Friday, November 04, 2005

'Evangelical Pruning' Ahead?

Imagine. The Pope actually thinks that traditionally Catholic universities and colleges should get back to their roots:
Ever since Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI, educators at Roman Catholic colleges in the United States have been trying to figure out what his agenda would be for their institutions.

In a speech at the University of Notre Dame Monday, a senior Vatican official offered some predictions about what to expect: a strong emphasis on Catholic identity on their campuses and an increased role in reaching out to Catholic institutions in other countries. Archbishop Michael Miller, secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, told a packed audience at Notre Dame that the pope might favor “evangelical pruning,” rather than maintaining ties to institutions that have become too secular. . .

Michael J. James, executive vice president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. . .[believed] that the Vatican is taking a broad view of the ideals of Catholic higher education, and not focusing on any one single question. James said that this was appropriate, but he acknowledged that there could be controversies ahead. Many Catholic colleges are embroiled in debates over whether to recognize gay student groups or to allow speakers on campus who disagree with Catholic teachings. College presidents dealing with such situations tend to face criticism on all sides — with students and many faculty members pushing for greater tolerance, especially on issues of sexuality, while traditionalist groups attack colleges that appear to deviate in any way from official teachings.

One “possible negative outcome” of the archbishop’s talk, James said, was that “it could bolster conservative groups that are relatively small and isolated, but they will take this and say, ‘we think you are not living up to your Catholic identity.’

. . .Rev. Charles L. Currie, president of the Association of Jesuit College and Universities, agreed. “He’s making the point that these schools should be serious about their Catholic identity and the folks I work with — Jesuit and non-Jesuit — are serious. So we accept that challenge, and our schools are very actively pursuing their Catholic identity.”

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