relationship of any kind with the Catholic Church, in order to retain its status, should seek affiliation through a stated desire in its governing documents. Wilson writes, “As a matter of civil law, therefore, the Holy See is external to American Catholic universities, and pronouncements of the Holy See…have no binding effect of American Catholic universities unless their governing boards choose to adopt them and be bound by them.”[29] However, the governing body of a university cannot make such a decision apart from the hierarchy of the Church; it must coincide with a recognition of being a juridic person as well.

This reality, as explored by Fr. Sean Sheridan T.O.R. in his essay, “Catholic Universities and Juridic Persons,” remains highly controversial. Sheridan notes several strategies taken by Catholic universities to dispute this truth, such as claiming to have never been established as an independent juridic person prior to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, or by distancing themselves from their original sponsoring institutions. Ultimately, Sheridan argues that “the civil incorporation of a Catholic university or the alteration of its board of trustees does not determine its canonical status. A Catholic university should not rely on such acts to distance itself from canon law.”[30] It is reasonable to conclude therefore, that any college or university claiming to have formal or informal ties to the Catholic Church, but most especially those institutions listed in The Official Catholic Directory[31] or on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website for Catholic colleges and universities in the United States,[32] by their own desire, is a juridic person subject to the rights and obligations in canon law.

Canonical rights and privileges

For those colleges and universities who desire to retain some type of Catholic identity and affiliation as a Catholic university, canon law grants particular rights and privileges to those affiliated with the institution’s community—namely the local ordinary, governing body, faculty and staff, parents, and students—to ensure a coherence of mission and doctrine. Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski was considered one of the world’s most prominent experts on the Code of Canon Law, and additionally was appointed by Pope St. John Paul II to serve as Prefect of the Dicastery for Catholic Education. In his speech at Fordham University in 2008, upon receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Cardinal Grocholewski described the unique role Catholic schools fulfil in the mission of the Church. He said, “The fundamental task of the Church is to preach the Gospel to all nations: to enrich all people with the light of the Good News, which by its essence, is aimed at transforming all the human person and setting him or her on the path that leads to salvation. Just like all other documents of the Church, the Code treats Catholic schools precisely within this perspective of evangelization. In fact, schools are dealt with in Book III of the Code, dedicated to the ‘Church’s teaching office’.”[33] The opening canon of Book III says, “It belongs to the Church always and everywhere to announce moral principles, even about the social order, and to render judgement concerning any human affairs insofar as the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls requires it.”[34]

Further on it says, “The duty and right of educating belongs in a special way to the Church.”[35] It is specifically for those reasons that the Church dedicates canons 793-821 to Catholic education, and within that canons 807-814 specifically for Catholic universities. That the Church established these rights and privileges, especially for bishops, schools, faculty, and staff, is undisputed. However, the application and accountability as such is questionable—which will be explored in further detail in the final section of this paper. Discussions, sometimes even very heated discussions, between the Vatican, US Bishops, and American Catholic university leaders took place over the course of decades after the Church published the 1983 Code of Canon Law, specifically regarding canons 803, 804, 809, 810, and 812. In an effort to clarify the Code, as well as the position and role that Catholic universities play within the life of the Church, Pope St. John Paul II wrote an apostolic exhortation called Ex Corde Ecclesiae which was published in 1990. In it, he provides a pastoral attempt to describe the binding role both faith and reason have in the Catholic intellectual tradition, which should be respected and advanced in Catholic institutions of higher education. The second half of the document gives juridic norms with the expectation that they be applied before the following academic year and then evaluated after five years. Unfortunately, Ex Corde was widely disputed and subsequently fell on deaf ears among both the bishops and university leadership, much like Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae.

Amidst the heated debate between faculty and ecclesial authority, oftentimes the canonical rights and privileges of parents and students go unheard. More recently, parents have become much more involved and influential in their child’s college search and selection. By doing so, parents are upholding their duty to “entrust their children to those schools which provide a Catholic education.”[36] How can a parent exercise that right however, without knowing whether a Catholic university adheres to a secular or Catholic educational blueprint? Additionally, students, as lay members “possess the right to acquire knowledge of Christian doctrine appropriate to the capacity and condition of each in order for them to be able to live according to this doctrine, announce it themselves, defend it if necessary, and take their part in exercising the apostolate.”[37]

As such, students who are in the process of selecting a college need to take on greater responsibility to identify the differences between a secular and Catholic education beyond simply name-recognition. As a service to both parents and prospective students, Catholic universities could help them fulfill their responsibilities in this regard by more adequately explaining which blueprint the university follows. This would require greater effort than simply touring guests through vacant school chapels, passing out humanistic mission and vision statements, or touting the historic accomplishments of the original founding religious community.

Indeed, in today’s climate of Catholic higher education, one must search diligently to distinguish a coherent Catholic identity. Fr. Wilson D. Miscamble C.S.C, prominent history professor at the University of Notre Dame, describes this search in his book For Notre Dame: Battling for the Heart and Soul of a Catholic University saying, “vestiges of Catholic identity might remain in campus ministry, or in residential life, or in the supposed influence of a religious order’s tradition, but the central intellectual project largely replicates those of secular institutions. Increasingly, faculties are populated by scholars who have no noticeable allegiance to the institution’s mission and no interest in a distinctive Catholic intellectual tradition.”[38] Again, the question remains: how do parents and students, benefactors and board members gain awareness of whether the university is inherently secular or Catholic in nature? And who is culpable for ensuring that these facts are evident and accessible?

