In his 2008 address at The Catholic University of America, speaking to representatives of U.S. Catholic schools and colleges, Pope Benedict XVI observed the Catholic identity that is and must remain at the heart of Catholic education:
Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God Who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and His teaching. In this way those who meet Him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord's disciples, the Church.
This vision reflects what Pope John Paul II proposed nearly two decades earlier in the Apostolic Constitution for Catholic Universities, Ex corde Ecclesiae. Although it governs Catholic higher education, the constitution’s core principles are relevant to any Catholic school, which:
...as Catholic, informs and carries out its research, teaching, and all other activities with Catholic ideals, principles and attitudes. ...Priority is to be given to those means which will facilitate the integration of human and professional education with religious values in the light of Catholic doctrine, in order to unite intellectual learning with the religious dimension of life.
Both popes had been Catholic educators, and both were inspired by the work of our patron, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman. Blessed Newman was a lifelong advocate for education that teaches students to reason and discover truth. He came to realize that a genuine commitment to truth, including the Truth that is revealed by God, requires a strong Catholic foundation and adherence to the teachings of the Church.
Since the 1960s, Catholics have witnessed a creeping secularism in Catholic education that has often corrupted teachings and behaviors – both inside and outside the classroom – and replaced authentic Catholic identity with bland conformity to a declining culture. It is with this concern, but also with great hope in the Church’s vision for Catholic schools and colleges, that The Cardinal Newman Society was established in 1993 to promote and defend faithful Catholic education.