D.C. Universities Offer Quick Replies to Bishops' Appeal: New Benchmarks Win Endorsement

Article excerpt

Two national leaders in Catholic higher education lauded the U.S. Catholic bishops' new benchmarks for Catholic identity in such schools, and held out their two D.C. institutions as possible examples.

Both Jesuit-founded Georgetown University and the Catholic University of America, founded by the bishops, have lists of ways that Catholicism permeates social and academic life on the campuses.

"It is critical and helpful that the norms that were voted on were explicitly supportive of academic freedom and institutional autonomy," said the Rev. Leo J. O'Donovan, president of Georgetown University.

In adopting "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" last week, the bishops recognized that Catholic education balances the freedom of a school educating in the secular marketplace and the need for bishops and educators to support student faith and urge theologians to teach "authentic church doctrine."

The Rev. David M. O'Connell, president of Catholic University, said that while the decade-long discussion "has not always been easy," the bishops produced a consensus of all viewpoints.

"Now the conversation and process can move in a more positive direction," he said.

In their floor debate last week, the bishops were mindful that America's Protestant-founded universities mostly have secularized.

George Marsden, a Protestant historian at the University of Notre Dame, would not comment on "Ex Corde Ecclesiae" but pointed to his argument that secular schools should allow the academic freedom of "Christian scholarship" in the campus pluralism.

He said universities often block a Christian viewpoint from being applied by scholars to history, law or economics while allowing Marxism or feminism to do so.

The nation's 235 Catholic universities and colleges in contrast seek a dominant Catholic atmosphere, but with pluralism for non-Catholic teachers and students. …