For example, someone pays $1 to purchase a can of Pepsi. The Pepsi branding and trademark are on the can, and it even fizzes when it is opened, just like Pepsi. However, in taking the first sip, they realize the liquid is not Pepsi, but Mountain Dew. The product is clearly not what the branding indicated nor what the consumer thought they had purchased. In the case of Catholic higher education though, instead of paying $1, students are paying tens of thousands of dollars and benefactors are investing millions of dollars in a product that delivers something other than what is advertised. Catholic universities should pay close attention to this issue, because an increase in well-informed consumers could potentially damage enrollment or risk consumer rights violations. An exploration of consumer rights may help Catholic universities to better align their branding with their actual product.

Governing bodies and statues

Rubrics for a Catholic university adhering to a Catholic identity, as Charles Wilson pointed out, are the primary responsibility of the governing board to enshrine in the bylaws they establish and uphold. A close examination of the university’s bylaws will determine if the board needs to take action and more clearly articulate the desire for a Catholic blueprint. Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law at Duquesne University, Nicholas Cafardi, addresses this issue early in his essay “Giving legal life to the Ex Corde Ecclesiae norms: corporate strategies and practical difficulties” by saying that making these changes “will not be possible without the cooperation of the religious bodies who founded and are still active at American Catholic colleges and universities, and without the cooperation of the laypersons whom they have chosen to be their collaborators in the management of their higher education apostolate.”[39]

Two recent lawsuits, St. Procopius Abbey v. Benedictine University in 2015 and St. Anselm College Corporation and Abbot Mark Cooper O.S.B v. Board of Trustees of St. Anselm College in 2019, demonstrate the tension arising from the eroding corporate structure of a Catholic university and the desire to preserve the Catholic identity established by their founding religious bodies. Mark Hayward of the New Hampshire Union Leader wrote about the lawsuit at St. Anslem College describing why the monks filed suit against their own school board of trustees in an effort to preserve its century-long Catholic identity.[40] In the story, published in December 2019, he quotes Abbot Mark Cooper O.S.B, Chancellor of St. Anselm College, who said, “These changes put forward by the leadership of the board of trustees carry an unreasonable risk of the secularization of St. Anselm College.”[41] Further in the article Hayward writes, “The monks said efforts by the trustees to obtain more power—especially over the campus ministry office, the health center, residential life, and education—would jeopardize the college’s Catholic tradition.”[42] Cafardi, in his essay, proposes a path forward for governing boards to work with their founding religious bodies and local ecclesial authority to modify bylaws and clearly articulate a Catholic identity and blueprint. He says, “it is difficult to understand how any institution could be ‘Catholic’ in any meaningful sense of that word and not be subject to the Church’s law…This message should be communicated to corporate members and board members of Catholic colleges and universities. But it need not, nor should it, be communicated in some heavy-handed fashion.”[43] Details on the specific actions and language of bylaws which would enshrine a Catholic identity as proposed by canon law and other Church documents will be explored in the final section of this paper.

Federal Government and Accreditation

Aside from governance, there are two other primary topics with both civil and canonical implications that Catholic universities have attempted to hold in balance—qualifications to receive government funding, and the presence and pressure of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). In the post-World War II era many Catholic colleges began to rely on government funding to help boost enrollment and build facilities. Between 1971 and 1976 there were a series of court cases related to federal aid and religiously affiliated colleges which, many feared, could potentially threaten the ability of Catholic colleges and universities to continue to receive government funds.

The Supreme Court cases of Tilton, Hunt, and Roemer established a principle that “except for those colleges that were ‘pervasively sectarian’, governmental aid was constitutionally permissible to religiously owned and affiliated colleges and universities. In other words, as long as you can separate out the secular from the sectarian at religiously affiliated colleges (and at ‘pervasively sectarian’ colleges and universities this separation cannot be made), it is constitutionally permissible to aid the secular.”[44] Fr. Charles E. Curran, former theology professor at the Catholic University of America, explored the implications of these and other cases in his essay, “The Catholic Identity of Catholic Institutions” as they apply to Catholic health care, Catholic Charities, and Catholic higher education. He highlights that government funds are not given to parochial elementary schools or high schools and that, “two of the reasons for granting aid to Catholic higher education but not to lower education were the absence of proselytism and the acceptance of academic freedom.”[45]

For decades, fears of becoming perversely sectarian dominated the discourse between Catholic university administrations and governing board, which influenced faculty and staff hiring, determined board and committee appointments, and truncated the evangelical mission of Catholic education. The theoretical potential loss of government funding swung the pendulum from sectarian to secular. This was a valid concern six and seven decades ago. But it is ironic today, given that many of the same Catholic universities who were once fearful of losing government funding have endowments that rival the GDP of more than half of the countries in the world. Serious consideration should be given to the actual financial risk it would require for these schools to move from secular to semi-sectarian. The most cited legal case which examined sectarianism in a religious university setting is Killinger v Samford. The case hinged on two arguments from the plaintiff regarding Samford University’s attempt to claim religious educational exemption in dismissing him from the divinity school faculty. In the case brief, “the plaintiff says that Samford is a ‘secular’ institution, not a ‘religious’ one. Second, plaintiff says that Samford is entitled to an exemption only if its employment decision was the result of an institutional religious policy and that Samford cannot meet this requirement.”[46]

