Saturday, November 22, 2003

The challenges of getting a "Catholic education"

Chicago's Cardinal Francis George told the Register that "A mandatum is a public reality, like getting a degree from a university. It's a fact that a bishop has given a particular faculty member a mandatum that they are teaching in communion with the Church. That is a public matter. Whether to publicize it or not is a private matter."

"It's a personal act," he added, "but personal acts are sometimes public, like receiving a sacrament."

While the U.S. bishops' guidelines don't explicitly address the question of whether mandatums should be known to the public or not, they are unequivocal about one thing: Every Catholic theology professor has to have one.

"All Catholics who teach theological disciplines in a Catholic university are required to have a mandatum," it continues.

Canon 812 uses similar language, without specifying Catholics: "It is necessary that those who teach theological disciplines in any institute of higher studies have a mandate from the competent ecclesiastical authority."

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 1990 instruction "The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian" explains the reason for the mandatum when it says that one who has become a Catholic theologian has "freely and knowingly accepted to teach in the name of the Church" (No. 38).

The National Catholic Register features it's six-part ongoing investigation of whether Catholic colleges & universities are complying with the Church's instruction regarding proper qualification of those who teach theology. Several of the 'big-name' schools (Georgetown, Loyola, Notre Dame) are less than willing to disclose whether members of their theology department have obtained the mandatum, claiming it is a "private matter" between the professor and the bishop, or that to even obligate religion teachers to do so would violate their "academic freedom."

Needless to say, this secrecy fails to instill a feeling of confidence to Catholic parents concerned that their children receive the "Catholic education" they deserve. (As one parent put it, "I disagree that this is a private issue, . . . [it] is not consistent with an active laity in the Church. If parents are paying $10,000 or $20,000 a year to send [their children] to a Catholic school, they have a right to know what they are paying for.") Unfortunately, some parents have learned the hard way. But rather than take the chance, the Register reveals, many parents are opting for the security of Catholic institutions who publicly disclose the credentials of their faculty and unhesitantly affirm their devotion to the Magisterium.

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