I want to provide you with an update on developments concerning the process to implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae in the United States. The Catholic bishops of the United States have been meeting this week in Washington, DC; and on Wednesday they voted 223 to 31 to approve the latest draft of Norms to implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae . The next step is for this document to be reviewed by the Congregation for Catholic Education and other Vatican offices. Once approved by officials in Rome, I am told there will be a one-year period before the Norms take effect. I have also been advised that a committee of theologians, bishops, and presidents will be appointed to develop guidelines concerning the mandatum.
I had hoped that the bishops would decide to engage in further dialogue before approving any implementation process, but that is not the case. As we move forward, I think it is important that all of us here at Boston College and involved in Catholic higher education in the United States keep certain points in mind. First, the document approved yesterday contains some very positive statements. It declares that "a Catholic university enjoys institutional autonomy which must be respected and promoted by all, so that it may effectively carry out its mission of freely searching for all truth (II. Article 2, paragraph 1)."
The document continues, "Academic freedom is an essential component of a Catholic university, and all professors should be accorded appropriate freedom to engage in inquiry and prudent expression of their opinions (II. Article 2, paragraph 2)."
Additionally, "A Catholic university, in promoting its own Catholic identify and fostering Catholic teaching and discipline, must respect the religious liberty of every individual (II. Article 2, paragraph 4)." I also think it is important to recall that the mandatum only pertains to Catholics who are teaching in the Theology Department. No one else is affected by it.
I also want to reiterate that Boston College has long cherished its community members - whether students or faculty or staff - who are Protestant or Jewish or Muslim or of any other religious faith. Their talents have been a blessing to Boston College, and the tradition of inclusion enriches all of us and will continue to enrich us as we pursue our dual goal of being the best possible university we can be, while also being Jesuit and Catholic. In fact, I believe that our Jesuit and Catholic roots and traditions underlie our goal to be a great university.
In reflecting on the nature of Catholic universities, I have always found it profitable to consider John Henry Cardinal Newman, who wrote in his classic, The Idea of the University , "It [a university] is not a Convent, it is not a Seminary; it is a place to fit men of the world for the world. We cannot possibly keep them from plunging into the world with all its ways and principles and maxims when their time comes; but we can prepare them against what is inevitable; and it is not the way to learn to swim in troubled waters, never to have gone into them."
Boston College will continue to be a place that stirs waters and that stirs its students, hearts and minds, to seek and live the highest truths.
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