As a result, Samford University had to establish that it was sufficiently sectarian to be qualified as a religious educational institution, and thus granted the exemption by Section 702(a) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Samford presented extensive evidence to demonstrate that it was sufficiently religious (Baptist), and thus worthy for the IRS and Department of Education to recognize it as a religious educational institution. Samford cited funding from the Alabama Baptist State Convention, reporting structures to the Convention, university trustee and faculty requirement to adhere to a Baptist Statement of Faith, and explicit language in the faculty and student handbooks describing the faith-based nature of the university and its commitment to affirm and advance Christianity. Therefore, Catholic universities and colleges who are concerned with government funding should study these cases closely to appropriately navigate the tension to remain sufficiently sectarian to claim religious exemption, but not pervasively sectarian and lose government funding.

Although accreditation for degree-granting colleges and universities is conferred by the Higher Learning Commission on behalf of the US Department of Education, the Association of American University Professors applies just as much, if not more, pressure on schools for compliance regarding professional values and standards in higher education, faculty treatment and academic freedom. Since its founding in 1915, AAUP has grown to more than 500 local campus chapters at secular, private, and religiously affiliated higher educational institutions across the country. It should be noted that certain aspects of the AAUP have served higher education well, however its deep-seated anti-religious sentiments reflected in policies of academic freedom pose significant conflict with religious institutions. A notorious conflict, which caused consternation among many faculty in Catholic higher education, erupted in 1990 when the AAUP censured The Catholic University of America regarding the university’s removal of tenured theology professor Fr. Charles Curran from the Theology faculty and his failed attempt to sue the university.

Peter Mitchell extensively details how the drama unfolded between Fr. Curran and CUA in his book, The Coup at Catholic University. He describes a particular creed popularized by the AAUP, and its challenges for faculty at Catholic colleges saying, “the vocation of university professors was declared specifically to be to challenge belief and discard dogma.” He goes on to say, “The one unchanging certainty of the AAUP creed was that everything must change. And in making that principle of absolute change the alpha and omega of its tenets, academic freedom as defined by the AAUP arrogated to itself the status not just of a guiding principle of education but of an ideological worldview. It was a worldview decidedly incompatible with a profession of faith in the objective content of Christian revelation as taught by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.”[47] Emboldened by this concept of academic freedom, Fr. Curran consistently taught, especially in matters related to human sexuality in moral theology and sexual ethics, dissenting views from the Magisterium of the Catholic church. Over a period of ten years the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith investigated Fr. Curran’s writings and teachings and sought to engage him for the pastoral purposes of retaining a coherent Catholic theology at the university. Cardinal Ratzinger, the prefect for the CDF at that time, requested Fr. Curran to reconsider and to retract his positions that were in opposition to the Church. After Curran refused to do so, Cardinal Ratzinger with approval from the pope, notified Fr. Curran that he was no longer suitable to teach Catholic theology, resulting in the university board of trustees’ removal of Fr. Curran’s canonical mission.

Subsequently, in 1989, with substantial support from the AAUP and many other faculty members in Catholic higher education, Fr. Curran filed a lawsuit against CUA, claiming it breached its contract with him by violating his right to academic freedom. In determining the case, Judge Frederick Weisberg “adopted ‘the law of contracts’ as his analytical framework. Indeed, late in the opinion, he commented: ‘like the rest of the plaintiff’s case, the question comes down to what the contract says and what the parties to it intended.’”[48] The case was sided in favor of the university by virtue of its status as a religious educational institution and, as such under contract law, has the autonomy to establish contracts that respect various religiosity requirements. However, this did not stop the AAUP from placing Catholic University of America on its Association’s list of Censured Administrations in 1990, where it is still listed today as a censured institution along with the likes of Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, St. Meinrad School of Theology, and even Hillsdale College.[49]

There are two other exemptions given in Section 703(e) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which can and should be applied in Catholic higher education to respectfully hire and employ faculty and staff who practice, or at least support the practice of, the Catholic faith. In situations for professors of Theology, such as Fr. Curran, where a canonical mission, or mandatum, is canonically required for them to teach at a Catholic university or college, the exemption refers to these types of employees as a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).[50]

Other types of Catholic university employees, such as the university chancellor or president, university chaplains, or any other role where being a practicing Catholic is essential to performing to responsibilities of that specific role, also meet the BFOQ standards for exemption. Additionally, in Section 703(e), it describes an exemption that is granted for a university or college that is “in whole or in substantial part, owned, supported, controlled, or managed by a particular religion or by a particular religious corporation, association, or society” to allow them to hire employees on the basis of being a practicing Catholic. This exemption, should a Catholic university wish to employ it, hinges on the demonstration of a Catholic presence and mission at the board of governance level, either by the local ecclesial authority, sponsoring religious congregation, or written into the bylaws.

