When Catholic Colleges Abandon Theology Requirements

A major Catholic university is scheduled to consider this year whether it will cut its meager two-course requirements in Philosophy and Theology to one or none. Why, you may ask, would a Catholic institution be inclined to cut the two disciplines that have traditionally been entrusted with the task of imparting the specifically Catholic elements in a Catholic education?

The first thing to note is that these aren’t the old debates of the 1970s and 80s when a new generation of scholars set out to displace the Thomistic orientation of Catholic philosophy and theology departments with an ostensibly more “modern” and “pluralistic” sensibility. Aquinas was out; Kant, Heidegger, and Analytic Philosophy were in—even though it was the Thomistic Revival spearheaded by Pope Leo XIII that had energized the tired old Catholic philosophy departments of his day, most of which had been doing little more than tired knock-offs of Kant and Hegel. So too in theology departments, Aquinas was out; Rahner, Lonergan, and Schillebeeckx were in—even though all of these newly preeminent theologians had themselves been steeped in the thought of Aquinas during their own education.

These forces continue to dominate many philosophy and theology departments in Catholic universities across the country, with the Boomers who dominate these institutions showing no signs of ceding power any time soon to the succeeding generation of Millennials. Having raged against “the Establishment” in their youth, they are now firmly ensconced in it themselves, having become what they most hated: old fogeys who resist change and insist on living in the past.

But something new is afoot as well. Clearly when the Boomers took over these departments, they had no intention of seeing the old requirements in theology and philosophy slashed. Undoubtedly they thought things would go on much as before, only now in exciting, new non-Thomistic ways. But things haven’t turned out that way. Like the other humanities, Philosophy and Theology are increasingly on the wane. It’s not merely that such departments aren’t especially “orthodox” any more—they haven’t been for years—it’s that they are increasingly seen as irrelevant to the current mission and goals of their institutions, having left themselves with very little to argue against their diminished position.

At the root of the current problem, I would suggest, is a trend that has been gaining strength for decades in the academy: the increasing secularization and professionalization of the disciplines.

On the one side, we have Catholic university administrators who want their schools (with some justification, given the rewards that come with prestige) to be considered among “the best”—among the “top 25″ or “top 10″ in the college rankings. But to be considered among “the best” in such rankings means “the best” as the culture-at-large understands that term, not “the best” with regard to promoting Catholic faith and intellectual life.

So in essence, it comes to this: If Harvard and Princeton don’t require such courses of their students—if the majors in Engineering and Business and Science at those schools aren’t “burdened” with theology and philosophy requirements—why should ours be?

The demands of specialization and professionalization of the disciplines means that each group wants ever more classes in its own area, “unburdened” by any of those pesky “general education” requirements that used to make up a good part of a college student’s education at the best institutions across the country.

How about on the other side of the equation? Are philosophy and theology departments fighting an assertive rearguard action against their marginalization? Not really. Naturally they don’t want their required courses cut, but since they haven’t seen it as their job to transmit a “Catholic” education for decades—busying themselves, rather, as every other department has “specializing” and “professionalizing” their discipline into increasingly narrow sub-specialties, seeing their role primarily in terms of preparing students for graduate school rather than, say, life—the result now is they have no real resources with which to fight back against the forces currently arrayed against them.

If these departments had over the last decades taken upon themselves the duty of imparting a broad-based, ethically-informed education to all the students of the university, rather than focusing their efforts largely on training majors for positions in elite graduate programs, then they might now have a strong case for their inherent value to the mission of the university as a whole.

As it is, the other disciplines see scarce reason to pad these two departments with course requirements that provide them students they otherwise would not have gotten in an “open market,” resulting in faculty lines they otherwise would not have been provided, and departments of an unnaturally large size compared to the relatively minimal value they are thought to offer the general student population.

Do students read better after such classes? Do they think more critically? Are they any more ethical? Do they understand their faith any better? The answer is usually no, and this is really no surprise since these departments long ago forswore those goals in their headlong pursuit of their own professional specialization. Accordingly other departments see little reason to continue Philosophy and Theology’s special “cozy arrangement” with the administration, and they want to end it.

In all of this, it’s important to see that the traditional goals of a liberal arts education and those of an authentic Catholic education go hand-in-hand and are both opposed by the representatives of the modern secularized professions, for whom any considerations other than those related to technical proficiency in the sub-discipline are not only irrelevant, but often enough distressingly foreign.

Just ask the usual, run-of-the-mill professor of finance whether he or she really wants a theologian intruding social justice concerns into his or her class. In business, we maximize profits and increase share-holder value. Allowing another set of goals or considerations to intervene would render our students “less competitive” in the global marketplace. Our students would “fall behind” the others. We wouldn’t be “ranked” as highly. It’s not that “ethical” considerations are assumed to have no place in these technical disciplines; it’s simply that they have a distinctly subsidiary role, when anyone deigns to consider them at all.

Catholic universities are failing in their educational mission because, although they like to chatter on endlessly about “leadership” (every secular institution does too), they have actually become the ultimate followers, constantly sucking up to the modern purveyors of “prestige. In following this well-worn path, they have failed to become leaders in their own right, unafraid to challenge current cultural paradigms and boldly forge a new educational vision.

By refusing to be “Catholic” in the fullest sense, they have forfeited the greatness they could have achieved, not merely in terms of religious piety, but also in terms of an authentically fresh, paradigm-changing sort of intellectual leadership in the academy.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is Georgetown University, a Catholic college notable for abandoning its Catholic identity.

Randall B. Smith


Randall B. Smith is Professor of Theology and current holder of the Scanlan Foundation Chair in Theology at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. He was also the 2011-12 Myser Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.

  • NormChouinard

    Is the University mentioned in the opening sentence Georgetown as implied in the photo?

    Any news on the William Blatty petition on Georgetown?

    IMO the best source to check the Catholicity of our university remains the Newman Guide. It is disappointing that it is not promoted by every Catholic HS Guidance department.


    • Crisiseditor

      The image of Georgetown was chosen because it is the poster child of nominally Catholic colleges and universities. See my editor’s note at the end of the article. The link is to National Catholic Register which has an update on the Blatty petition.

