Avoiding the mandatum

Avoiding the mandatum

A Chicago Tribune article examines the mandatum issue at Chicago-area Catholic colleges. We see the same issues of academic freedom brought up, which are themselves red herrings since that’s not what this is about.

Dennis Martin, an associate professor of historical theology, said such criticisms misinterpret the principle and purpose of the mandatum. “The mandatum is not a stick to beat people with,” he said. “It’s simply to say `I do teach out of my baptismal faith’ and it is saying to the world, `That’s who I am.’”

The bishops and the academic community have been dragging their feet on this for years. The requirement for the mandatum was issued by Pope John Paul in 1990 and the US bishops only published their guidelines on this in 2002. The bishops just don’t want a showdown with dissident theologians. They prefer peace and quiet rather than open debate. The only problem is that while they hither and dither, generations of Catholic students are being led astray from their faith.

We had an article in Catholic World Report in March 2003 called “Are Catholic Colleges Leading Students Astray.” It quoted a nationwide survey by the Higher Education research Institute at UCLA, which found that Catholic students who attend Catholic colleges are more likely to lose their faith or become dissenters on Church teaching than those who attend secular or other-religion colleges.

What are the bishops doing about it? Nothing, it seems. Rather they’re more concerned with not offending theologians or harming their “academic freedom.” Also notice that not a word comes from the college and university administrations. Are they supporting the mandata? Are they pushing their theologians to do the right thing? Are they creating a true Catholic intellectual environment? I guess we already know the answer to that.