The protection of religious liberty and implementation of subsequent religious exemptions as protected by the First Amendment have become more vigorously debated at Catholic universities and colleges in more recent years as the federal government has passed laws that, if applied, violate the religious rights of Catholic institutions. One of the most prominent cases, Obergefell v Hodges, pitted same-sex marriage and sexual freedom against religious liberty. The dissenting Justices in the case wrote in their opinion, “By choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right [to same-sex marriage] over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the Court has created a problem that only it can fix. Until then, Obergefell will continue to have ‘ruinous consequences for religious liberty.’”

Many Catholics and Catholic institutions understood this ruling as an ominous warning to comply with the government or lose funding or status. This defensive posture was magnified soon after the Obergefell case when columnist Mark Oppenheimer wrote an article in Time Magazine calling for a greater restriction, and even abolition, of tax-exempt status for institutions who dissent from settled public policy.[51] Although Oppenheimer’s opinion is that it would only impact “charitable giving” it is reasonable to believe that such a shift would call into question other religious exemptions. During his presidency, President Obama gave the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) broad authority to implement measures requiring employers to pay for abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilization, a move that directly violated both moral and religious objections from Catholic institutions. Catholic higher education was broadly divided on how to respond. Some universities, such as Notre Dame, engaged in multiple legal battles to protect its religious rights, ultimately conceding to some aspects of the mandate, while other schools, such as DePaul University in Chicago, immediately complied.

The implicit, or sometimes even explicit, adoption of a secular blueprint in Catholic higher education has made it nearly impossible for a Catholic university or college to clearly articulate its position against this type of governmental and cultural pressure. The secular blueprint does not offer adequate responses that foster a healthy relationship with both the Church and State. Legally, Catholic schools are protected under federal law and should not shy back from seeking rights and privileges as such. Canonically, the Church gives duties and responsibilities to all those who participate in the life of a Catholic university, and most importantly, describes the intricate relationship between the leadership of the university and the local ecclesial authority. The secular blueprint diminishes trust between these two entities and refuses not “all external authority” but only the authority provided by the Church. Thus, Catholic universities and colleges today are adrift from the essential elements that make them Catholic and can no longer claim to implicitly allow the erosion of their Catholic identity but must make explicit decisions on whether or not to embrace it.

How to shift to a uniquely Catholic blueprint for higher education

Governing bodies and administrations of Catholic universities and colleges should give careful consideration and study of the bylaws, policies, faculty, curriculum, programs, student life, and campus ministry to gain a robust understanding of whether they adhere to a secular or Catholic educational blueprint. After thorough discussion and consultation, they should explicitly decide which blueprint should be adopted at their school and take subsequent steps in that direction. As Nicholas Cafardi points out, this decision is the most important and difficult step because, “if these changes are to be adopted, they must come as the result of the free act of the university corporations themselves.”

He explains, “The mandating of internal corporate change by a non-corporate body, even when that body is the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, does not just happen by fiat. Those in control of the corporation must agree to make these changes. For that to happen, a good case must be made by those proposing the changes as to why they are necessary or advisable.”[52] The remainder of this paper is devoted to those governing bodies that desire to move their college or university in the direction of implementing a cohesive Catholic blueprint for higher education. It should be noted, however, that in an effort to clarify the legal and canonical status of Catholic universities and colleges who explicitly desire to maintain a secular blueprint, it is better for the Church, the government, and all parties associated with the university to clearly separate from any affiliation with the Catholic religion and re-incorporate as a private non-religious or secular educational institution.

Although his essay was directed primarily toward Catholic law schools, the practices and principles David Gregory describes in “The Bishop’s Role in the Catholic Law School” can be applied to nearly every Catholic higher education institution. “Who insures fidelity to the religious heritage and identity of the law school?” Gregory asks. In response, he asserts, “The continuing process of insuring the religiously affiliated law school’s faithfulness to the religious dimensions of the law school’s mission involves each member of the law school community…the faculty, the administration, the student body, and the alumni each have an important constituent part to play in insuring that the school fulfills the mission of its particular faith.”[53] Numerous church documents and their commentaries refer to a process of dialogue—most specifically between governing bodies, faculty, and local ecclesial authorities—to faithfully maintain the Catholic identity of the university. While this form of dialogue is essential, it is only the first step toward a coherent Catholic educational blueprint.

Rather than relying on the dialogue itself to ensure fidelity, it should be primarily responsible for establishing trust between the Church and the university and its various constituents. Both Stephen M. R. Covey in his book Speed of Trust and Patrick Lencioni in his book Five Dysfunctions of a Team expound upon the essential role trust plays between individuals, leaders, and organizations that aspire to become successful organizations. The goal of re-establishing trust with the Church is indeed lofty for an institution steeped in today’s secularized anti-authoritarian culture. The Church has not helped herself either, in light of the sexual abuse crisis and bishops’ varied application of the Church’s teachings on human sexuality and moral life. However, an initial humble dialogue with the intent to move toward a healthy mutual trust will benefit both the university and the Church. “The effectuation and realization of Ex Corde Ecclesiae begins in dialogue between the Bishop and the Catholic [law] school. All parties should take the initiative for friendly engagement.”[54]

