What's newsworthy about this particular opening is that the UND Board of Trustees had an audience with Pope Francis. ZENIT reports that the Holy Father stressed the importance of an “uncompromising witness" of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching and the defense of her freedom. The Pope said:
In my Exhortation on the Joy of the Gospel, I stressed the missionary
dimension of Christian discipleship, which needs to be evident in the
lives of individuals and in the workings of each of the Church’s
institutions. This commitment to "missionary discipleship" ought to be
reflected in a special way in Catholic universities (cf.Evangelii Gaudium,
132-134), which by their very nature are committed to demonstrating the
harmony of faith and reason and the relevance of the Christian message
for a full and authentically human life. Essential in this regard is the
uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral
teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her
institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the
magisterium of her pastors. It is my hope that the University of Notre
Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of
its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from
whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness. And this is
important: its identity, as it was intended from the beginning. To defend
it, to preserve it and to advance it!
That's pretty strong language, especially for papal diplomatispeakque.
However strong as that statement is--and the challenge it presents UND as well as the nation's other Catholic institutions of higher education is substantive--Pope Francis indicates that he believes exhortation is better than confrontation. As the Pope noted:
It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer
unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity.
(emphasis and italics added)
The Motley Monk wonders whether the Holy Father's hope is well-founded. Witnessing to their Catholic identity--as Pope Francis has defined that and “especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness”--presumes the willingness and wherewithal on the part of academic administrators, faculty, and staff to provide that witness.
As most of those academic administrators, faculty, and staff would likely retort: "It all depends upon what the word 'Catholic' means."
That's why exhortation--strong and good words that uplift--oftentimes go nowhere in changing ideologies.
Let the discussion begin...
To read the transcript of the Pope's remarks, click on the following link: