It's Ex Corde Time

The U.S. Bishops' Nov. 15-18 meeting will be a milestone event for Catholic education. That's when, among other things, the bishops will tackle the enormous issue of how to safeguard Catholic identity on Church-related college campuses.

Pope John Paul II's 1990 apostolic constitution on higher education, Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church), has yet to be implemented in the United States.

Bishop Joseph Leibrecht, who chairs the Ex Corde Ecclesiae implementation committee, told the Register that document is important because “the United States has more Catholic colleges and universities than any other nation.”

Bishops can propose amendments to the committee's document up until Nov. 16. The vote on a final proposal is scheduled for Nov. 17.

An interview with the president of The Catholic University of America, on Page 14, gives an excellent overview of the state of the Catholic identity debate. It is a refreshing antidote to the many voices calling for more delay in implementing this decade-old document.

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Stopping Our Lady's Tears

Register editorial in 1988 predicted that a wave of revolutions would soon sweep Eastern Europe. A year later the world's most divisive landmark fell.

AA decade after the Nov. 12, 1989 assault on the Berlin Wall, we have a better idea of Pope John Paul II's role in those events. Books such as George Weigel's Witness to Hope catalogued the tremendous cultural, political and diplomatic efforts of the Holy Father in the East.

Karol Wojtyla, whom communists once believed would be a handy “pawn” as bishop, turned out to be a pope of exceptional shrewdness. His passionate defense of ideals proved more powerful than the atheistic system that gripped the East. He knew then what we have since learned from his example: that totalitarian regimes are strongest when challenged by force, and weakest when confronted with a peaceful moral campaign.

Yet, the Pope is the first to acknowledge that it wasn't his efforts alone that brought down the Wall. The credit goes to a Lady, he argues.

For much of this century, Catholics added an intention in countless rosaries: a request to save Russia. It began in 1917, when Our Lady of Fatima requested it of three shepherd children. Two of them, Francisco and Jacinta, insisted that if more rosaries were said for that intention, Russia would cease “spreading her errors” throughout the world.

As the Soviet Bloc went on to produce more martyrs than any previous century, the concern of our Lady only increased, the Pope has said.

In a Nov. 6, 1994 homily at the Shrine of Our Lady of Tears in Syracuse, Sicily, he said, “She weeps again here in Syracuse at the end of the Second World War. It is possible to understand those tears against the background of those tragic events: the tremendous massacre caused by the conflict; the extermination of the sons and daughters of Israel; the threat to Europe that came from the East, from the openly declared atheism of communism. The image of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Lublin also wept during that period: a little known fact, this, outside of Poland.”

When he looked back on the fall of the Berlin Wall and its related events, the Pope in Crossing the Threshold of Hope wrote: “We must be wary of oversimplification … [but] what are we to say of the three children from Fatima who suddenly, on the eve of the October Revolution, heard: ‘Russia will convert’ and ‘In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph’?”

Later, in the apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente (As the Third Millennium Draws Near) the Holy Father associated the events of 1989 with the Marian year that came a few years before.

Now, Pope John Paul has moved on to other things. The greatest threat he sees is no longer an atheistic state in the East, but a culture of death in the West. To counter it he is asking for a full-scale effort to build the culture of life through the new evangelization.

A large challenge, indeed. But by turning again to the Woman whose intercession won a victory 10 years ago, we can expect great things.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, protectress of the unborn and patroness of the new evangelization, pray for us!