Light and Darkness at Catholic Colleges

Catholic education isn’t about opening doors to the world’s darkness — it’s about forming students to bring light into the world.

The Walsh Library at Seton Hall University
The Walsh Library at Seton Hall University (photo: InfoAgent2 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the United States, there are many Catholic colleges that teach students to know and defend the Faith. There are many other colleges that hide behind a love-and-inclusion banner while encouraging human degradation. The difference couldn’t be more stark.

Some Catholic colleges have been embracing drag queen shows, Planned Parenthood events and other celebrations of lower inclinations. Why would any serious-minded Catholic support a façade of Catholic education that encourages sampling forbidden fruits? Adam and Eve did not just taste-test in the Garden of Eden but rebuked God. So it is at Catholic-in-name-only schools.

CNA reported on a drag show last spring at Philadelphia’s St. Joseph University, which was performed in their student center and put on by their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office.

“The mission of Catholic education,” said the Cardinal Newman Society — an organization that promotes faithful Catholic education — to CNA, “is to evangelize and witness to the truth of God and the world through complete integral human formation.” It’s certainly not to recruit student drag queens, as St. Joseph University’s diversity and inclusion office has been doing annually for five years.


Contrasting Mission Statements

When officials at St. Joseph’s University were asked if hosting a drag show was consistent with Catholic teaching, they had no comment. Of course. I found it interesting that the Jesuit University’s mission statement makes no reference to Catholic tradition — not that such statements can’t be ignored. 

To make a comparison, I picked out another Catholic institution — Seton Hall University — to compare its mission statement to that of St. Joseph’s University.

St. Joseph’s mission statement says:

We prepare students for personal excellence, professional success and engaged citizenship. Striving to be an inclusive and diverse community that educates and cares for the whole person, we encourage and model lifelong commitment to thinking critically, making ethical decisions, pursuing social justice and finding God in all things.

There’s no mention of tradition or Catholic teaching, and by adding “finding God in all things,” anything can be excused. (“Are you saying God doesn’t love all his children; even drag queens?” You know the game.)

Contrast this with the statement of Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, which has a clear Catholic mission:

All that we do is informed by the best professional practices, the latest technological advances, and the values of the Catholic tradition. Our work with students is intentionally designed to foster excellence in academics, as well as spiritual and personal growth, so that all are empowered to reach their full potential as servant leaders.

Traditional Christian morality in higher education is dependent on the beliefs and courage of the administration and faculty not to follow the woke mob. So, I went beyond Seton Hall’s mission statement and asked three of their professors how Catholic teaching is taught and lived so as to nurture students in the heart of the Faith. 

Apologetics Built In

Ines Angeli Murzaku, Professor of Religion and Director of the Catholic Studies Program and an author, described their Catholic Studies as “innovative, interdisciplinary curriculum for students of any or no religion who are interested in deepening their knowledge of Catholicism’s rich intellectual tradition and living heritage.” She says that it focuses on the Church’s dialogue with culture and encounter with the world. For religion, Murzaku explained they are animated by Vatican Council II’s call to seek truth and live in solidarity. “Our students examine religion’s impact on all aspects of society, with a special emphasis on ecumenical and comparative theological perspectives,” she said. 

Although 70% of students are Catholic, Seton Hall welcomes all faiths and 30% include Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and Buddhist students, among others.

“Apologetics is important because it equips students with critical thinking and enables them to articulate and defend their faith but also provides the tools and framework to engage in dialogue with modernity,” she noted.

Nancy Enright, Professor of English and Director of the University Core, said that apologetics is included in their core as they examine questions important to the Catholic intellectual tradition, in conversation with other perspectives.

“The Core,” she said, “focuses on questions of value and meaning, rooted in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, in dialogue with other perspectives where students look at questions such as who is God? What is my relationship with God? Is there an afterlife? What is community? What is good, what is evil?”

Young people today are not turning against God, Enright explains, but looking for meaning beyond the institutional churches. She said:

What we as older believers must show them is how the Church directly addresses the issues that they see unfolding in our world — racism, violence, climate change, refugees, war. What does the Church say about such things?

A lot, according to Enright. She points to Church documents, papal encyclicals, Scripture and more that address these social issues:

The Church’s social teaching is based on spirituality, the source of it, but students need to know that the two — spirituality and social justice — go hand in hand in a truly and fully lived faith life sometimes in order for them to trust the spirituality of the Church. They have to see us bring the faith into the world and act on it.

Jeffrey Morrow, Professor of Undergraduate Theology, explained:

We attempt to teach Catholic theology from the heart of the Church, in a rigorous way, always cognizant of the importance of our role in preparing seminarians for their future ministry as priests, and for our lay students for their future vocational and professional commitments.

That says it all: “From the heart of the Church.” Catholic education isn’t about opening doors to the world’s darkness — it’s about forming students to bring light into the world.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Seton Hall University is listed in The Newman Guide, published by The Cardinal Newman Society. Seton Hall is not, in fact, in The Newman Guide. The Register regrets the error.