With a foundation of mutual trust, leaders from both the Church and university can examine issues critical to maintaining a Catholic identity. Michael Baxter, in his 1999 essay in The Thomist, provides a coherent Catholic response to three objections to implementing the Church’s vision for higher education. Baxter shifts the paradigm on academic freedom. He writes about Ex Corde Ecclesiae saying “that is does not oppose academic freedom so much as define it according to truth and the common good as understood in Catholic tradition. So defined, academic freedom is placed under certain constraints. But every intellectual tradition places academic freedom under some constraints, including that liberal intellectual tradition which disavows all such constraints.”[55] He elaborates by referring to Stanley Fish’s explanation that there is no such thing as an absolute principle of free speech. There are certain situations where the exercise of “free speech” is not allowed, namely when it violates the good of individuals, certain groups, or society as a whole. It must be defined based on the circumstance rather than absolutized. “Thus, from one perspective, Ex Corde Ecclesiae may be viewed as merely imposing limits upon academic freedom, but from another perspective it should be seen as redefining academic freedom and locating it within a more substantive and comprehensive Catholic intellectual vision.”[56]

Catholic higher education should not be averse to establishing this proper understanding of academic freedom as a rubric toward enhancing its Catholic identity and academic prestige. By way of analogy, soccer teams who learn, understand, and respect the rules of soccer have the ability to play at a more competitive level than those who either disregard the rules or attempt to play soccer according to the rules of rugby. This sentiment is expressed in Code of Canon Law 809 where it says Catholic universities should exist “in which the various disciplines are studied and taught, with their academic autonomy preserved and in light of Catholic doctrine.”[57] The juridic norms established in Ex Corde Ecclesiae expound on the canon saying, “A Catholic university possesses the autonomy necessary to develop its distinctive identity and pursue its proper mission. Freedom in research and teaching is recognized and respected according to the principles and methods of each individual discipline, so long as the rights of the individual and of the community are preserved within the confines of the truth and common good.”[58]

Although all faculty and disciplines are subject to this Catholic understanding of academic freedom, theology faculty, most especially are called to a special relationship with the Church. Ex Corde Ecclesaie describes this by saying “In ways appropriate to the different academic disciplines, all Catholic teachers are to be faithful to, and all other teachers are to respect, Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching. In particular, Catholic theologians, aware that they fulfill a mandate received from the Church, are to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church as the authentic interpreter of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.”[59] The canonical mandate, as required by Code of Canon Law 812, has been widely disputed among Catholic theologians and largely unenforced by the bishops. Bishop John Leibrecht of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, in his role as chairman of the Ex Corde Ecclesiae Committee on U.S. Catholic Colleges and Universities, was tasked with developing the application of the apostolic constitution in the United States. The task, which some may argue is still ongoing, consisted of several iterations between the United States Bishops and the Vatican.

In his 2001 article, “Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae in the United States” Bishop Leibrecht states, “As indicated previously, the most difficult issue in creating a U.S. application document for Ex Corde Ecclesiae was Canon 812, requiring a mandatum.” He details at length the struggle between the bishops themselves and leaders from Catholic higher education to understand and apply Canon 812, even so far as to note pressure from the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities against the bishops adopting the 1999 draft application. “Monika K. Hellwig, executive director of ACCU, wrote to the US bishops with the request that the latest draft not be voted upon at its November meeting and, failing that, that it be defeated. In the name of the ACCU Board, she voiced legal, academic, and financial concerns.”[60] However, the 1999 draft was voted on, approved, and is still the current application. Leibrecht noted the challenge of the appropriate application of Canon 812 because, “the mandatum had to be located within the parameters of institutional autonomy and academic freedom: sensitivity to both civil and ecclesiastical law was required; and the appropriate role of the bishop and the rights of the individual theologian had to be recognized.”[61]

Accepting the canonical mission is not equal to acquiescing to the Magisterium in all areas without ability for dialogue, tension, or disagreement. In fact, while Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger published Donum Veritatis: On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, which provides a clear and systematic framework for a theologian to raise questions, confront tensions, air grievances, and express divergent views to the Magisterium in a manner that does not conflict with his or her canonical mandate. These matters should be handled in a private forum. The document instructs, “Even if the doctrine of the faith is not in question, the theologian will not present his own opinions or divergent hypotheses as though they were non-arguable conclusions. Respect for the truth as well as for the People of God requires this discretion. For the same reasons, the theologian will refrain from giving untimely public expression to them.”[62] This humble recognition of not only the Church’s authority, but God’s authority established and given through the Church is consistent with the Catholic intellectual tradition. Therefore, the implementation of a Catholic blueprint in higher education must bravely and delicately address the mandatum as the deepest reflection of its Catholic identity and ability to provide a diverse contribution to the field of higher education.

Some may argue that such an acceptance of the Church’s authority, as stated in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, allows an external entity to intervene and dictate internal policies and decisions of the university. Baxter counters this argument by giving examples such as NCAA, ROTC, and even business corporations such as IBM or Arthur Anderson all of which give extensive guidelines to which Catholic colleges and universities unanimously subject themselves. Baxter points out, “Through financial donations, corporations support large development projects and thus contribute to the overall direction taken by our colleges and universities. Corporate leaders populate our boards, oftentimes constituting a majority.” He concludes saying, “The question is not whether but which external authorities an institution of higher education allows to have say over its life.”[63] Why should a college or university desiring a Catholic identity and Catholic educational blueprint be held to another standard than that of a school desiring to become a Division 1 NCAA School?

