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‘Bishop who knows how to Bishop’: Bishop Martino Refuses Misericordia University

By Deacon Keith Fournier
March 20th, 2009
Catholic Online (

Bishop has a responsibility to judge how all Catholic institutions in his diocese are upholding the principles of authentic Catholic identity.

CHESAPEAKE (Catholic Online) - As I read the latest news out of the Diocese of Scranton I was reminded of an experience from many years ago, after the late Servant of God John Paul had written and the Holy See released his extraordinary Encyclical letter entitled “The Gospel of Life” (Evangelium Vitae).

A very dear friend of mine, an evangelical Protestant minister who is a Champion of Life, commented to me upon reading it, “Boy, does this Pope know how to Pope!” In this instance, my reaction to Bishop Joseph Martino’s continued defense of the truth in his Diocese was “Boy does this Bishop know how to Bishop!” And further, how desperately we all need him - and others like him - as we walk through the smoke of what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, right before he was elected to the Chair of Peter, prophetically called “the dictatorship of relativism.”

The latest news out of the Diocese of Scranton concerns the Bishops’ insistence that Misericordia University, a Catholic College in his Diocese, comply with his reasonable request before he meets with them. They have not done so and want a private meeting. Our readers will recall that this Catholic University, against the Bishop’s explicit direction, sponsored through its “Diversity Institute”, an advocate of the movement among practicing homosexuals to obtain a legal equivalency between homosexual paramours and those who are married.

This activist leader came to this Catholic College campus and spoke on the very matter which raised the Bishops concerns in one of his talks. He used a Catholic platform to directly oppose the truth as taught by the Natural law, confirmed by Revelation and taught by the Magisterium of the Church concerning human love in the Divine plan. So, after the event, the Bishop requested that this University offer a public release of specific information on how it teaches Catholic morality regarding sexuality and homosexuality, and how it is adhering to the four essential characteristics of a Catholic institution of higher learning. They have not done so.

A Catholic College is not a private College with some sort of loose church affiliation. It is a Catholic College and as such it participates in the mission of the Catholic Church. In his masterful letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul calls all Christians to a "…renewal of their minds". (Romans 12:2) This renewal of the mind is the essence of the mission of a Catholic education. The Catholic University is to affirm that there is a constitutive connection between truth, freedom, education and the ability to form an authentically human and just culture. This commitment to the existence of truth characterizes the heart of the Catholic educational mission. The Purpose of a Catholic College is to teach, form and prepare students in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ, the Truth Incarnate who has been raised and continues His redemptive mission through His Body, the Church. The Church is vested with His authority to teach the truth.

In the words of the great Western Bishop Augustine: "Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God's grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man. . . . The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does "head and members" mean? Christ and the Church." This living Christ still teaches in and through His Church of which the Catholic College is a member. Through the Church Christ continues his redemptive mission, a part of which is to influence human culture by orienting it toward the truth. The faithful are called to inculcate and live the truth as articulated under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the teaching office of the Church.

One of the most important components of the mission of the Church in this age of nihilism and relativism is providing an authentically Catholic education to the next generation. It is Christ the Teacher who teaches in the Catholic College. As the late Servant of God John Paul II said so succinctly in an address to educators in 1979 "Catholic education is above all a question of communicating Christ, of helping to form Christ in the lives of others."

Bishop Joseph Martino understands this vital Catholic educational mission. He also embraces his duty as a Bishop to be the Chief teacher in his own Diocese. It is not he who is being unreasonable in this request but the University leadership which, hiding behind a misguided notion of “diversity”, seems to be promoting the very relativism that then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, warned us all of. What happened on the campus of Misericordia University is properly called a scandal. (See, CCC 2284 – 2287) We present for our readers the latest Press Release concerning this ongoing struggle from the pages of the recent issue of “The Catholic Light”, the official news publication of the Diocese of Scranton:

“Bishop Martino has announced that he will not meet with officials from Misericordia University until they comply with his request for a public release of specific information on how the institution teaches Catholic morality regarding sexuality and homosexuality, and how it is adhering to the four essential characteristics of a Catholic institution of higher learning.

“The Bishop, in two previous statements, has asked that this information be provided to Misericordia’s alumni and the public. He has requested that the school speak precisely, naming courses, content and even catalog numbers. The university has thus far refused to do so, instead requesting a private meeting with the Bishop.

“However, the scandal that led to the Bishop’s request was a public matter. Therefore, no meeting will be held unless Misericordia complies with the request for a public release of information.

“The issue arose when Misericordia’s Diversity Institute hosted two public presentations by Keith Boykin. In at least one of his talks, he discussed advocacy for issues such as same sex marriage, and he addressed the intersection of religion and sexuality. The Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexual behavior was not presented at the event.

“Bishop Martino stated his “absolute disapproval” of these events because the university was providing a public platform for a proponent of morality that is “disturbingly opposed to Catholic teaching.” The Bishop subsequently called on Misericordia to seriously consider dissolving the Diversity Institute. Since Misericordia has asserted that it “is committed deeply to its Catholic mission,” Bishop Martino said it is puzzling that the school would not want to assure the public that it is teaching Catholic morality and adhering to the four essential characteristics of a Catholic institution of higher learning.

“As stated in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, these
are: 1. A Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such; 2. A continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research; 3. Fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church; 4. An institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life.

“Bishop Martino believes the kind of information he is seeking should be easy to compile and readily available. Bishop Martino also explained his obligation to address these matters. A local bishop does not merely have a “personal position” (i.e., one which is no more valid than anyone else’s position) about the “Catholic identity” of a local Catholic college. Under the Church’s Code of Canon Law, the Bishop has a “responsibility” to evaluate and judge how all Catholic institutions in his diocese are upholding the principles of authentic Catholic identity. In particular, it is his responsibility to ensure that institutions of higher learning which desire to call themselves Catholic are zealous in teaching Catholic faith and morals.”

We invite our readers throughout the world to pray for Bishop Martino, that he would have the courage he needs, in the face of some virulent opposition, to insist that Catholic institutions act and remain Catholic. This is a Bishop who “knows how to Bishop”. We also ask our readers to pray for the leadership of Misericordia University that they will recognize the authority which is operating through their Bishop and comply with his request.

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