The Case for Catholic Colleges
EDITORIAL: Faithfully Catholic colleges know a personal and mature relationship with Jesus is the only sure guidepost to a life of integrity and holiness today — a life that will continue to mature and bear fruit well after graduation.
The Sept. 12-25 issue of the Register features our 17th-annual Catholic Identity College Guide, in which we recommend 39 colleges and universities for their commitment to living out their Catholic identity. Given the current state of affairs in American society, the need for such faithfully Catholic colleges is more imperative than ever.
This issue also contains an article (see it online here) about a recent bid by an official at a public university in Massachusetts to misrepresent Church teachings, in order to deny conscientious exemptions to Catholics and others who decline to receive COVID-19 vaccinations on the basis of their sincere religious convictions. These sorts of action, in which public educational institutions deny the right of their religious students to follow their convictions, unfortunately occur far too often these days — further highlighting the importance of the mission of faithfully Catholic schools.
And, sadly, a substantial number of ostensibly Catholic universities in the U.S. are scarcely distinguishable from their secular counterparts in this regard.
Pope St. John Paul’s 1990 apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, has served as our impetus and guiding light, from the time we assembled our first college guide.
“It is the honor and responsibility of a Catholic University to consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth,” John Paul writes. “This is its way of serving at one and the same time both the dignity of man and the good of the Church, which has ‘an intimate conviction that truth is (its) real ally ... and that knowledge and reason are sure ministers to faith.”
The present age is in urgent need of this kind of service, he continues, “namely of proclaiming the meaning of truth, that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished.”
St. John Paul’s words resonate loudly with us 31 years later.
While many universities and colleges established on a Catholic foundation have decided to exchange their noble goals for worldly prestige, the colleges the Register features are committed to forming saints through the pursuit of knowledge animated by an apostolic Catholic faith.
And if and when our young men and women stumble, they have readily available sacraments on campus — sometimes a Eucharistic chapel in their dormitory.
As our culture increasingly becomes inured to shame and scandal, it’s important to protect those institutions that promote virtue. That way our young men and women will be better equipped to offer Christ to a world that increasingly doesn’t recognize him. At the same time, it’s important to realize that the colleges we highlight in our guide aren’t defensive and closed in on themselves. Instead, they draw on their Catholic patrimony to provide their students with a formative basis that will enable them to contribute constructively to their families, employers, communities and American society as a whole after they graduate.
But unlike secular institutions — and inauthentically Catholic ones that are prepared to subordinate foundational Church teachings in order to conform with the dictates of an increasingly irreligious and secularized society — faithfully Catholic colleges know a personal and mature relationship with Jesus is the only sure guidepost to a life of integrity and holiness today — a life that will continue to mature and bear fruit well after graduation.
And, as Pope Francis never tires of reminding us, such a relationship inevitably will propel their graduates toward a mission of love and service to others in whatever fields of opportunity the future might hold for them beyond college.
So, as students embark on a new year of studies at the 39 outstanding Catholic institutions of higher education that collectively have earned commendation in our annual College Guide, let’s pray that all of them will continue to benefit from their universities’ strong commitments to living out their Catholic identity — and that more Catholic colleges will choose to follow this good example. In doing so, they will be providing the same benefits to their own students — who deserve nothing less.