Education Notebook

The Other America Article on Ex Corde Ecclesiae

AMERICA, Jan 30—An article in America magazine by Fathers Edward Malloy CSC and Donald Monan SJ led to sensational news reports about conflict between Catholic universities and the American bishops. But there was another article on the Ex Corde Ecclesiae debate in the same issue of America that has been largely overlooked in subsequent reporting.

The second article was by Father James Conn SJ of St.Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore. His discussion clarifies the main point at issue, the question of theologians teaching with a mandate from the appropriate Church authority. He quotes the bishops document, which says that a mandate would mean that “a Catholic professor of a theological discipline teaches within the full communion of the Catholic Church” and does so “as a special ministry within the Catholic community.” Father Conn asks, “Do not many Catholic theologians, be they clerical, religious, or lay, believe they are doing just that? Why would they object to a bishop publicly attesting that they do?”

He also points out that the new rules about Catholic theologians and universities in the 1983 Code of Canon Law propose “a far more modest role for the bishop in university life than he previously had.” The earlier code of 1917 stipulated that “all teachers of religion could be appointed or removed by the bishop,” The new code recognizes the autonomy of the universities and their internal responsibility for faculty appointments and terminations.

Father Conn also points out that if the national bishops fail to establish norms for the implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae in the U.S., then individual bishops will have the right and duty to apply the Church's norms in their own dioceses as they think best. Inaction by the bishops as a national conference will not mean there are no norms. The norms still exist as current Church law.

Father Conn then raises an excellent list of questions that need to be answered for implementation — questions like “who is the competent ecclesiastical authority” for each Catholic school? And does a bishop's successor “have a right to require a theologian to re-apply for a mandate?” He wants to re-focus the debate now on such key questions.

Shifting Bad Guys in the Catholic College Debate

REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN, Feb. 15—Reports on the Ex Corde Ecclesiae debate continue to appear in secular newspapers, who are beginning to see that their early portrayals of conflict were misguided — at least as far as the American bishops are concerned.

Earlier reports portrayed the bishops as trying to take over Catholic colleges and universities. But now journalists are realizing that was never true. A recent report in the Waterbury, Conn., Republican American portrays the American bishops as quite reasonable and understanding.

The paper cites Monika Hellwig, executive director of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, as a source who believes “the bishops don't want to control the schools.” Winifred Coleman president of St. Joseph College in West Hartford, Conn., says the bishops are committed to negotiating and that “Catholic colleges present no problems for the bishops.” She says the local bishop, Archbishop Daniel Cronin of Hartford, “has been very respectful of us.”

Well then what's the problem? The new bad guy in the debate turns out to be Pope John Paul II and the Vatican offices. The report implies that the Church in Rome, as an international institution, is out of touch with the realities of the American scene, and the bishops are caught in the middle. They understand the American scene, but they are forced to appease the Vatican.

What, therefore, is the solution? The report turns to a common ploy of those who disagree with the Vatican: a new pope is likely to ease up on the standards. The debate, it says, “could outlive the Pope who triggered it.” Coleman is quoted saying that a new pope just might say, “This is not on my radar screen at all.”

Students Defend Tradition of Partying

NEW YORK TIMES, Feb. 17—Protests raged at Dartmouth College in February, reported the New York Times.

But they were not the sort of protests, where students demand divesture based on unfair labor practices overseas (see story, this page.)

Here, at the campus that inspired the movie “Animal House,” the ruckus is over fraternities and sororities.

Said the report,“What has so shaken the campus was an announcement by the Board of Trustees and Dartmouth's new president, James Wright, that the college must begin to change its fraternity-dominated social culture. Among other things, the trustees said the system must be ‘substantially co-educational’ and must stamp out alcohol abuse.”

“And although officials are vague about the specifics, many students read that as presaging an end to their beloved fraternities and sororities, and responded as if the college were abolishing their families, stripping them of their friends and tearing down the venues for the fun that helps them through scholastic stress and the northern winter.”

The students' protest has been felt throughout Hanover, N.H., where the school is located. The yearly winter carnival that brings attention to the campus — and customers to the town — was cancelled this year. The event is mostly fraternity-and-sorority-run, and this year, the greeks refused to do the work.

“Dartmouth is permeated by fraternities and sororities to an extent far above the national average and unusual in the Ivy League. Freshmen are not eligible to join, but among upperclassmen, about half are members of the 28 houses known collectively as the Greek system.

“All but three of those houses are single-sex, and their basements often serve as beer fountains and dance halls,” said the report.

“Nationally, only about 10 percent of students are members of fraternities or sororities, said Jonathan Brant, spokesman for the National Interfraternity Conference. And only a handful of colleges in the last two or three decades have moved as significantly as Dartmouth toward disowning fraternities or requiring they go co-ed: Williams,

“Colby, Middlebury, Amherst and Bowdoin came to mind, Mr. Brant said.”