Editorial: Well Done! Fr. David O'Connell Retires as President of the Catholic University of America
Catholic identity at a Catholic College requires that the academic community understand its ecclesial nature
The Catholic College President is at the service of the Catholic Church. He or she should understand the implications of the Catholic faith on the entirety of the educational mission. They participate in the saving mission of the Catholic Church. They must be properly formed in the faith and up to this task. Father David O'Connell is such a President.
The Catholic University of America
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - In an interview with one of my favorite religion reporters, Julia Duinn of the Washington Times, one of my favorite Catholic College Presidents, Fr. David O'Connell, showed his mettle - and the reason he was able to turn the Catholic University of America around during his tenure as President. The article appeared in the Thursday May 20th edition of the Washington Times and was entitled "Vatican urged to guide Catholic schools."
Father O'Connell displayed the candor needed in this desperate hour in this interview. The mission of the Church requires a new generation of properly formed Catholic men and women to engage what Pope Benedict XVI rightly called the "Dictatorship of Relativism." They need to offer a different way; the new and true humanism offered by the Christian vision of the human person, the family and society. They need to articulate truth claims and shine the light of truth in an age of shadows. It is those truth claims which have informed Western civilization. Those truth claims alone can rescue it from the abyss.They are being well prepared at Catholic University of America - and this Catholic College President has made sure of it.
Father O'Connell is a young man at 55 and has many years of service left. I do not know him personally. However, I have been a recipient of his authentically Catholic leadership. I just completed my PhD coursework and exams in Moral Theology at Catholic University. I am working on a dissertation. This program, in disarray several years before the arrival of Father O'Connell, is faithful to the Magisterium, academically excellent, and populated with outstanding professors who have changed my life, and the lives of many others. I know his leadership had much to do with that turnaround.
At the end of the article, Julia Duin referred to the past problems in the Moral Theology Department at the Catholic University of America. It was only one of the challenges the President faced when, out of a field of 100 candidates he was chosen, at 42 years old, to implement Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church). The Apostolic Constitution on Catholic universities was promulgated in 1990. It is filled with clear teaching on Catholic identity such as:
"The primary mission of the Church is to preach the Gospel in such a way that a relationship between faith and life is established in each individual and in the socio-cultural context in which individuals live and act and communicate with one another. Evangelization means "bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new.... By its very nature, each Catholic university makes an important contribution to the Church's work of evangelization. It is a living institutional witness to Christ and his message, so vitally important in cultures marked by secularism, or where Christ and his message are still virtually unknown.
"Moreover, all the basic academic activities of a Catholic university are connected with and in harmony with the evangelizing mission of the Church: research carried out in the light of the Christian message which puts new human discoveries at the service of individuals and society; education offered in a faith-context that forms men and women capable of rational and critical judgment and conscious of the transcendent dignity of the human person; professional training that incorporates ethical values and a sense of service to individuals and to society; the dialogue with culture that makes the faith better understood, and the theological research that translates the faith into contemporary language.Precisely because it is more and more conscious of its salvific mission in this world, the Church wants to have these centers closely connected with it; it wants to have them present and operative in spreading the authentic message of Christ." (Ex Corde Ecclesia, Par. #48, 49)
Father O'Connell mentioned the debacle at the University of Notre Dame and asked the correct question: "Obama goes to Notre Dame and everyone gets their pants in a twist; 80 bishops pile on saying Notre Dame shouldn't have done that; the president comes and gives a speech; [the university] still turns away 1,000 students; they still get a million dollars in contributions; they honor the [papal] nuncio. ... They're back in the good graces of the church - what happened as a result of this?"
He is writing a book on Catholic Identity at Catholic Colleges. It is truly needed. He will continue his effort to see Ex Corde ...
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