When the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities (ACCU) met recently in Washington, DC, one of the “hot topics” addressed was the need for training board members to oversee their institutions’ Catholic identity.
According to an article published in Inside Higher Education, the Bishop of Harrisburg (PA) and the Chair of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Catholic Education, the Most Reverend Joseph P. McFadden, told the audience: “It’s time for the laity to step up to ensure that the Catholic faith continues into the third millennium.” Bishop McFadden argued that trustees of the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges must value the unique mission of Catholic higher education and should, when possible, be Catholics and well-educated about the workings of Catholic higher education.
Most Reverend Joseph McFadden
While The Motley Monk concurs with Bishop McFadden that trustees need to supervise their institutions’ Catholic identity more forcibly, the simple truth is that many administrators at the nation’s Catholic universities and colleges are failing in their responsibilities in this regard.
For example, the Scranton Time Tribune reported that the same week Bishop McFadden was addressing the ACCU, the Bishop of Scranton (PA), Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, was expressing his disapproval with the University of Scranton for inviting former U.S. Congresswoman Marjorie Margolies to be the keynote speaker at the January 28, 2012, “Ready to Run” program for women interested in politics.
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera
As a congresswoman, Ms. Margolies co-sponsored the Abortion Clinic Access Bill, which sought to make it a federal crime to impede access to abortion clinics. She also voted in support of an Abortion Counseling Bill, which would have required federal recipients of funds for family planning to provide patients with information about obtaining an abortion. Margoilies also opposed the “Hyde Amendment,” which prohibited federal funding of abortions.
Bishop Bambera asked that the University’s administrators withdraw the invitation to Ms. Margolies.
Responding to criticism from the Diocese and questions from other Catholic higher education watchdogs, the President of the University of Scranton, Reverend Kevin P. Quinn, S.J., released a statement on the University’s website:
Speakers for this University event are experts chosen to provide women with information about the challenges of politics; they are not chosen to engage in a discussion of abortion. By inviting these speakers to campus, the University is not endorsing their personal views.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Scranton called this stance “unsettling”:
The University’s unwillingness to work with Bishop Bambera in an effort to reach an acceptable resolution to this unfortunate situation is an unsettling turn in the relationship that the Bishop has been pleased to maintain with University officials during his tenure as bishop of Scranton.
The spokesperson added that the institution values its relationship with the Diocese and Bishop and is “saddened that any action on our part might in some way compromise this relationship.”
Bishop Bambera remained adamant:
Despite the university’s lack of endorsement of the personal views of the keynote speaker, as a Jesuit and Catholic university, the inclusion of Ms. Margolies in a University-sponsored program has created concern and confusion among members of the Christian faithful. Thereby, in this instance, the university’s charge as a Catholic institution of higher learning to permeate “all university activities” with “Catholic teaching and discipline” has been compromised.
Insofar as The Motley Monk is concerned, trustees do need to be trained, as Bishop McFadden pointed out at the ACCU meeting. But, The Motley Monk would add that training must also include how to hire administrators who will uphold their institutions’ Catholic identity, how to assess administrators in this regard, and how to dismiss administrators who trustees discover wrongly believe that secularizing Catholic higher education provides the sure route to solidify an institution’s Catholic identity.
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