Some higher educational administrators fear that a movement toward a Catholic blueprint and implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae will ensue conformity and uniformity, which is antithetical to the modern-day enshrinement of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Authors Melanie Morey and John Piderit explore these concerns in their book Catholic Higher Education: A Culture in Crisis. Upon surveying top administrators at 33 different Catholic universities and colleges, they found many of those in Catholic higher education leadership roles lack direction, conceptualization, and awareness of what a Catholic identity entails. Without a deeper understanding of the vision of Ex Corde Ecclesiae and the diversity that a Catholic educational blueprint offers, it is nearly impossible for administrators to lead their schools to be heterogeneous and set apart from secular counterparts. Morey and Piderit explain that each Catholic college and university expresses its diversity by uniquely selecting the type of student it wishes to attract, the type of student it wishes to graduate, and the educational process by which both are achieved.

All three elements support a Catholic blueprint and vision for higher education.[64] “A Catholic institution should have processes that encourage the student to develop as a holy person who is grateful for legacies and insights from the past and can articulate important spiritual movements in his or her person. Many strategies exist to attain such lofty goals, and each Catholic college or university has either implicitly or explicitly chosen one overall strategy from the set of possible strategies.”[65] They go on describe, based upon their research, four Catholic goals that can be applied to every strategy by saying, “In Catholic universities, the overall goal with respect to students is to educate young people with respect to the Catholic faith. More particular goals are that students should be: informed, well-disposed and, in at least some cases, good, practicing Catholics; adept at thinking critically; prepared to act ethically; and open to new ways of seeing and understanding things in future years.” Morey and Piderit propose four different models of Catholic higher education that represent a spectrum of diversity within the bounds set forth by the Church—immersion, persuasion, diaspora, and cohort—none of which are considered “pervasively sectarian.”

However, despite applying the strategies and educational processes through sectors such as the academic curriculum, residential living, student activities, and religious programs, Morey and Piderit propose “to consider a fifth sector—personnel—as a potentially important differentiating point among Catholic colleges when compared to their non-sectarian counterparts…faculty and administrators are ideally either cultural catalysts or cultural citizens, depending on their role and position.”[66] Fr. Wilson Miscamble C.S.C., accentuates this point saying, “The faculty is located at the heart of the university and only with true faculty commitment will a university fulfill its mission.”[67] Miscamble asserts that faculty at a Catholic university have additional and unique responsibilities which their secular counterparts do not have. He highlights, “Prior to attending to teaching and research, teacher-scholars in Catholic universities should have a familiarity with, an understanding of, and a real support for the distinctive nature and mission of the university in which they will teach and research. Understanding this mission should influence the kind of teachers they will be and also might have some impact on their approach to research.”[68]

Code of Canon Law provides a loose juridic expectation for faculty on their behavior and approach, as informed by the Church and the mission of the university in Canon 810, saying that teachers should be appointed “who besides their scientific and pedagogical qualifications are outstanding in integrity of doctrine and probity of life and that they are removed from their function when they lack these requirements.”[69] This canon is separate from the canonical mission required for theology faculty and applies to every discipline in the university. A more in-depth description on Canon 810 can be found in Ex Corde Ecclesiae throughout Part II Article 4 as well as the bishop’s 1999 approved version of “The Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae for the United States” in Part II Article 4. Therefore, the leaders of Catholic colleges and universities should apply great care and effort in the recruitment and hiring of Catholic faculty capable of modeling and supporting a coherent Catholic educational blueprint. Additionally, they should be attentive to key faculty appointments including deans council, curriculum committee, hiring committee, and tenure committee.

In a recent article in First Things Magazine titled “Who Killed the Catholic University?” James Keating painfully describes what happens when the faculty norms, as outlined by Code of Canon Law, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and The Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae for the United States documents, are not followed. He says, “Catholic education requires willing and able faculty committed to Catholic education; if you aren’t intentional about hiring Catholic educators, you won’t have them, and if you don’t have them, you can’t have a Catholic university…These people, indifferent and sometimes overtly hostile to the Catholic tradition, now run our schools. This was a choice, not an inevitable outcome. In many cases, Catholic scholars could have been hired, but insisting upon their hiring was too much trouble and only grew harder.

Once an academic department has a majority that is indifferent or hostile to the mission, insisting that it hire someone whose qualifications include a dedication to Catholic teaching becomes a bloody, uphill battle.”[70] Although the faculty composition is a critical component, Keating, along with the majority of other critics, point to the bishops and governing boards and their lack of accountability, which resulted in the lack of reception of Ex Corde Ecclesia. “Whereas Ex Corde had called for determined action on the part of college administrators and real vigilance by local bishops, the actual results were windy words from the former and the façade of engagement from the latter.”[71] This failure and lack of accountability over decades of divergence from a Catholic educational blueprint has posed both a pastoral and governing challenge for bishops. It is unreasonable for a bishop to re-assert his authority and accountability amidst a climate fundamentally opposed to that action. This level of accountability must be sought after by the governing body and university administration, which requires a disposition of humility and docility. Together, the local bishop and university leadership, perhaps with the assistance of a third party, all committed to making a shift from a secular to a Catholic educational blueprint, should design a mutual accountability structure consistent with the norms set forth in Code of Canon Law and Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

