Learning From Notre Dame: Catholic Identity is Not Optional
Catholic identity requires that the College community understand its ecclesial nature and mission.
Education is not something the Church adds something to, as though the process of educating were some kind of nakedly secular pursuit which the Church somehow makes “religious”. Rather, education is at the core of the Churches’ saving mission.
Notre Dame’s decision to confer an honorary Doctor of Law Degree upon a President who fails to recognize the Right to Life has a silver lining. Catholics in America are saying “Not in our House”. Notre Dame is named after the Woman who’s “yes” to the Angel forever changed human history. The Incarnate Word became flesh and dwelt within Our Lady. Jesus was an embryonic person and developed as a child in the first home of the whole human race, the womb of His Holy Mother. That fundamental truth lies at the heart of the Christian claim. Every procured abortion is an intrinsically evil act because it is the taking of innocent human life. It can never be accepted as a “right” even if the errant positive law proclaims if to be so. The Natural Law written on every human heart confirms what science demonstrates, the child in the womb is one of us.
This U.S.President who calls us to care for our neighbor has a terrible blind side in his claims to compassion and solidarity. He fails to hear the cry of the poor in the womb. In the words of the Bishops of the United States: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” In spite of the sophistry of Fr. Jenkins, Notre Dame has overtly disobeyed this clear instruction.
The challenge faced by all serving the Church as she is present in the Catholic College community can be understood within a broader challenge facing the whole Church, what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council called the “separation between faith and life.” This separation was addressed in their document on the Mission of the Church in the Modern World: "This council exhorts Christians, as citizens of two cities, to strive to discharge their earthly duties conscientiously and in response to the Gospel spirit. They are mistaken who, knowing that we have here no abiding city but seek one which is to come think that they may therefore shirk their earthly responsibilities. For they are forgetting that by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation. Nor, on the contrary, are they any less wide of the mark who think that religion consists in acts of worship alone and in the discharge of certain moral obligations, and who imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life. This split between the faith which many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age."
Western culture would not be in moral decline if Catholics lived their Christian faith in an integrated manner,in the words of Pope Benedict with "moral coherence". It was to respond to this challenge that the late Servant of God, John Paul II, called for a “New Evangelization.” That call has borne fruit throughout the entire Church, including in the new Catholic Colleges and the renewed and restored Catholic Colleges. They are a primary resource for the work that must be done. The Catholic College must become the front line. Before Antioch, where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians, they were often referred to as “The Way” (See, Acts 22). Their lifestyle was different from that of the prevailing culture. Their faith informed how they lived their daily lives. It also made their evangelizing and sanctifying mission extraordinarily fruitful. This new way of living is still meant to be normative among those who bear the name Christian. Its’ recovery is essential to the mission of the whole Church in the Third Millennium.
Within the Catholic College there has been an erosion of Catholic identity on many campuses. Catholic identity requires that the College community understand its ecclesial nature. In an institution, just as in persons, it begins from the inside and works its way throughout like leaven or yeast in a loaf. Catholic identity must become the beating heart of a Catholic College and provide the infrastructure for its entire educational mission. When it does, the building of a Catholic culture on campus becomes a fruit. This kind of Catholic culture helps to ensure the integration of the faith in every aspect of the academy through word and witness. It flourishes when all who are involved in this educational mission, from the Catholic College President to ...
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