One of the Boston College Jesuits wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe about the specter of Benedict XVI looming over supposedly Catholic colleges, especially in connection with the resignation of Fr. Tom Reese as editor of America. Fr. Kenneth Himes quotes approvingly the president of BC, Father William Leahy, saying: “I know what the answer is for us at BC. We are not directly linked to the Vatican; we operate under principles of academic freedom.” That’s as clear a statement as any that they do not consider themselves to be Catholic. After all, if you are Catholic, you must be “directly linked” not just to the Vatican, but to the successor of St. Peter. You are under his authority. If you reject that authority, you have broken from communion with the Church.
Himes says, “What happens in the church does not simply translate into what will or should happen in the university.” What that says to me is that he doesn’t understand what the Church is. The Church is not simply one among many institutions. The Church is the Body of Christ and this means that wherever there are Christians that is where the Church is. A university that claims to be a Catholic institution cannot be separate from the Church. If it tries to be, then it is no longer Catholic and should be stripped of the title to avoid misleading the public.
Yesterday, Bill Hobbib, a Bettnet reader, had a letter to editor published in the Globe in reply to Fr. Himes’ op-ed. He makes a good point.
Interestingly, the school’s website proudly states that BC’s Athletic Department ‘‘promotes the principles of sportsmanship, fair play, and fiscal responsibility in compliance with university, conference, and NCAA policies.”
Since that department is comfortable complying with the rules of the NCAA, why should the theology department have a problem with the teaching authority and doctrines of the church?
That’s because Boston College knows that if it doesn’t comply with the NCAA rules, the NCAA will kick them out, there will be no more intercollegiate sports, and all kinds of TV money, alumni fundraising, and recruitment advertising will dry up. Unfortunately, so far, there have been no repercussions to not obeying the rules of the Catholic Church. If they were threatened with losing the title of Catholic university and the benefits thereof, I wonder how quickly they might leap to play ball?