what you don't need to know

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 25, 2006

In an article on Georgetown University, Tom Bethell gives a vivid account of an address by Newman Society president Patrick Reilly, in the course of which it was averred that the Apostolic Constitution Ex corde Ecclesiae required theologians at Catholic universities to have the mandatum.

A Jesuit member of Georgetown's theology department interjected "That is not true!" and proceeded to explain that he learned this from none other than the Archbishop of Washington himself. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, he said

came to our theology department, sat down and spoke to us for two hours about [the mandatum], had a very interesting discussion. And it is simply not the responsibility of the university. Canonically, it's a matter between the bishop and the individual theologian. I am given to understand, although I haven't checked this out myself, that the American bishops put the kibosh on some people who were trying to crack down on whether or not so-and-so at this or that university had a mandate. So we asked the Cardinal Archbishop directly, "Suppose somebody asks us whether we have a mandate." He said, "It's none of their business."

That's good to know -- and worth remembering next time the bishops, or the universities themselves, come around asking for contributions "to benefit Catholic Higher Education." It's none of our business which theologians at Catholic universities are themselves doctrinally Catholic. Therefore it would be reckless -- not to say presumptuous -- of us to give money in support of same. ("Who are you, little man, to put your paltry sawbuck in the offering envelope? Do you think the recipients regard it as a compliment? Do you believe our theologians would sell their intellectual virginity by turning Catholic? Do you imagine they want the tainted lucre of your pre-Conciliar bigotry?)

There are alternatives, happily, even for those of us who ignorantly wipe our noses on the sleeves of our sectarianism. Some colleges, like the Franciscan University of Steubenville and Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, believe that it's a good thing that their theologians have the mandatum and they want us to know about it. We can donate to them (and similarly unbashful institutions), confident that whatever share of the take goes to theologians goes to support Catholic theology, as opposed to what is None of Our Business.

But won't withdrawing contributions damage the fragile blossom of cutting-edge theological research that has done so much to aid Christian discipleship? Negative. Theologians don't need costly equipment like cyclotrons or supercomputers or high energy lasers to do their research. A library card is sufficient. Nor should we worry that redirecting donations will have a chilling effect on academic freedom. Experience has taught us that academics can earn more than enough cash for incidental expenses by giving impromptu workshops on the Fundamental Option at truck stop rest-rooms and summer schools. And there's always the Lilly Foundation.

You may, on the other hand, be of the conviction that a bishop would never allow a theologian to hold a position at a Catholic institution in his diocese unless he held the mandatum (or positions so sound as to make the mandatum superfluous). Cardinal McCarrick, after all, was in an excellent position to monitor the doctrinal purity of Georgetown. It's too late, alas, to pay him to instruct you what is None of Your Business, but you could send a candygram to his successor.

Theologian (right) surrounded by books (discrete, rectangular, multifoliate codices visible on shelving).

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  • Posted by: Sterling - Jun. 27, 2006 12:57 PM ET USA

    Isn't is funny that there is such a NEED to be pastoral - concerned - compassionate - and "nuanced" - with homosexuals, people who use birth control, politicans who enable abortions in the millions, etc. - but the answer to a parent concerned about the authentic relgious education of his child is "None of your business." Isn't that so pastoral? Why not simply say, "Just sign the check, Mom and Dad, and shut up."

  • Posted by: Web Doctor - Jun. 26, 2006 5:29 PM ET USA

    There's also Christendom College in Front Royal, VA.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 26, 2006 4:59 PM ET USA

    Ave Maria, Christendom, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Thomas Aquinas... any other nominees for true Catholic colleges in the USA or Canada? I told a young man recently who had the difficult choice of picking which one of those to attend, that he was better off then I was in 1965. I attended Loyola University in Los Angleles in 1965 and the entire theology department was over the edge already!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 26, 2006 2:39 PM ET USA

    "You can have your Old Rome, Holy Father, with its Peter and Paul and its tunnel full of martyrs. We start with no unpleasant associations; in innocence, with divine wisdom and peace." - Evelyn Waugh, Helena.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 26, 2006 12:53 PM ET USA

    I have communicated with 9 university presidents concerning Ex Corde Ecclesiae. All responses were to claim academic freedom. We are free to teach error should have been the response. Well, God gave us a free will capable of chooing to sin. They have made their choice. The laity can make theirs. Ave Maria University in Florida is a safe place to send a person or funds. One of Pope Benedict's former students is the Provost.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 26, 2006 10:28 AM ET USA

    There's also Redeemer Pacific College in western Canada (where your dollar goes farther!), a satellite program of Steubenville. http://www.rpcollege.bc.ca/

  • Posted by: - Jun. 26, 2006 9:17 AM ET USA

    If you want to see doctrinal purity in academe in action, try St. Michael's College in Vermont.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 26, 2006 8:03 AM ET USA

    The endowment coffers of the major Catholic universities are stuffed, aren't they? I've never received a letter asking for contributions to Boston College or Georgetown or whatever. I think the best course of action is to document their heterodoxy and continue to flood Rome with proof of same. Eventually Rome may act when the local ordinary refuses to do so. Am I just too naive?

  • Posted by: - Jun. 25, 2006 9:55 PM ET USA

    I am delighted to see Tom Bethell's excellent piece on Georgetown U. referenced. You can also contribute confidently to Christendom College, whose entire faculty takes the Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium prescribed in Ex corde ecclesiae, not once but every year. Members of the Board of Directors also take the oath whenever a new member joins the board. I make these comments without bias, even though I am Tom Bethell's wife and chairman of Christendom's board.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 25, 2006 9:04 PM ET USA

    Cardinal McCarrick and the Jesuits; a marriage of convenience. Just what the Jesuits needed; an accomplice. God help us; AMDG!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 25, 2006 6:06 PM ET USA

    I suppose that the California Jesuit schools can say they teach: "San Andreas Fault Catholicism" ie Its their fault we have all these rules, our job is to show you how to get around them.

  • Posted by: Sir William - Jun. 25, 2006 12:51 PM ET USA

    I'm just trying to figure out how pretending to be Catholic, and not actually teaching all things 'Catholic', is 'academic freedom'. Sounds more like false advertising to me.