      • Objectivetruth


        The University mentioned is Georgetown, correct?

  • JP

    What I find amazing is the utter ignorance many of our deepest critical thinkers have the historical context of our philosophers. This is especially true of those calling themselves atheists. The intellectual lineage of Western Thought is not difficult to discern. Karl Marx was deeply indebted to Hegel (some would say Marx just purloined Hegel’s philosophy); but, Hegel was indebted to Aquinas. Without Aquinas, Hegel never would have re-discovered the thinking of Aristotle. Likewise, Rousseau was deeply influenced by the writings of Plato.

    And we all know that Heidegger was a lapsed Catholic seminarian. One wonders how much Heidegger’s Catholic consciousness influenced his thinking despite his leaving the Church and its Worldview behind? Nietzsche, no stranger to the writings of Greek and Hebrew Antiquity (he was a professional philologist, by the way) loomed large for both Heidegger and Max Weber (a lapsed Calvinist). And later 20th Century Giants such as Foucault, Satre, and Derrida owed a huge debt to Heidegger. But, as the late social thinker Alan Bloom once wrote, it matters not what 20th Century philosopher you studied, behind the scenes Nietzsche was the puppet master.

    Catholic Universities, traditionally were never afraid to engage those thinkers who opposed the Catholic Church. Dropping core requirements from its curriculum is nothing short of surrender to the “zeitgeist”. What differentiates a Catholic University from, say a Harvard, or a Stanford? In the distant past one could always spot a person who attended Catholic schools; their knowledge of both classical antiquity and their superior prose (probably the result of being forced fed Latin for 6-8 years) set them apart from other “educated” people. I’m sure Georgetown is a very fine school; it is home to the State Department’s FSO school; it hosts what was once considered a fine law school, and most of all it was founded by Jesuits. But, from what I heard, Georgetown has turned its back on the very thing that made is famous – it’s rigorous Catholic curriculum. I think it’s been decades since students were forced to delve into the mysteries of Augustine, Hegel, Kant, or Aquinas. Ditto for Notre Dame.

    The question then needs to be asked, “Why pay the $50,000 tuition?”

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      One would hope to see the Big Three, Locke, Berkeley and Hume and their successors in the Analytical School, beginning with Moore and Russell.

      • JP

        You could actually teach a course comparing and opposing Locke Berkeley and Hume with one of Enlightenment’s biggest detractor’s – Rousseau. Ditto between the writings of the Big Three vs Marx.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          That would be rather fun.

          Rather than Marx, ons could try Lenin’s “Materialism and Psycho-empiricism” His solutions are pure sophistry,of course, but, in the process, he raises some really interesting and important questions and leads nicely into the Vienna Circle, especially Wittgenstein.

  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

    I am happy to report that in our recent revision of the Core Curriculum at Franciscan University, we have increased our philosphy and theology requirements to three courses in each discipline. Nevertheless, we too are threatened by the forces of secularism, as our administration continues to implement what it calls “best practices” in “assessment,” which simply means dumbing things down to please our students, our “customers.” The battle against secular mediocrity is far from won at Franciscan.

    • Bryant

      I graduated from FUS in May of this year, and I would agree with your take on the situation. My sister’s going to be a freshman, and I’m really curious to see how the new curriculum works.

    • Michael Sirilla

      And yet a substantive number of us profs in theology and philosophy refuse to dumb anything down, regardless of any price that might be paid out in terms of assessment. E.g., in our new theology core course, THE 110: Scripture and Tradition, in addition to the Bible every student is *required* to read (and this extends to in-class discussion, lectures, and papers):
      Vatican I (“Dei Filius”)
      St. Augustine (“City of God” and “On Christian Doctrine”)
      St. Gregory Nazianzus (“Theological Orations”)
      St. Bonaventure (“Breviloquium” and “Collations on the Haexameron”)
      St. Thomas Aquinas (“Commendation and Division of Scripture”)
      Bl. John Henry Newman (on development of doctrine)

      Likewise, in the new philosophy core, seminal texts are required for all students (Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, etc.). Same with the new Literature core (Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, etc.).

      Certainly not perfect. But pushing hard, against the inertia, in the right direction…

      (I’ve also heard tell that our French program at FUS is stellar!!!) 🙂

      • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

        Michael, as my students say, “Theology rocks!”

        • DE-173

          That apparently is

      • John200

        Dear Professor Sirilla,

        Because business came up early in the thread, let me say that you are on a good track in marketing terms. Franciscan U can make a good living at the expense of stupid competitors who make your life easier.

        That is, the more you distinguish yourself from rivals, the better your chances of attracting loyal students (and parents, perhaps consulting clients, donors, et al.). The key to profitable marketing is to know how to succeed without getting the whole market.

        Enough dirty commercial talk; I know you are here to pursue and disseminate truth. So lead; be bold; people will follow you, especially when they see that you are pushing forward the truth. Parents will always want the best for their children. Franciscan U may find itself making a VERY good living, based on its selling points and on the inadequacies of its rivals.

        I would teach there starting tomorrow.

  • Robert

    Thank you for this article. This has been a huge concern for me as my son is now in High School and has been in Catholic Education his entire life. As we have started to review Universities we have already decided against those Catholic Universities who want to be Catholic when it comes to prestige and not when it comes to the Teaching of the Church. We have named these as “BC”; Barely Catholic or Catholic in Name Only. When someone in the Government or public criticizes them they run for Catholic cover but otherwise turn their back on the Church. This is part of the same long term drive by those who want to make our Faith, Universities, Colleges, and schools more attractive to those outside the Catholic Church. But if we keep removing or diluting those things that make us Catholic we will eventually produce generations who are not capable of making decisions that are built upon the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and more on the current Secular drive in the culture.of the day. Georgetown and two other prominent “Catholic” Universities have been removed from our list for these very reasons.

