The Courage to be Catholic

Nun teaches at a Catholic school in Bethlehem.
Nun teaches at a Catholic school in Bethlehem. (photo: CNS)

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, says he is “continually concerned” about a lowering of Christian identity in Catholic schools and colleges.

Speaking to Register Correspondent Edward Pentin in Rome last week, the Polish cardinal said that in some Catholic educational institutions “we don’t have the courage anymore to really say that we are Christian, yet we have the right to say this to everyone.”

Cardinal Grocholewski said he would like to see lessons and formation not only in Catholic teaching and catechetics, but also more emphasis on Catholic history, art, and literature.

“There is so much [Catholic culture] which is wonderful,” he said, adding that in Europe such a curriculum would help to show how rooted the continent is in Christianity. European institutions often deny or ignore the continent’s Christian roots.

The cardinal cited a recent visit to Taiwan where he visited a Buddhist university. Sixty percent of its students were non-Buddhists, yet all were obliged to attend two lessons on Buddhism each week. That’s the “honest” and “right approach,” according to Cardinal Grocholewski.

“It’s the same if a non-Catholic sends their child to a Catholic school,” he said. “They must respect the school’s identity.”

Cardinal Grocholewski also underlined the prestigious reputation Catholic schools enjoy throughout the world, particularly in non-Catholic countries, and he noted non-Catholic parents often choose to educated their children in these schools. As an example he cited predominantly Buddhist Thailand where Catholics number just 300,000, yet Catholic schools are currently educating 465,000 students.

Earlier this fall the Congregation for Catholic Education released a document on psychological screening of seminarians. Cardinal Grocholewski said his dicastery was preparing a further document on the teaching of philosophy in seminaries and theology faculties. “It’s progressing well,” he said.

The Congregation will also start preparing a document on the teaching of sacred scripture after Pope Benedict XVI has published his post-synodal exhortation.

“We will look at what the consequences of the Synod [on the Word of God] are on teaching in seminaries,” he said, adding that his congregation tends to produce a document on seminaries “every two years.”

But Cardinal Grocholewski said there were no plans to issue an updated version of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic higher education.

Watch for a full interview with Cardinal Grocholewski, in which he speaks in more detail about the document on psychological testing for seminarians, in an upcoming issue of the Register.

— Edward Pentin