The oldest Catholic university no more?

kul1The oldest Catholic University in the world — Belgium’s Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V — is commencing an internal debate over whether the institution should drop “Catholic” from its name:

“It’s time for a different orientation,” says Leuven Rector Mark Waer. After the outbreak of the pedophilia scandal in the Church, he grew more concerned than ever about the reputation of his university.

“That does not mean that we drop the ‘K’ in our name. We stand behind the values of the Catholic faith. But the tension between rigid Catholic morals and our aspirations in biomedical research is difficult to sustain. Our university is a critical thinking center.”

According to the article, the Vatican’s recent condemnation of the Nobel Foundation for its award to the inventors of in vitro fertilization was the last straw for Waer. “Every new scientific breakthrough meets with resistance from the Vatican,” he said.

While nothing is yet settled, the KUL may as well drop the Catholic label, if for no other reason than to provide truth in advertising. Here’s the first paragraph of Waer’s description of the school, taken from the university’s Web site.

The objective of a university is the free and disinterested search for truth. Nothing more than that, but nothing less either. All its other objectives are derivate concretisations of that foundation, namely the well-known trio: scientific research, which searches for the truth; research-based education, which instructs and moulds one towards the truth; and science-based service to society, which assists the truth.

[My thanks to Adam Wilson at The Cardinal Newman Society for the information.]


Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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