  • Michael B Rooke

    The theological attack on Catholic teaching is so formulated that it is difficult not to see it in the tradition of the carbonari and the alta vendita. The carbonari being a C19th secret society dedicated to the destruction of the Catholic Church

    “From Naples the Carbonari spread into the neighbouring territories of the States of the Church, and here also the society sought to overthrow the absolute dominion of the papacy. The Carbonari even promulgated a forged papal Brief which contained an apparent confirmation of the association. On 15 August, 1814, Cardinals Consalvi and Pacca issued an edict against secret societies, especially against Freemasonry and the Carbonari, in which all were forbidden under severe penalties to become members of these secret associations, to attend their meetings, or to furnish a meeting-place for such.”

    See also
    Alta Vendita

  • Michael B Rooke

    The proposals mirror that of the Modernists that Pope St Pius X wrote of in his Encyclical On modernism PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS
    3. …Moreover they lay the axe not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root, that is, to the faith and its deepest fires. …
    And having struck at this root of immortality, they proceed to disseminate poison through the whole tree, so that there is no part of Catholic truth from which they hold their hand, none that they do not strive to corrupt.
    Further, none is more skilful, none more astute than they, in the employment of a thousand noxious arts; for they double the parts of rationalist and Catholic, and this so craftily that they easily lead the unwary into error; …
    Finally, and this almost destroys all hope of cure, their very doctrines have given such a bent to their minds, that they disdain all authority and brook no restraint; and relying upon a false conscience, they attempt to ascribe to a love of truth that which is in reality the result of pride and obstinacy.
    5. .. Modernist sustains and comprises within himself many personalities; he is a philosopher, a believer, a theologian, an historian, a critic, an apologist, a reformer. These roles must be clearly distinguished from one another by all who would accurately know their system and thoroughly comprehend the principles and the consequences of their doctrines.


  • Guest

    Thank you for the fine piece. Colleges have not educated students in decades. We have fancy trade schools that credential people. Perhaps the idea of college should be reconsidered? It seems dishonest to call it “getting an education”.

    • Catholic & loving it

      Eloquent statement. It’s true, universities today could care less about imparting a true education, it’s all about the money. It’s not about helping students learn for the sake of knowledge, it’s a whole 4-year (usually more) business scheme to get you a career, which many times won’t be there only student debt. Their whole liberal “progressive” system is crumbling, which is why they keep raising tuition & why student Debt is higher than anything.

      • Guest

        Not that many decades ago college was seen by many as a period of maturation for the student. The Liberal Arts education was seen as part of being “well rounded”. That is long gone.

        College is about “getting a job”. A degree is not evidence of learning or education. It is a mere credential that people get as a matter of routine.


    “A major Catholic University” the piece begins.

    What major Catholic University is he talking about? Notre Dame? Georgetown? Who?

    • Aldo Elmnight

      Notre Dame and Georgetown are not Catholic universities.

      • fredx2

        At least their theology departments.

        As an aside, check out the Director of Catholic studies at Georgetown. What a shame.

        Here is the note on her lecture:

        “Is the universe ‘catholic’? Sensitive to our world of religious pluralism, this lecture focuses on catholicity as a dynamic principle of attraction or ‘whole-making’ that marks the Big Bang cosmos, biological evolution, and religious evolutionary consciousness, and which breaks open in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Dr. Delio will discuss the meaning of Jesus in light of evolution and the relationship between catholicity and Christogenesis through the work of Teilhard de Chardin.”


        • DE-173

          You have to be a special kind of idiot to write that. To accept is as meaningful, you need to be institutionalized.

          It reminds me of of the prose of this character on “In Living Color”.


          • Joseph

            That is priceless. Or should I say worth $50,000/year. I forgot how funny Damon Wayans was.

            • DE-173

              I miss that show too. They poked their fingers in the eye of political correctness every week.

        • slainte

          Sister Delia makes an interesting point at (min 1:14.20) when she discloses that 40 percent of Georgetown University’s undergraduate students are Moslem and that Georgetown’s most popular and well attended school is the School of Foreign Service.
          In her opinion, Christology is tied to cosmology…a view she shares with Sister Elizabeth Johnson of Fordham whose book “Quest for the Living God” was censored in 2007 by the USCCB.
          Sister Delia is a devotee of the teachings of the late Fr. de Chardin, S.J who inspired her understanding of “Catholicity” which recognizes an ephemeral spirit she labels “Omega” as the guiding force of a globalized, borderless, interconnected, and evolving world.
          There is scant reference to Revelation or Jesus in Sister’s Catholicity; one is reminded of New Age spiritualism, not traditional Roman Catholicism.
          What is going on at Georgetown?

          • DE-173

            What is going on at Georgetown?

            Same things that are going on at most other schools.

            • slainte

              I wonder whether Bishops have the authority not only to remove the name “Catholic” from universities like Georgetown but also to remove priests, brothers, and religious nuns who may be teaching there and transfer them to local communities in need of their services.
              There are a lot of parishes in New York City that could use at least one priest to avoid closure….local Catholic communities in Queens and Brooklyn might even tolerate Jesuits.

              • John200

                The bishops have the authority within the diocese. They move you, you go; that’s it.

                Transfers from diocese to diocese are a little harder to negotiate. But the bishops do have the authority if they choose to exercise it.

                Local Catholic communities in Queens and Brooklyn might even educate Jesuits (I changed one word).

                • slainte

                  Well said. I like your word selection better. : )
                  The bishops must preserve an accurate teaching of the faith to the young and vulnerable. If you watch/listen to Sr. Delio in the above video, you will be afraid for the children who are being misled at Georgetown. Some of the religious really have evolved beyond Jesus and they should not be teaching Catholicism.

              • DE-173

                They might do more damage among the general population. I suspect that these orders make their own assignments, but I don’t know.
                I know that last year Bishop Kevin Rhoads returned to the Harisburg Diocese at the invitation of my Church’s parishioners who seem to have an inordinate affection for Notre Dame football.
                At Mass, he spent a good time in the homily explaining how he had some influence, but little direct control. Nonetheless, they all went wearing green and yellow to cheer, cheer for Old Notre Dame.

          • John200

            “Sister” Delia is basting herself in preparation for her station in the hereafter.

