Catholic colleges seek identity

Catholic colleges seek identity

As the US bishops prepare to open their fall meeting in Baltimore this week, various media are looking at Catholic issues. Yesterday, the Boston Globe looked into Catholic colleges searching for their identity. “Searching” is right since so many of them seem to have lost it, an identity that should be as obvious as the adjective in front of “colleges”: Catholic.

The article looks at various colleges and looks at different programs they’re introducing to shore up their Catholic identity.

The push is being driven by a confluence of factors. At most Catholic colleges, the number of faculty and administrators who belong to the founding religious orders is dropping precipitously. The percentage of undergraduates who attended Catholic high schools is also dropping, meaning that matriculating students have an increasingly weak formal understanding of their own faith.

... Some scholars said the moves also reflect an increasing emphasis in American culture to examine the relationship between religion and public life and to talk more openly about the role of faith in society.

A couple of years ago, the Cardinal Newman Society used data from a larger survey by a UCLA higher-education research institute to determine, among other things, that Catholic students who go to Catholic colleges are much less likely to come out as practicing Catholics than those who go to non-Catholic schools. What does this tell us about the environment of those colleges? It tells me that while poor catechetical formation of children before they go off to college is a problem, it is not the only one. A big part of the problem is the way the faith is practiced and presented on those Catholic campuses. After all, if it’s all relative and you can believe whatever you want and rules don’t matter and all the rest, what’s there to hold on to?

While I think that hiring more Catholic faculty is a good first step, it’s not a panacea, especially if that faculty consists of people who dissent from the faith that is the basis for their hiring. If Catholic colleges want to have a greater Catholic identity maybe they should take seriously their task of acting “in loco parentis” and continue to inculcate in their students lives of virtue and timeless values. Teach them responsibility, accountability, self-control, and chastity. Those will stand them in much greater stead throughout their lives than all the “diversity” and “multicultural” activities that make up so much of campus life these days.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli