Religion News Service
VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday (May 5) called
on Catholic colleges and universities in the United States to do
more to affirm their "Catholic identity," particularly by
ensuring the doctrinal orthodoxy of their faculty and staff.
Speaking to a group of bishops from Colorado, New
Mexico, Arizona and Wyoming, who are in Rome on a regularly
scheduled visit, Benedict said there has been a "growing
recognition" on the part of Catholic colleges of the need to
"reaffirm their distinctive identity."
But "much remains to be done," the pope said,
singling out the church law requirement that Catholic theology
teachers "have a mandate from the competent ecclesiastical
authority," usually the local bishop.
That requirement was introduced more than 20
years ago by Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II,
according to the Rev. Scott Brodeur, a professor at the
Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. But there has been
"continuous resistance against it."
"If he is repeating it it is because it has not
yet been fully implemented," Brodeur said.
Benedict's remarks come a few months after U.S.
bishops denounced Sister Elizabeth Johnson, a theology professor
at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York. Johnson's book
"Quest for the Living God" does not accord with "authentic
Catholic teaching," said the bishops' doctrinal committee.
Benedict said Saturday that the need for theology
professors to be faithful to church doctrine becomes "all the
more evident" when considering the "confusion" created by
"instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives
of Catholic institutions and the Church's pastoral leadership."
"Such discord," the pope added, "harms the
church's witness and, as experience has shown, can easily be
exploited to compromise her authority and her freedom."
Benedict also urged American bishops to ensure
that young people receive a "sound education in the faith,"
saying that this is the "most urgent internal challenge facing
the Catholic community in your country." Affirming a
university's Catholic identity "entails much more than the
teaching of religion" and should be achieved by encouraging
students to embrace faith in "every aspect of their education,"
the pope said.