  • fides

    The tragedy is in the realization that the philosophy and theology departments abdicated their academic duty and focus and failed to help guide business — allowed the qualifier into their lexicon, for instance social justice. The financial legerdemain that allows Catholic institutions to insist that their students take Federal money for loans and insist that they are not funded by the government — like Thomas Aquinas College — is silly thinking and improper distinction. The status of a number of these institutions is that they are nonprofits for educational purpose — hence a tax category. It has been philosophy and theology that have failed education, failed to guide business. The danger is that the continued failure will result in the losing of the nonprofit status or it’s freedom of action because the rules will change in the granting of it — in other words to obtain nonprofit status the petitioner will have to forgo a pillar of their philosophical andor theological premise. All very legal under the tax law — look at HHS, the argument was moved into tax — you lose any footing for your premise philosophically —- Hobby Lobby is too narrow and the facts are about private business and not corp status id’d by tax law. You have to quit whining and cowboy up to the challenge — Philosophy and theology practitioners need to help us all define the points of the compass, lead by making sure the methods of navigation are clearly defined. There is only a handful of Catholic Colleges that have leadership skill, defined on the basis of being able to lead people. For instance, when you see the president publicly on their knees praying —

    • DE-173

      While I understand your use of term nonprofit as a common colloquialism, there is no such thing as a “nonprofit”. The term is a misnomer and contraction of the term “not for INDIVIDUAL profit”.

      So while a TAX-EXEMPT entity does not have stockholders demanding dividends, I assure you that as an entity they very much are run with an eye to corporate profitability.

      Forget all the self-serving drivel about “we’re a non-profit”. It’s a lie. Universities are tax-exempt, and that status allows them to operate for the benefit of the faculty, but very much to the advantage of their administration.

      • fides

        The use was to be specific — non-profit corp structure is a formal legal tax structure — the legal notion would be that society at large is the taxshareholder and the Attorneys General for each legal jurisdiction is responsible to them (shareholders)to oversee the performance — paying the freight for an employee is appropriate — pay the workmen. The lie as you state is predicated upon the idea that the “nonprofit” Catholic school is catholic and not subject to civil requirements and subject to the wrongs under bad civil law — the institution is nothing more than an allowable corporate body, legal fiction of person, carved out under tax law guidelines — therefore subject to the whimsical notions of our elected representatives. They would have more rights to be private, for profit, … at least would have

        • DE-173

          “non-profit corp structure is a formal legal tax structure ”
          No it’s not. Most tax exempts are technically public charities and state regulators and the IRS refer to them as “tax-exempts”.
          The term non-profit perseveres because charities pander to durable public prejudice.
          Churches are not tax-exempt because they are meeting some requirement of being a charity. They are exempt because taxation of a church is inconsistent with free exercise, it’s the flip side of that “wall of separation”.

          • fides

            Perhaps you could examine my comment. I am speaking to the formal legal definition of “non profit corporation” — the impact and or the political use and misuse of the term and intention could well be debated. Under the law however, there is a specific use — which allows for those of a particular view to ban together — however, the source for their legal face is embedded in the tax law, in other words of a statutory nature, which can be altered and or controlled by the legislative, executive and judicial — not to mention the bureaucratic. It is hard to get traction on the “bill of rights” issues whether the enumerated rights or fundamental — that’s Hobby Lobby. The unwillingness to examine the legal fiction that underlies the structure of colleges, Catholic and otherwise, is the willful ignorance obstacle in leading people to a better understanding of their rights and obligations. The leaders of the Church have done nothing to enhance understanding of the financial, legal and management roles that the Church utilizes in its presence in our country, hence the role of catholic education is not really a function of the Church, or even answerable to the Church — take a look, ask the pertinent questions and you will find a great unwillingness to be transparent and open regarding — these colleges we speak of are not Catholic education — as the Church teaches, I am. Most are 501(c) — non profit corporations, incorporated in a particular state, with no ownership interest by the Church —- as one notable bishop informed me ” They are private colleges, I only lend them the name Catholic” Not sure that he was enamored with the idea that private colleges could have “Catholic” without his control —- you have a nice day.

            • DE-173

              I am speaking to the formal legal definition of “non profit corporation”

              No, you aren’t. There are no “formal legal definitions” of “non profit” corporations. It’s a widespread public misnomer.

              Note, in my state the term is “charitable organization”.


              You have demonstrated a lack of technical competence here, sorry.

              “however, the source for their legal face is embedded in the tax law, in other words of a statutory nature, which can be altered and or controlled by the legislative, executive and judicial — not to mention the bureaucratic. ”

              This is just meaningless.

  • The biggest waste of time and money in my life was the 8 years of college credits I earned during my first 40 years. From twenty plus years later, I can say not one class was worth the time or money. A foundation that could have been produced in a much more practical way exists today that was only an idea then. The internet will evolve as the brick and mortar money pits eventually die a much-deserved death.

    • Catholic & loving it

      Amen. The price for higher education (especially Catholic) is simply ridiculous. Either bring the prices considerably down or we’ll just skip the whole university establishment. Implement more ascetic practices, or hire some more of the low-paid religious friars/sisters, I don’t know. But universities only care about the money $$ nowadays, shame. I rather just go to a trade school & read all my Chesterton books, read the classics (available on both the Internet & for a fair price on bookstores or no-charge at libraries), & go to my public library (free access) & read all the books & attend Workshops (over many interesting & wide-ranging topics) at the public library. If I need discussions with others, I go online & look up book clubs- even my diocese offers monthly book clubs for free or for fair charge. Some people are just tired of all the Bull Sharks going on at universities (the sex hookup culture, booze & drugs, frat parties, “catholic” universities with many heretics & dissidents, rampant liberal “progressivism”) that we won’t pay a dime to that expensive system anymore.

      • HenryBowers

        You need booze and drugs to think that anyone has the discipline to read and share written reflections for 15 consecutive weeks on their own gumption. Tuition and grades are necessary motivators, period.

        • DE-173

          You need booze and drugs to think anybody should be graded on “The ***ina Monologues” or any the pornography that passes for education in the current monocultural wasteland.

        • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

          I wish tuition and grades were sufficient motivation for reading and sharing reflections for 15 consecutive minutes, let alone 15 weeks! (And after 15 weeks, I’m the one who needs the booze. No drugs, though, unless cigars count…)

      • InTexas

        “Implement more ascetic practices, or hire some more of the low-paid religious friars/sisters.” As a lay Catholic theologian, I can assure you that faculty salaries, especially those of humanities professors, and even more especially, those of theology professors, have nothing to do with the rapidly escalating costs of higher education. Faculty salaries have not even kept pace with inflation for the last thirty years (see http://chronicle.com/article/faculty-salaries-barely-budge-2012/131432). And, as the years go on, there are fewer and fewer full-time faculty. Only about a quarter of faculty are full-time and relatively permanently employed (either tenured on on the tenure track).

  • You cannot make change overnight. Ask Obama, he and his friends and Party know it. Same thing with the leadership of the Catholic Church.

    The modernists, the progressives, the liberals know they can’t secularize and later erase the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church and the Magisterium. It starts little by little and it takes its time so it doesn’t chock the faithful.

    But it’s a brainwashing tactics and strategy. They are working on shaping the mind of stupid Catholics to fit their “progressive” ideas.

    It starts on the Sunday mass, for old people

    And in Universities, for young people.

  • Vinnie

    “On the one side, we have Catholic university administrators who want their schools…to be considered among “the best”—among the “top 25″ or “top 10″ in the college rankings.” I remember something about the first being last?

  • ColdStanding

    Remember: those that can, pray. Those that can not, administrate.

    • John200

      Academic administrators are exposed as — those who cannot. Want to test this hypothesis? Tell me I’m wrong? Let us outline a little essay on the topic.

      First point: Let us look at academic admins from the corporate perspective. Corporations are eternally looking for administrative talent. Believe me, if you are good, they will find you. But they do not raid the academy for the needed administrative talent.

      Second point: PoInt One is no puzzle. Academic admins are weak. Some examples: VP Finance as the title for a man with bookkeeper skills; Executive VP is a man who falsified his resume (then we hired him); Director of Operations for a man with no resume (in charity, I think he is in the Witness Protection program); Student Support (ha, ha, this is a “profession”???).

      That’s enough for a little post in a combox. You don’t need the book-length treatment.

      Your point is stronger than most of us think. And now we all see more clearly, eh

      I voted you up, but I gotta criticize you on one point: administer, not administrate (grates on my academic ears).

      • ColdStanding

        Administrate isn’t wrong, just uncommon.

        I can’t stand to hear Church without it’s article transposing it to a verb from a now, as in “How we Church together.” It might be close to the original Greek ecclesia but it just sounds wrong.

        • puzzled

          ‘without it is article transposing it to a verb…’ Huh?

  • DE-173

    “Just ask the usual, run-of-the-mill professor of finance whether he or she really wants a theologian intruding social justice concerns into his or her class.”

    So, how many finance classes has the author even attended, let alone completed?

    I’m guessing about as much intrusion as usual, run-of-the-mill professor of theology whether he or she really wants financial concerns intruding into his or her class.” Perhaps the author as as usual, run-of-the-mill professor of theology can comment.

    What a classless comment.

    • fredx2

      I think he was saying that among the things Finance majors at a Catholic university should learn are what Catholic social teaching has to say about ,say, unbridled capitalism. But as you point out, not in the Finance class, it should be in another class.

      • DE-173

        The simple reality is that “unbridled capitalism” (whatever that is) simply does not exist, anywhere in the world. Think of any disordered market-medicine, education, banking, and you see the heavy hand of government.

        There are vast regulatory regimes exist in every country and often create and maintain the very priviledged positions that are occupied by individuals and institutions (and are often attributed to “capitalism”)

        On the other hand, unbridled government and statism do exist, and enjoy significant intellectual support, including from run-of-the-mill professors of theology in many Catholic institutions.

        Georgetown didn’t shed its Catholic identity because its students and faculty are setting up Ayn Rand Clubs and quoting from “Atlas Shrugged”. Instead, Sandra Fluke found Georgetown Law to be a comfy perch to peddle her socialized libertinism and the administration and faculty sheepishly covered their Crucifixes to accomodate the demands of Lord Obama.

        So not only did the author pen his line based upon a manifest ignorance of finance, he’s training his sights on a fly buzzing around a room infested by rats and roaches.

        • John200

          As of July 15, 1014, we can confidently say that three generations of moral imbeciles are more than enough.

          Apologies for the hijack.

          • DE-173

            Apologies for the hijack.

            None required. Good point.

    • Objectivetruth

      I got a C+ in Finance, DE…..IRR and NPV still chase me in my nightmares. I’ll pass on answering this one.

      That said, decades later the classes at my Jesuit university that made my head hurt but teed up my faith journey were my theology and philosophy courses. Couldn’t tell you much that I remember about my accounting, economics, and managerial courses.

      • DE-173

        I got (almost) straight A’s, and a few B’s except for a class called “speculative markets” shortly after breaking up with the woman I married ten years later.

        My Jesuit university invited Abbie Hoffman as a speaker before he took the eternal dirt nap, erected a mosque and imbued in me a deep and abiding suspicion in Jesuits.

        Perhaps you went when the Jesuits were the Pope’s marines and not the devil’s jihadists?

        • Objectivetruth

          A long time ago, when they more resembled Ignatius Loyola.

          • DE-173

            An account of the change would be an important account in the future.

  • jacobum

    If the college/university is not listed on the Cardinal Newman’s Society Guide of Catholic Colleges you can be confident it is CINO. Recall the words of Bishop Sheen to parents…to wit..”Don’t send your kids to Catholic schools unless you want them to loose their faith” Truer words today than ever. If not on CNS list then save your money and more importantly your kids souls.

    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

      I would disagree in only one case. I do not believe St. Marys College & Academy is listed on the Cardinal Newman Society site. Yet, they are fully Catholic. (Now, let the contentious comments begin!)

    • TERRY

      Glad to see more people are using the word ‘CINO’.