 Conclusion

In our post-modern, progressive secularism culture, Catholic colleges and universities face an unprecedented amount of pressure to conform to an educational blueprint incompatible with the Catholic intellectual tradition and devoid of an educational process that respects religious liberty and freedom. By their own design, in the late 1960s leaders of Catholic universities attempted to craft an approach to higher education that would satisfy both the secular pressures and aspirational desires of the Church’s interaction with modern man. The result, however, was a failed project because at the core, they adopted a secular approach to academic freedom. Subsequently, Catholic colleges and universities embraced a secular blueprint to higher education and became indistinguishable from their secular counterparts. In an effort to reclaim Catholic higher education as something which flows from the heart of the Church, Pope St. John Paul II proposed a new blueprint, one that is coherently Catholic, with the publication of his apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae. An explicit movement towards embracing a Catholic blueprint for higher education will preserve and strengthen both legally and canonically the diverse Catholic contribution to higher education.

Indeed, this movement will receive significant scrutiny and challenge from those narrowly committed to a thoroughly secularized vision for education. And although it likely comes at a cost, both financial and reputational, a committed, mission-driven university has a much higher likelihood of enduring the oncoming crisis in higher education than one that struggles with self-identity. The Church and her various institutions have historically risen to the challenge of being set apart. The words of Karol Wojtyla in his book Sign of Contradiction remind us “The inheritance of salvific truth is an extremely demanding one, fraught with difficulties. Inevitably the Church’s activities, and those of the Supreme Pontiff in particular, often become a ‘sign of contradiction’. This too shows that her mission is that of Christ, who continues to be a sign of contradiction.”[72]

[1] “Schools: College of the Holy Cross,” Liberal Arts Colleges, The Complete Guide to Liberal Arts Colleges, accessed March 15, 2023, https://www.liberalartscolleges.com/schools/college-of-the-holy-cross.

[2] Matthew 6:24 Revised Standard Version

[3] John 15:5 RSV

[4] Thomas J. Shelley, “John Tracy Ellis and Catholic Intellectual Life: From June 3, 1955,” America Magazine, November 15, 2022, https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/100/john-tracy-ellis-and-catholic-intellectual-life.

[5] John Tracy Ellis, “American Catholics and the Intellectual Life” Thought 30, (Autumn 1955): 351.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Philip Gleason, “The American Background of Ex Corde Ecclesiae: A Historical Perspective,” in Catholic Universities in Church and Society, ed. John P. Langan, S.J. (Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1993), 9.

[8] Second Vatican Council, “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 7 December 1965,” sec. 36.

[9] Jim Graves, “5 Prominent Catholics on the Sexual Revolution,” National Catholic Register, March 31, 2020, https://www.ncregister.com/blog/5-prominent-catholics-on-the-sexual-revolution-and-the-church.

[10] David J. O’Brien, “The Land O’Lakes Statement,” Boston College Magazine, Winter 1998, https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/offices/mission/pdf1/cu7.pdf.

[11] Neil G. McCluskey, ed., The Catholic University: A Modern Appraisal, (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1970) 336-41

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] David Novak, “Comment on Rev. Michael Buckley, SJ essay on The Catholic University and the Promise Inherent in Its Identity” in Catholic Universities in Church and Society, ed. John P. Langan S.J., (Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1993), 98.

[15] Ibid.

[16] McClusky, The Catholic University: A Modern Appraisal, 337

[17] Code of Canon Law 812

[18] Curran v. Catholic University of America, Civ. Action No. 1562-87, 1989. see also Ius Ecclesiae 1/1990 p. 193-209 Curran Versus Catholic University of America.

[19] Scott Jaschik, “Holy Cross Defends Professor Attacked as Blasphemous,” Inside Higher Ed, April 1, 2018, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/04/02/holy-cross-defends-professor-under-attack-his-writings-jesus-and-sexuality.

[20] Charlotte Allen, “Heresy At A Jesuit College,” First Things, April 17, 2018, https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2018/04/heresy-at-a-jesuit-college.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Kate Scanlon, “Bishop Rhoades: ‘Reproductive justice’ lecture series with abortion dula a ‘scandal,’ ‘unworthy’ of Notre Dame University,” America Magazine, March 23, 2023, https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2023/03/23/reproductive-justice-lecture-abortion-244962.

[23] Most Rev. Kevin Rhoades, “Reproductive Justice Series Promotes Injustice of Abortion and Provides Platform for Abortion Activists, in Opposition to Notre Dame’s Commitment to Culture of Life,” Today’s Catholic, March 21, 2023, https://todayscatholic.org/reproductive-justice-series-promotes-injustice-of-abortion-and-provides-platform-for-abortion-activists-in-opposition-to-notre-dames-commitment-to-culture-of-life/.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Charlotte Allen, “Crossroads,” Notre Dame News, February 8, 1999, https://news.nd.edu/news/crossroads/.

