Catholic Bishops Discuss Helping Colleges Stick With Church’s Pro-Life Teachings

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 18, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Catholic Bishops Discuss Helping Colleges Stick With Church’s Pro-Life Teachings

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 18
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — The nation’s Catholic bishops are having their semi-annual meeting in Baltimore this week and one topic they are addressing has been prominent on the minds of pro-life Catholics. That’s the relationship between Catholic colleges and universities and the church’s pro-life teachings.

The problem came to a head earlier this year when Notre Dame invited pro-abortion President Barack Obama to give its commencement speech and gave him an honorary degree.

That directly violated the admonition from the bishops to not give platforms to abortion advocates or honor them.

USCCB president Cardinal George delivered an opening speech to his colleagues that underscored the importance of Catholic college’s keeping with pro-life principles.

He said the bishops have recently begun discussions on how we might strengthen our relationship to Catholic universities, to media claiming to be a voice in the church, and to organizations that direct various works under Catholic auspices.”

“Since everyone in Catholic communion is truly interrelated, and the visible nexus of these relations is the bishop, an insistence on complete independence from the bishop renders a person or institution sectarian, less than fully Catholic," he said. "The purpose of our reflections, therefore, is to clarify questions of truth or faith and of accountability or community among all those who claim to be part of Catholic communion.”

George has created a task force for this purpose.

The topic of Catholic colleges promoting and honoring pro-abortion speakers will be a key topic during today’s closed-door, three-hour executive session.

Patrick Reilly, president of The Cardinal Newman Society, told today that their discussion comes on the 10-year anniversary of the bishops’ vote to approve guidelines implementing Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Vatican constitution on Catholic higher education.

That document called for requirements that at least a majority of faculty must be Catholic and professors must request a “mandate” from their local bishop before teaching Catholic theology.

“Clearly the bishops still consider the renewal of Catholic higher education to be a key priority,” he said. “Faithful Catholics will be grateful for the bishops’ thoughtful and significant response to very serious concerns.”

Reilly pointed out that the Notre Dame decision violated a USCCB policy and provoked criticism by 83 bishops—including the new bishop in Notre Dame’s diocese, Bishop Kevin Rhoades.

George said that it falls to the bishops to “re-establish” necessary connections with Catholic colleges promoting abortion advocates.

At a subsequent press conference, Cardinal George declined to name specific universities that the bishops have in mind, although he added “if any institution… calls itself Catholic,” it is the moral responsibility of a bishop to assure that it is Catholic.

George said this offers the bishops “a chance to clarify the relationship” and see if the entity in question is operating within the bonds of Catholic communion.

Related web sites:
Cardinal Newman Society –

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