  • ALicia

    “Catholic universities are failing in their educational mission because, although they like to chatter on endlessly about “leadership” (every secular institution does too), they have actually become the ultimate followers, constantly sucking up to the modern purveyors of “prestige. In following this well-worn path, they have failed to become leaders in their own right, unafraid to challenge current cultural paradigms and boldly forge a new educational vision.” Very good! I am seeing this very up close, but like criticisms of the “Church”, don’t they ultimately come back to the individuals who make up that Church? If every individual who wants to see Catholic education change gives up on these CINO institutions because they see failings, then the institutions are left with no one to be the leaders that challenge the current cultural paradigms to boldly forge the new vision. We can’t do that from ghettos and echo chambers! Let’s not cede ground. Let’s stop complaining and make compelling arguments for the glorious truth!

  • JTLiuzza

    Nice article but the situation is simply one more manifestation of the same old problem we have seen for at least 50 years; instead of wrapping themselves in Truth, Catholic institutions choose to assimilate themselves to the world. That is pretty much the modernist heresy in a nutshell.

  • Dr. Adam DeVille

    The theology and philosophy department, of which I am chairman here at the University of Saint Francis in Ft. Wayne, IN, maintains a 3-course requirement in both philosophy and theology, and that will not change. The Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration, our sponsors, are adamant about that, Deo gratias.

    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

      I hear wonderful things about your institution, Dr. DeVille. Deo gratias.

  • cestusdei

    In some Catholic colleges this might be a blessing since they don’t teach Catholic theology anyway.

  • Randall B. Smith

    The Author Replies:

    I very purposefully did not include the name of the university I had in mind because then the conversation would have been entirely about one institution when the problem I’m discussing pertains to Catholic institutions across the spectrum. (Check their web sites and see how many require even two courses in either philosophy or theology, let alone both!)

    Even those of us who teach in schools mentioned in the Newman Society Guide can attest to the constant pressure to cut core requirements to “make room” for the more specialized disciplines. Even some of the members of our own departments want to “cut the core” so that students in our department can specialize and take more courses in the major — the presumption being that “good” theology students don’t need to know much philosophy or literature or science (a big mistake) just as “good” philosophy or English or Chemistry students need not much more than a smattering of theology (maybe an ethics course or two).

    This approach to education fails to understand the nature of modernity (or “post-modernity”) and the challenges it poses to contemporary belief. Post-modernity is perfectly comfortable segmenting people’s lives up into various “roles,” with different sorts of “rules” and “values” applying to each “role.” Modern Christians will often have their “Church persona” (with its rules and values), which will be very different from their “work persona” (having its own set of rules and values), and different again from their “hanging-out-with-my-drinking-buddies persona.” Indeed emerging adults will often have a half-dozen different personae that they must move between during a typical day: home to job to school back to job then to the bar and finally back home.

    Our challenge is not only that our students understand little or nothing about the faith or morals taught by the Catholic Church, it’s that they don’t consider any of it at all relevant to the other sectors of their life, any more than most of them consider, say, calculus to be especially important in their romantic lives. “Church,” they think, is about “feelings,” or “prayer” or “piety,” and these things alone. It “works” in its own realm, perhaps, but is thought to be somewhat less useful to living one’s life than, say, knowing how to use a slide rule. We must first introduce them to the notion of an “integrated” vision of the world before we can make our faith claims the slightest bit relevant outside the theology or philosophy classroom.

    Since I have been asked about how much “intrusion” a “run-of-the-mill professor of theology” [would accept] “when asked whether he or she really wants financial concerns intruding into his or her class,” let me answer only for myself: plenty.

    Financial concerns, scientific data, medical information, sociology, psychology, cultural studies: all of them have a place in my course precisely because I take myself to be teaching a “liberal arts” course in a Catholic “university.” In a Catholic university, we should seek to integrate our knowledge of the various disciplines into a coherent synthesis. We believe this is not only possible, but should be the constant goal of a Catholic education precisely because we believe that we live in a created “universe,” not merely a disordered “multi-verse.”

    “Multi-verses” result in “multi-versities,” which is what we largely have now. Christians spear-headed the creation of the “university” in the Middle Ages precisely because they had a clear belief in the order and interrelationship of events within this one “universe.”

    To the “typical finance question” posted below, I would (and do) tell my students that if everything in the world operated mathematically, then one could simply “do business” by “doing the math.” But since I take it that mathematics is an abstraction from the messiness of reality — and yet for all that is extraordinarily useful in its own right — still and all, reality is often more complex than mathematics would lead us to expect. Thus as any good business man will tell you, managers who think they can be successful in business simply by solving math problems without considering the “human element” are headed for a serious encounter with the real world.

    I would, therefore (and do) ask my students to START by doing the math. If they don’t get the math right, then they’re going to start out with confusion. But once they’ve done the math, THEN they must ask themselves about these glorious machines: How do we KNOW how many parts will fail? Do I have good evidence to support that contention, or is this a mere guess on the part of engineers and technicians? So too, if I decide to lay off, say, 4000 workers in order to replace them with machines, do I REALLY suppose I’m not going to have labor problems — problems that may cost me more money than the net gain in value we discover by “doing the math”? And if I lay off 4000 workers, do I REALLY suppose that my other workers won’t see this and say to themselves: “This company doesn’t care about me at all. Remind me again why I have agreed to work hard for these guys again?”

    Forget the human factor, and you’re not doing business, you just doing math problems. And a business school that trains its students to do math problems isn’t giving them the sort of education that will restore America’s economic stability. And it certainly isn’t the kind of education Pope John Paul II envisioned when he wrote “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” and “Fides et Ratio”: the two encyclicals that should have been taken as the blueprints for Catholic education into the third millennium, but tragically weren’t.

    • DE-173

      “To the “typical finance question” posted below, I would (and do) tell my students that if everything in the world operated mathematically, then one could simply “do business” by “doing the math.” But since I take it that mathematics is an abstraction from the messiness of reality — and yet for all that is extraordinarily useful in its own right — still and all, reality is often more complex than mathematics would lead us to expect.”
      In other words, you can’t answer the question.

      • Randall B. Smith

        The Author Replies Again:

        Dear DE-173:

        I’m sorry that you’ve found the experience unpleasant. I wouldn’t consider myself “run of the mill.” I am mostly annoying. So you may well do better with other theology or philosophy faculty members.

        But to the point at hand: “Everybody knows that world is more than mathematics ….”

