Battling for the Church’s universities
Recent remarks made by Pope Benedict XVI about Catholic higher education spurred the Manassas, Va.-based Cardinal Newman Society to issue a special report on the status of the mandatum’s implementation in U.S. Catholic colleges and universities.
Titled “A Mandate for Fidelity: Pope Benedict Urges Compliance With Theologians’ Mandatum,” the report features several key Church leaders and scholars calling for a renewed commitment to the Church’s canon law mandatum requirement for theologians who teach at Catholic colleges and universities.
Pope Benedict addressed the topic of Catholic higher education on May 5, during the ad limina visit by the bishops of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.
“The report was prompted by Pope Benedict’s address to the bishops, in which he ties the mandatum directly to the work of colleges and universities to renew their Catholic identity,” said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society.
The report suggests that the mandatum has largely been disregarded due to “scant information available about who has the mandatum and the procedures followed by individual bishops to grant or deny it.”
The canon law mandatum is a bishop’s acknowledgement of a theology professor’s declaration that they will teach in communion with the Church and her teaching authority, as required by Canon 812.
The Pope spoke of the mandate in the context of “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.”
“Yet much remains to be done, especially in such areas as compliance with the mandate laid down in Canon 812 for those who teach theological disciplines,” said Pope Benedict.
“The importance of this canonical norm,” he continued, “becomes all the more evident when we consider 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 Cardinal Newman Society report quoted Cardinal Raymond Burke, canon lawyer and prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, on the significance of the Pope’s recent words. “The Holy Father only has a limited number of occasions during these ad limina visits to speak with bishops,” Cardinal Burke said. “That he would devote one of the lengthier communications with the bishops to the subject [of the mandatum and Catholic higher education] certainly indicates to me that it is a serious concern on his part. … It would seem reasonable to me to think that the Holy Father brought it up because of a concern that it is not perhaps being implemented in the way that’s intended.” [More]