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Make Catholic Higher Education Catholic Again

My Open Letter of Application for Catholic College Chancellorship:

To the powers-that-be on campus:

Good morning!  I am writing to you to humbly request consideration to be hired as your new Chancellor (or whatever you call the “top job” on campus) at your officially-but-not-actually Catholic institution of higher learning.

My formal qualifications for such a high and important post? On paper, I don’t have many. I’m not sure that I have any, in fact.

A Ph.D. is typically required for the type of position I seek, but I only have an M.A. I teach English at a university in Japan, but I have no work experience in academia in the U.S.

In fact, over the past two decades I have spent precious little time at all on any U.S. college campus. On a Stateside visit five years ago, I showed my Japanese wife around the campuses of Yale and Southern Connecticut State University (both near my hometown) and Dartmouth (near my uncle’s hometown). I’m guessing that probably doesn’t count.

Besides my teaching duties here in Japan, I serve on only one committee, which meets only a two or three times a year. I have published a grand total of six articles in my field and have presented at four conferences.

That’s the extent of my accomplishments in academia. I admit, that’s not very much.

So why would I be a good choice to serve in a leadership post at your school? Simply put, I believe that a Catholic institution should actually be Catholic. And I would make sure that it was just that.

As the “chief executive officer” on your campus, here are the sorts of things that would not happen under my watch:

  • “Medically necessary abortions” (there’s no such thing, actually) being covered by student insurance at the Catholic-in-name-only Manhattan College in New York
  • Georgetown University’s increasingly “big commitment to its LGBTQ community” in recent years
  • “LGBTQIA resources” offered at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts – services which, like at Georgetown, are aimed not at helping same-sex-attracted students to resist homosexual behavior, but at affirming such acts
  • Holy Cross not only hiring, but also lavishing praise upon, faculty members who suggest that Jesus may have been gay
  • Planned Parenthood being listed as a student resource by the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY
  • Notre Dame University, arguably America’s flagship Catholic university for most of its history, bestowing prestigious honors on pro-abortion stalwarts Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and Wendy Davis
  • The same school’s “passive toleration” of intimidation and threats hurled at students who support Catholic teaching on campus
  • So-called Catholic schools in general stressing concepts like a “balance of academic and spiritual life” (shouldn’t they be integrated, not “balanced”?); referring to the search of a single idea of Catholicism as “futile”; and giving voice to “opposing views of Catholicism” (there aren’t any; one is simply either Catholic or not)
A photo our editor took of a flyer on a visit to Georgetown in 2012

I could certainly offer more examples of the snubbing of Catholic teaching by “Catholic” institutions, but the list would likely be prohibitively long.

As your chancellor I would make sure that nothing like the above departures from Catholic fidelity were allowed to stain what’s supposed to be the Catholic identity of your institution. If any such things are going on already, I’d snuff them out pronto.  Call it a sort of exorcism.

Simply put, there are too many colleges and universities that claim the Catholic label, probably either out of sentimentality or in order to attract students – but then violate Pope St. John Paul II’s call in Ex Corde Ecclesia for Catholic universities to truly live and advance the Faith: “Any official action or commitment of the University is to be in accord with its Catholic identity.” If entrusted to help manage and chart the future course of your institution, I would ensure that John Paul’s words were put into actual practice.

I would certainly not expect or require every student, faculty member, and staffer at the school to be Catholic – although, and we shouldn’t be afraid to say this or to feel compelled to apologize for it – at least a majority of them should be. But they would be expected to recognize the fact that they attend or work at a Catholic college, and act accordingly.

Thus, they should expect no quarter or sanction for clubs, activities, events, or (more on this later) academic pursuits that blatantly embrace anything contradicting Catholic doctrinal, moral, or social teaching. In other words, nothing anti-Catholic should be allowed at a Catholic school any more than anti-environmentalist ideas or activities should be given “safe harbor” at Greenpeace.

I have no actual experience whatsoever in either student recruitment or fundraising – two key roles for anyone running any college. But I have no doubt, once I have weeded out any and all traces of infidelity to the Catholic faith on campus, that the school would pretty much sell itself.

That’s because, at least my hunches tell me, lots of Catholic parents out there badly want to send their kids to a college that’s really Catholic. Heaven knows there are precious few such schools – there are only 19 out of roughly 200 so-called Catholic U.S. colleges and universities on the Cardinal Newman Center’s list of recommended “faithful Catholic” institutions.

With only 9.5% of America’s self-identified Catholic colleges and universities meriting inclusion on the Newman list – and the bar isn’t really that high; they just have to be truly Catholic – there is, I strongly suspect, a demand for authentically Catholic higher education.  So, recruiting students would be a snap. A demonstrated commitment to Catholic teachings and ideals would have admissions applications piling up.

The same would hold true for fundraising; I’m confident that once the campus was given a good proverbial scrubbing and freed of any anti-Catholic stains, donations would go up – especially from older alumni who have stopped donating to the school due to its abandonment of its true Catholic mission and character.

I mentioned academic pursuits earlier. As your leader, I would of course make all efforts to ensure and foster academic freedom on campus. I would do everything possible to make the institution a bearer and imparter of truth in all fields of study. Of course, recognition of Christ as the ultimate Truth, along with a commitment to the belief that Christ commissioned the Catholic Church to bear Truth in the world, would be placed at the core of those efforts.

After all, a Catholic institution should already accept and believe that Catholicism is truth – and that anything contradicting it is, of course, not the truth. “Two plus two equals five” is an objective falsehood in a math class and thus should not be taught in one; likewise, classes at Catholic colleges have a duty to avoid giving credence to anything that Catholicism says is false or morally wrong. If the school can’t abide by that, it should stop calling itself Catholic.

So, no lectures or seminars on campus about how Jesus might have been gay, or that marriage need not be limited to man-woman unions, or that abortion might not be so bad after all, or that all religions are equally true, or anything else flying in the face of Catholic truth.

And no, it’s not a violation of academic freedom to keep these ideas off-campus. No freedom is absolute; incitements to violence or yelling “fire” in a crowded theater aren’t protected speech on a secular level, for instance, yet freedom of speech still exists nonetheless. Likewise, blatant heterodoxy falls outside of the realm of truth at a Catholic college, and it’s not a betrayal of academic freedom to bar the door to it. In fact, given that John Paul II defined freedom as the right to do what we ought – not what we want to do all the time – such a dismissal of ideas and actions at odds with the Faith is required for a Catholic school’s pursuit of academic freedom.

In conclusion, I don’t actually expect my application for employment as your institution’s next “top dog” to be taken seriously. It is my hope and prayer, however, that you deeply and prayerfully reflect on John Paul II’s Ex Corde Ecclesia and, to borrow an often-heard political slogan and re-purpose it, Make Catholic Higher Education Catholic Again.

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