[26] Internal Revenue Service, Internal Revenue Code https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/exemption-requirements-501c3-organizations

[27] The Code of Canon Law: in English Translation (London: Collins, 1983), 116

[28] Charles H. Wilson, “American Catholic Universities and ‘Ex Corde Ecclesiae’—A Matter of Choice Under Civil Law,” in Catholic Universities in Church and Society, ed. John P. Langan S.J., (Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 1993), 178.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Sean Sheridan T.O.R., “Catholic Universities and Juridic Persons,” Journal of Catholic Higher Education 30, n. 1, (Winter 2011): 21-38.

[31] “Homepage,” The Official Catholic Directory, accessed March 15, 2023, https://www.officialcatholicdirectory.com/OCD/home.

[32] “Catholic Education: Catholic Colleges and Universities in the United States,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, accessed March 15, 2023, https://www.usccb.org/committees/catholic-education/catholic-colleges-and-universities-united-states.

[33] Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, “The Catholic School According to the Code of Canon Law,” Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice, 12, no. 2 (December 2008): 153.

[34] Code of Canon Law, c.748

[35] Ibid. c.794

[36] Ibid. c. 798

[37] Ibid. c. 229

[38] Wilson D. Miscamble, For Notre Dame: Battling for the Heart and Soul of a Catholic University (South Bend, Indiana: St. Augustine’s Press, 2013), 47.

[39] Nicholas P. Carfardi, “Giving Legal Life to the Ex Corde Ecclesiae Norms: Corporate Strategies and Practical Difficulties,” Journal of College and University Law 25, no.4 (Spring 1999): 753.

[40] Mark Hayward, “Monks at St. Anselm sue, worried about college’s Catholic identity,” New Hampshire Union Leader, December 9, 2019, https://www.unionleader.com/news/courts/monks-at-st-anselm-sue-worried-about-college-s-catholic/article_3e54b642-07b4-5a0f-9353-ba663a10c548.html.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Cafardi, “Giving Legal Life to the Ex Corde Ecclesiae norms: corporate strategies and practical difficulties,” 754.

[44] Ibid. 761

[45] Charles E. Curran, “The Catholic Identity of Catholic Institutions,” Theological Studies 58, no. 1, (1997): 104.

[46] Killinger v. Samford Univ., 113 F.3d 196 (11th Cir. 1997).

[47] Peter M. Mitchell, The Coup at Catholic University (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015), 81.

[48] Gerald Bradley, “Curran versus Catholic University of America,” Ius Ecclesiae 1, (1990): 196

[49] https://www.aaup.org/our-programs/academic-freedom/censure-list

[50] United States Equal Employment Opportunity Constitution, “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” https://www.eeoc.gov/statutes/title-vii-civil-rights-act-1964.

[51] Mark Oppenheimer, “Now’s the Time to End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions,” Time Magazine, June 28, 2015, https://time.com/3939143/nows-the-time-to-end-tax-exemptions-for-religious-institutions/.

[52] Cafardi, “Giving Legal Life to the Ex Corde Ecclesiae norms: corporate strategies and practical difficulties,” 759.

[53] David Gregory, “The Bishop’s Role in the Catholic Law School,” Regent University Law Review 11, no. 23. (1999): 26-27.

[54] Ibid. 28

[55] Michael J. Baxter C.S.C., “Notes in Defense of Ex Corde Ecclesiae: Three Replies to Three Typical Objections,” The Thomist 63, no. 4 (October 1999): 630-631.

[56] Ibid. 632

[57] Code of Canon Law 809

[58] John Paul II, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, apostolic constitution, (Washington D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), sec. 2, art. 2 (5).

[59] Ibid. 5,4

[60] Most Rev. John J. Leibrecht, “The Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae in the United States,” Catholic education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice 5, no. 2 (December 2001), 143.

[61] Liebrecht, “The Application of Ex Corde Ecclesiae in the United States,” 145.

[62] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Instruction Donum Veritatis On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian,” May 24, 1990, sect. 27, https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19900524_theologian-vocation_en.html.

[63] Baxter, “Notes in Defense of Ex Corde Ecclesiae: Three Replies to Three Typical Objections,” 639-640.

[64] Melanie M. Morey and John J. Piderit, S.J., Catholic Higher Education: A Culture in Crisis, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 51-53.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Ibid. 61

[67] Miscamble, “For Notre Dame,” 48

[68] Ibid. 49

[69] Code of Canon Law 810

[70] James F. Keating, “Who Killed the Catholic University?,” First Things, April 2023, https://www.firstthings.com/article/2023/04/who-killed-the-catholic-university.

[71] Ibid.

[72] Karol Wojtyla, Sign of Contradiction, St. Paul Publications, New York: A Crossroads Book, the Seabury Press, 1979, 124.


David Trotter

While earning his Bachelor of Architecture at the University of Kansas, David Trotter fell in love with his wife Erin and the Catholic faith. Since becoming Catholic, David has served Catholic apostolates in higher education for nearly two decades. He currently serves on the Board of Regents at Conception Seminary College and the Board of Advisors for the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas. He recently earned his Masters of Science in Church Management from Villanova University and in January 2024 became the new president of Maur Hill-Mount Academy, a Catholic, college-prep, boarding school. He and his wife Erin, along with their eight children, live in Atchsion, Kansas.