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Catholic identity and the university
August 9th, 2016
By Donald C. Carroll

Re “University president defends Catholic hiring for Catholic identity,” July 28:

John Garvey, the president of Catholic University of America, reportedly told the Napa Institute on July 7 that building a Catholic university is “not a complicated thing” and that it is only necessary to follow St. John Paul II’s direction in “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” (the pope’s apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, promulgated Aug. 15, 1990) that a majority of faculty “must be” Catholic. President Garvey reportedly said if the university chooses Catholics to teach, “... the university will be Catholic. If it doesn’t, it won’t.”

My objection to Mr. Garvey is to his manipulation of “Ex Corde.” “Ex Corde” says that a majority “should be,” not “must be,” and leaves up to the episcopal conference of each country the implementation of “Ex Corde” in accord with the circumstances of each country. On Nov. 17, 1999, the American bishops in a plenary meeting approved an application for the U.S. (approved in Rome) in which the bishops did not say that a Catholic university must have a numerical majority of Catholics in order to be Catholic. What the bishops said was: “In accordance with its procedures for the hiring and retention of professionally qualified faculty and relevant provisions of applicable federal and state law, regulations and procedures, the university should strive to recruit and appoint Catholics as professors so that, to the extent possible, those committed to the witness of the faith will constitute a majority of the faculty ...”(Part 2, Article 4, Section 4).

The Napa Institute did not get the truth. It is perplexing that the president of CUA is not more accurate in representing the position of the pope and of the U.S. bishops who appoint him to his post. In point of fact, having a majority of Catholics alone guarantees nothing in terms of achieving Catholic identity.

Donald C. Carroll
Menlo Park

Editor’s note: Article 4, Paragraph 4, of “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” states: “Those university teachers and administrators who belong to other Churches, ecclesial communities, or religions, as well as those who profess no religious belief, and also all students, are to recognize and respect the distinctive Catholic identity of the University. In order not to endanger the Catholic identity of the University or Institute of Higher Studies, the number of non-Catholic teachers should not be allowed to constitute a majority within the Institution, which is and must remain Catholic.” The U.S. bishops’ “Application for Ex Corde Ecclesiae for the United States” may be found here:


From August 11, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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