Pope Benedict has put on his schedule a meeting with presidents and other top personnel of Catholic universities in the United States. The former university professor himself is well aware of the impact academia can have on impressionable young souls, for good or bad, and he knows that the U.S. is home to the largest single concentration of Catholic universities in the world, so there is a lot at stake in this talk. My hope is that he will set them straight about a few items that these most intelligent people in higher education seem to be confused about. I would think that a few of the following issues would be of highest importance, as regards both theory and discipline.
Let’s start at the beginning: I think he should demand that Catholic colleges and universities go back to actually teaching the fullness of the Catholic Faith to young people. What would be unreasonable about that? The fact that a handful of newer, unabashedly traditional, Catholic colleges have sprung up in recent years to defend and teach Catholic orthodoxy is in itself an indication that most of the others are not doing their job. I am not talking about presenting a façade of Catholic teaching to the kids. I am talking about immersing the youth of these schools in the Catholic intellectual tradition and forming their minds and souls to offer our dynamic Faith as a gift to our nation so desperately afloat in a sea of relativism and intellectual degradation.
Secondly, in order to do that, universities would basically need professors who are steeped in the Catholic intellectual tradition themselves and capable of applying that to modern times. Not only is the percentage of Catholic faculty declining in some major Catholic universities around the nation, but the quotient of orthodoxy of those who call themselves Catholic is highly questionable. Right now, it is virtually impossible even for Catholic university presidents to know which of their theology professors have actually signed the “Mandatum” (a statement that a professor can and will teach the Catholic Faith) required by the document Ex Corde Ecclesiae. If a Catholic professor at a Catholic university or college is not willing to formally be recognized as a teacher of the orthodox Faith, why is he or she on the faculty?
Thirdly, the Holy Father should just tell these elite members of higher education to get the secular, dissenting and hedonistic garbage off Catholic campuses and to do it immediately. Certain things are totally inconsistent with Catholic faith and practice. For starters, he can ask them to get over their obsession with the V-Monologues and eradicate every vestige of that wretched play from Catholic campus life. They should then decommission and remove all gay and lesbian groups from their lists of approved organizations on campus, and then uproot all radical, leftist causes and courses that both give scandal and cause a distortion of Catholic thinking on social issues. Presumably parents send their kids to these places to be fed with solid food for their souls; the intellectual junk food of our society should be taken off the menu at every institution that calls itself Catholic.
The most important part of his approach to these issues, however, has to be discipline, something that can only come from the top. University presidents who refuse to clean up their acts should just be removed, no matter how popular they are or how well respected in their communities. Their first responsibility is to God and the young people entrusted to their care, and the official church hierarchy has to ensure that. Tenured radicals should be gently set out to pasture so that they can no longer contaminate young souls — and vibrant, orthodox, faithful and intellectually honest Catholics should be given positions of authority at the institutions forming the next generation of Catholics. Remember that this is the generation that will uproot the culture of death from our land and transform it into a culture of life — but only if they are truly Catholic. Who else can set them straight on that except the Vicar of Christ?