Many Theologians in U.S. Dodging Canon-Law Norm

Journalist’s Investigation Reveals Worrisome Trend on Mandatums

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MANASSAS, Virginia, NOV. 6, 2003 ( A U.S. educational group is awarding its 2003 Ex Corde Ecclesiae Award to a journalist for his articles on Vatican-required mandatums for theologians at Catholic colleges.

The Virginia-based Cardinal Newman Society on Tuesday cited Tim Drake for his National Catholic Register series examining the implementation of John Paul II’s apostolic constitution «Ex Corde Ecclesiae» (From the Heart of the Church) and the mandatum it requires for theologians at the nation’s 235 Catholic colleges.

Drake’s research revealed that most of the Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States won’t tell if their theology professors have agreed to the mandatum.

The mandatum is a recognition from the local bishop of a theologian’s stated intention to teach in accord with the Church.

The mandatum states: «I hereby declare my role and responsibility as a teacher of a theological discipline within the full communion of the Church. As a teacher of a theological discipline, therefore, I am committed to teach authentic Catholic doctrine and to refrain from putting forth as Catholic teaching anything contrary to the Church’s magisterium.»

When it became clear that Canon 812 was being overlooked by many dioceses, John Paul II in 1990 brought it to the front of the debate again with «Ex Corde Ecclesia

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s 1990 instruction «The Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian» explained the reason for the mandatum. It said that one who has become a Catholic theologian has «freely and knowingly accepted to teach in the name of the Church» (No. 38). The U.S. bishops began requiring the mandatum in 2001.

Concern about what is taught on Catholic campuses isn’t just an academic matter. A recent Higher Education Research Institute study conducted by the University of California-Los Angeles showed that Catholic students’ moral views were weaker, rather than stronger, after four years on a Catholic college campus.

At 38 of the Catholic colleges surveyed, 37.9% of Catholic freshmen said in 1997 that abortion should be legal. Four years later, as seniors, 51.7% supported legalized abortion.

So far, only a handful of colleges — including Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia; Creighton University and the College of St. Mary in Omaha, Nebraska; Our Lady of Corpus Christi College in Texas; Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio; and Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas — have publicly declared that all their theology faculty have received the mandatum.

Those that could not or would not say whether their theologians have a mandatum include high-profile schools such as Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana; and Loyola University in Chicago. The Register series is ongoing.

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