        I wish that were so. But I am certainly happy that we agree on the point.

        You say: “The question isn’t whether one
        needs a broader background than a single discipline would provide. The
        answer is ‘of course’. That’s why we send people to college with an
        expectation that they will study courses from more than one discipline.”

        Again, we are in agreement. I may be annoying, but I am not entirely disagreeable.

        And again: “It doesn’t mean we attempt to turn instruction into a nondisplinary
        [sic] free-for all with intrusions (your freudian slip, not mine) from
        unrelated disciplines.”

        I believe I was saying that we should definitely NOT have a “free-for-all.” What we are searching for, in fact, is precisely an ordered pedagogy to help our students to be able to “bridge” the disciplines. They have to know how to make a moral analysis of business decisions, and they have to know how to analyze mathematical and statistical figures accurately so that they have the proper “material” for making a well-informed judgment.

        “The purpose of finance is to teach the
        nomenclature and techniques of finance.”

        That is certainly one of its purposes. I take it that asking the students to face the question: “What ends, goals, or purposes are these techniques meant to serve” might be another good thing to consider. As well as: What is the nature of “finance”? What is the fundamental nature and purpose of, say, money? What goods is it meant to serve? What dangers does it bring? Whether such questions should be addressed by the Finance instructor, I don’t know. I suppose it depends upon the instructor. But the questions should be faced squarely, it seems to me — at least in a Catholic university, if in no others.

        • DE-173

          You are more than annoying, give yourself credit. Putting “finance” in quotes doesn’t make you clever, it reveals sneering condescension.

          “I take it that asking the students to face the question: “What ends, goals, or purposes are these techniques meant to serve” might be another good thing to consider. As well as: What is the nature of “finance”? What is the fundamental nature and purpose of, say, money? What goods is it meant to serve? What dangers does it bring?”

          Here’s the issue. When instructors ask students questions, they should have something to offer to direct them to the answer or at least to a deeper consideration. You aren’t that person, because your understanding of the matter is a caricature. You might as well be discussing celestial mechanics.

          When you ask “what is the purpose of money”, the answer is simple.

          Store of value, standard of value, medium of exchange. Anything beyond that is merely Piled Higher and Deeper.

          Of course that’s a question of economics, not finance. Money is a tool, that’s it. People who worship money are as common as theology professors who imagine they are philosopher kings. Pride and greed are capital sins.

          As for “social justice” it’s guys like me that ensure the shelves are full and the company doesn’t waste money, that employees are paid on time, that the greedy hand of government get’s its cut of the action, that the right products are made, that people whose working lives are gone receive their dividends and people who buy insurance are paid when their car is T-boned. The rational allocation of scarce resources is social justice.

          You are all talk, imagining that sneering condescension for matters you don’t understand is moral rectitude, when it’s old fashioned pride, arrogance and imprudence.

          • John200

            Gosh, Adam. Check his pulse. Is he still alive?

            I agree with you 100%. This professor needs more education, which he can get — if he wants it (that’s another comment).

            This is a professed Catholic (I think) who serves as Professor of Theology and Scanlan Foundation Chair in Theology and has served as a Fellow in Ethics and Culture, without learning much about the world outside the small academic “domain” of a Scanlan Foundation Chair in Theology and Fellow in Ethics and Culture.

            The University of Notre Dame is a home to heresy, apostasy, and perhaps schism (I am guessing on schism), so the professor’s recent deployment might have done him spiritual and professional harm.

            But really, truly, the first thing we should do is check his pulse. Is he still alive after that blasting? Does he need a priest, like, pronto?

            • DE-173

              “Is he still alive after that blasting? ”

              I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure he’s not used to being challenged.

              “This professor needs more education, which he can get — if he wants it (that’s another comment).”

              I don’t expect theology professors to suddenly become interested in affairs of filthy lucre, just not to assume that they are the conscience for departments whose mission and content they speculate upon.

              This is why Jesus went after fisherman,who were used to the smell of sweat and fish, who knew hard work and peril. We need more fisherman and fewer Pharisees.

  • Daniel Yuhasz

    Secularism saves us from religious fundamentalists forcing their ways on the rest of us. People came to America to get away from all the violence and suffering caused by the Church in Europe. If the traditional Church had its way we would have no democracy at all and they would tell us how to think. The Catholic organizations need to Change or suffer going obsolete. Much of this so called theology is a system of ideas that promote control from the top in God’s name and it is not of God.

    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

      We’re talking about Catholic universities here. Have no fear, Mr. Yuhasz. You have the nihilism of the enormous state university system to save you from mind control. In fact, you will be positively encouraged to lose all control of your mind. Good luck.

    • Objectivetruth

      “The Catholic organizations need to Change or suffer going obsolete. ”

      If I had a nickel for every time that phrase has been uttered in the last 2,000 years. It’s always been the secular ideologues and atheistic societies that predict the Catholic Church will soon be “obsolete” but they themselves end up on the trash heap of history. The Roman Empire, Napoleon, Naziism, Communism, etc….all making the prediction of Catholic obsolescence. And where are they today?

      The Catholic Church, the Bride of Christ, will be here until the end of time.

    • John200

      Splendid work, Daniel. You have courageously shown parts of yourself that ought to remain private. Let’s go item by item:

      1. Secularism saves us from… doing good on earth and going to heaven.
      2. People came to America… for a reason you do not know.
      3. If the traditional Church had its way,… you would be better than you are.
      4. The Catholic organizations need… no advice from heretics, apostates, or schismatics. I don’t know which fits you.
      5. Much of this theology … is beyond you. Get an education, before you bepoop yourself in public again.

      You are among interlocutors who know the cure for what ails you. We have seen you many, many times.

      As for public displays of kookiness, once is forgiveable. In fact, I plan to forget our little encounter here. The second time, I will take you up on every mistaken point, if and only if I detect sincerity in you. If you continue to show trolleristic tendencies, I will leave you alone in the mire.

