Academia and the U.S. Bishops Working Together
During the annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities [ACCU], stronger relations between Catholic college presidents and bishops were urged by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Although not mentioned by name, one of the implications was that Notre Dame should have thought twice and consulted the bishop of Ft. Wayne-South Bend before inviting and presenting President Obama with an award. Word has it this isn’t the last we will hear on the issue; the bishops will be putting more pressure on Catholic Colleges and Universities to respect their authority and church teaching.
Will this lead to a “them and us” and not “we” relationship between Catholic colleges and universities and the bishops? Academics in colleges and universities are extremely sensitive about academic freedom and anyone breathing down their necks, and bishops are extremely sensitive when their teaching authority is ignored. The sixty-four-dollar question facing us is how to avoid entrenchment, standoffs and a war?
Ironically, a recent project between Notre Dame University and the diocese of Tucson may be one very good means for cultivating the cooperation Cardinal McCarrick calls for.
No doubt controversy will continue over who should be invited to a campus or what should be taught on it, especially if there are doctrinal conflicts. If Catholicism is to have a distinct identity, it is absolutely necessary to address these issues. It is also absolutely necessary that projects like this one are highlighted and commended. When bishops and Catholic colleges and universities work together in this manner, fruitful dialogue over touchy issues is much easier to achieve.
It should be pointed out that the press loves conflicts. They make for juicy reading and sell newspapers. We don’t need this at a time when our poor economy is threatening Catholic education; what is needed are more success stories!