As 225 Jesuit delegates meet in Rome to elect a new superior and consider the future direction of the Society of Jesus, the Cardinal Newman Society today called upon Jesuit educators and leaders to take up the renewal of Catholic higher education.
“The Jesuits must draw upon their proud history and participate in the renewal of Catholic higher education if the Church is to finally succeed in its efforts to reverse secularization in Catholic colleges,” said Patrick J. Reilly, President and founder of the Cardinal Newman Society.
“Many of the largest and most well-known American Catholic colleges remain tied to the Jesuits,” Reilly explained. “Regrettably, several of these colleges are scandals to the faithful, endangering the souls of tens of thousands of students.
“In 2008, the new Jesuit superior and Jesuit leaders in the United States have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to recommit Jesuit colleges to excellence in education, founded upon an unwavering fidelity to authentic Catholic teachings. The Cardinal Newman Society calls on faithful Catholics to pray for the Jesuits as they meet in Rome.”
As the order’s 35th General Congregation began on January 8, Cardinal Franc Rode, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Religious, expressed “sorrow and anxiety” about some Jesuits’ diminishing loyalty to the Pope and the bishops, contrary to the vision of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius of Loyola. He also implicitly addressed the theological dissent that has too often marked Jesuit colleges:
“The doctrinal diversity of those who at all levels, by vocation and mission are called to announce the Kingdom of truth and love, disorients the faithful and leads to a relativism without limits,” Cardinal Rode told the Jesuit delegates. “There is one truth, even though it can always be more deeply known.”
The Cardinal Newman Society is a national organization of more than 20,000 members dedicated to renewing and strengthening the Catholic identity of America's Catholic colleges and universities. The Society’s recent concerns about Jesuit colleges include:
- Of the 17 American Catholic colleges scheduled next month to host the obscene and offensive play, The Vagina Monologues, more than half (10) are Jesuit.
- Georgetown University’s law school has pledged funding for students who intern with pro-abortion and anti-Catholic advocacy organizations. Last month the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee condemned a theological book by Georgetown University professor Father Peter Phan that “could easily confuse or mislead the faithful.”
- In October, the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., defied local Bishop Robert McManus by hosting a teen pregnancy conference featuring Planned Parenthood and NARAL. That same month, Santa Clara University School of Law honored lesbian activist Elizabeth Birch and declared her “a role model for our students.”
- In order to secure local taxpayer funds, Saint Louis University’s president testified in state courts that employees “are not required to aspire to [Catholic] ideals” and the university is not controlled by a religious creed.
- In July, nine months after the Cardinal Newman Society decried open dissent against Catholic teaching on sexuality and marriage at Creighton University’s Center for Marriage and the Family, Omaha Archbishop Elden Curtiss cut ties with the Center.
- Pro-abortion House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave the 2007 commencement address at the University of San Francisco.
- Last March, the U.S. bishops’ doctrine committee declared that the pro-abortion teachings of Marquette University theologian Daniel Maguire “cross the legitimate lines of theological reflection” and represent outright “false teaching.”
- John Carroll University presented its Distinguished Faculty Award to religious studies professor Paul Lauritzen, who testified before Congress in support of embryonic stem cell research.
On the other hand, leading Jesuit academics—such as Ave Maria University theologian Father Joseph Fessio, Father Mitch Pacwa of the Eternal Word Television Network, and the late catechist Father John Hardon—have modeled faithful Catholic scholarship. In October, respected Jesuit theologian Avery Cardinal Dulles called for the reform of Catholic theology and religious studies departments and urged each Catholic college to “not forsake its Catholic allegiance.”
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