      • ForChristAlone

        His name is Legion

      • Daniel Yuhasz

        I can see it really bothered you- I am very educated as I was a Catholic for many years. I even served mass for years and now I know why so many ex-Catholics seem to be the biggest opponents to Catholicism. When we realize we have been lied to so much we do not like it! I used to be in your shoes I know how you feel. All we can do is put down what we feel- no harm meant.

        • Objectivetruth

          Now you follow the father of lies and therefore, are a liar yourself and hold no credibility.

    • jacobum

      Why use “Secularism”. Be honest and admit you are an “atheist” by any other description. How have all those great secularist/atheist/man centered systems worked out over history? In a word…Disaster! Utopia is a pipe dream that disguises the horror show until reality dawns.

    • slainte

      Catholics are sinners just like everyone else. We try hard to get things right and end up royally screwing things up…the residual and temporal effects of original sin.
      In a fallen world, there are no perfect people and there are no perfect Churches…but the Catholic Church was created by Jesus and offers us Truth and the best hope to those who, despite best efforts, bring shame upon the Church because of our sins. And despite having soiled His Church, God forgives us over and over again when we confess in humility. He never reminds us of our shortcomings.
      We are fortunate as Catholics that our God is pure Love. And so…we her imperfect members get up each day and try again to get it right and end the day once again requesting God’s forgiveness for having fallen short.
      What Catholicism offers Daniel that secular society does not is a participation in a God who is pure Love and infinite Goodness…a God who continues to embrace His wayward children notwithstanding their sins that alone cause His image to become tarnished in this world.
      I hope you will consider coming back to Catholicism and joining the rest of us sinners.

      • Daniel Yuhasz

        Modern Catholicism began after Christ died and they forced their ways on the rest of Christianity often violently killing millions who did not comply. There was a change around 400 ad where they began to drop the teachings of Christ and retain that which will make control of the masses easier. They changed the teachings of Christ and left key teachings out which are being found out by archeologists and by accident in books hidden in old monestaries and caves. I will return to the Church when these teachings are re- introduced into Catholicism for you are all my brothers and sisters in Christ and I do want unity for when one member hurts all of us hurt a little as a result. We are in the age of the awakening but unfortunately the Church is slow to promote it so people outside of the Church are doing the Church’s job. The Church is in a serious state of sin and is in no condition to lead the world it seems. There will be more scandals in the Church and more challenges. Christ founded a spiritual entity not a political empire- the Church has become larger than any corporation and if it falls it will take our economy with it because they are not doing the job Christ gave them to do. No one can bail out the Church like Fannie Mae was but if we all look within like Christ taught then the Church can recover and bring joy to the world once again.

  • mo7

    My high school junior is looking to study Philosophy at a Catholic college. We were surprised by how many Catholic colleges offer Religious Studies majors instead of Philosophy or Theology.

  • Andrew

    See this opinion piece about theology and philosophy requirements at St. Thomas in Minnesota. http://www.tommiemedia.com/opinions/theology-and-philosophy-requirements-should-remain-the-same/


    I’m sure you’ve all heard of the play ‘The Vag..a Monologues’. In the late 90s and the early millenium it was a staple of student life during the dreary winter months at Notre Dame, and Around the year 2000 I was living in northern Indiana and someone told me that the opening night for the play that year was going to be on campus at Notre Dame at Washington Hall.

    On Ash Wednesday

    Along with some friends I went to Mass at the Basilica and got there early and put small cards in the pews protesting the play. We were told very politely but firmly that we could not do that. We went to speak to a few priests there who said they agreed with us but their hands were tied. We tried to get ion the student radio but we were unsuccessful at that too, besides the point that the students didn’t seem to think it was that big a deal.

    In my opinion the fiasco at graduation in 2009 was nothing compared to that play having opening night at Notre Dame on Ash Wednesday. Notre Dame has forfeited her Catholic identity.

  • NormChouinard

    Just read https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/33717/GST4_v9_Feb10.pdf Global Strategic trends out to 2040, a publication out of a British government think tank. If that does not make a case for the need for a Catholic Liberal Arts education, nothing will.

    • John200

      I voted you up, but — can you outline the case for Catholic LA education? Give a few reasons for the conclusion? Highlights? A few meaty quotes?

      Nothing against you personally, but the ‘net has become too crowded. I don’t follow blind recommendations unless I see a clear reason. Viruses, adware, malware, and other unpleasantries cured me of blindly clicking my way around.

      The downside: If it’s a good blind recommendation, I’ll never know it! Unless you give some reasons to take the flight….

      • NormChouinard

        Understood. I am writing a short piece on it today. I will link here when it is complete.

  • Dont send your kid2NotreDame

    Absolutely!! Thank you for speaking up!! I went to a (culturally) Catholic school in South Bend, IN and it was THE WORST!! So many classmates lost their faith or turned to alternative lifestyles. I was expecting to go to a Heroic Catholic university/college, but instead was in an environment that did NOT reflect Christ (maybe on the ‘surface’ but not ‘behind the scenes’ and not in the ‘theology’ classes). For a school to call themselves ‘catholic’ and yet not be CATHOLIC is absolutely the worst. So much wasted money went to an ‘organization’ that was supposed to be CATHOLIC. I am grateful to God that I got out of there with my soul and spirit still alive – but that is only because of the 18 years of ALIVE Catholic Truth my parents poured and poured and poured into me. Some Catholics go to Catholic school hoping to get some formation… and for these schools to cut the Theology requirements is a shame.

  • pgepps

    Well said, sir. Very well said. I have been observing and protesting *exactly* this tendency for years, both when I was an evangelical Protestant and now as a Catholic. As Catholics, we actually have *every* reason and resource to escape this trap, but we seem persistently to lack the vision to employ our resources in such reasonable service.

  • RaymondNicholas

    Not that I’m in a sour, cynical, depressed, fairly farty kinda mood this AM, but tell us something that we don’t alreay know about Catholic education. For example, have you ever read the smelly mud that passes as ethics in the chapters of a business ethics text? As does everything else that passes as virtue in this world and is really vice, so is the lack of ethics in secular business ethics courses. No minds will ever change in such courses, unless they become more attuned to what they want to do, that is, to succeed unehtically.

  • Micha Elyi

    When Randall B. Smith mentions “Boomers”, who is he talking about?