In an interview with RealClearReligion reporter Nicholas Hahn, the president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) advocates Catholic identity and compliance with Ex corde Ecclesiae while acknowledging significant room for improvement in Catholic higher education.
“Every Catholic college or university has to take Ex corde Ecclesiae as its landmark document,” says Dr. Michael Galligan-Stierle, adding:
Catholic education needs to be an academic institution that’s vibrant and full of the search for truth and simultaneously a place where Catholicism is real and operative. On a good day,when we’re batting 1,000, that’s what we need to be. Are we batting 300? 400? Are we perfect? No.
Galligan-Stierle discusses efforts to get better at hiring faculty who are a good fit for Catholic colleges, strengthening boards of trustees and improving campus culture. But he argues that high-profile scandals are “not typical” of the Catholic campus culture and points to the good news about Catholic colleges.
Our graduates, by every study that’s been done in the last 25 years, consistently view their education as substantively more helpful in living an ethical, authentic life. For instance,if you take the Hardwick Day data, people that graduate from state institutions are at 9 percent in terms of having an ethical way of proceeding. Within Catholic higher education: 55 percent. It’s not even close!
The ACCU’s position on Ex corde Ecclesiae has improved since the 1990s, when the association argued that “application of the ordinances could carry the American Catholic colleges and universities back to the 1950s, when our institutions were more homogeneous and operated outside the mainstream of higher education in the United States.” The ACCU urged the U.S. bishops to reject implementation of Ex corde Ecclesiae and the mandatum for theologians.
Today the ACCU offers programs to promote Catholic mission and identity, with a heavy emphasis on service activities and peace and justice issues. Most of the member colleges (194 in the U.S., and 24 from other countries) struggle with Catholic identity, but 13 of the 22 colleges recommended in The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College also participate in the ACCU and provide good examples of faithful Catholic education.
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